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([personal profile] spudtater Oct. 20th, 2010 01:32 pm)
Am wearing a purple tie today. Only one person's asked me about it so far.

This recent spate of homophobic bullying, plus [livejournal.com profile] nickys' post on the subject a few days ago, has got me thinking about bullying. A lot is said about the subject, not all of it sensible. You frequently hear such useless, condescending platitudes as "ignore them and they'll go away", or "try standing up to them", which sound plausible only to those not in the situation of being bullied. The following is my attempt to bring some sense to the subject:

Debunking myths about bullying

• It does not take two to start a fight

When a bully (or bullies) make their mind up to start a fight with you, they will pursue this course of action relentlessly — pursuing, provoking, and physically cornering you. You have little chance of avoiding an eventual confrontation — even if you get away once, there will be plenty of opportunities for the bully to try again.

Blaming somebody for getting into a fight with a bully is just a convenient way of transferring blame onto the victim. This is a prime enabling mechanism for bullies.

• They will not go away if you ignore them

Refusing to "rise to" somebody works for getting out of regular confrontations, but it won't work on bullies. If you walk away, they will follow. If you don't respond to verbal taunts, they will use other tactics — theft or destruction of your property, rumour-mongering and false accusations, or direct physical assault.

Bullies are persistent and creative. If somebody says they're being bullied, then it's likely that they've already tried to escape the bullying through a variety of methods.

• They will not go away if you fight back

Bullies are actively trying to start a fight with you (physical or otherwise), and are prepared for it. If you do happen to win against them, the only thing you'll achieve is to get them to change tactics — they might gather accomplices and gang up on you, or (quite frequently) they might go to an authority figure and claim that you are bullying them.

Targets of bullying often face a double-pronged accusation. If they do nothing, they're accused of being "weak" or "passive" and somehow "inviting" the bullying. But if they take action, they frequently get the blame for any confrontations — and often get in serious trouble because of it.

• Don't avoid reporting bullying out of the fear of it getting worse

What happens after you report a bully to the authorities depends very much on the authority. In the best case, the bully will be decisively dealt with, and will be forced to avoid you in future to prevent further punishment. In the worst case, you will be disbelieved, blamed, and belittled — which will indeed allow the bully to treat you even worse, as they now know they can get away with it.

But the latter situation is not right; it's not your failure, but a failure of authority. Don't give up, but go to a further, or alternative authority. Speak to people you trust. Search online for help. There are people up there who will fight on your behalf, if you can find them.

If a target of bullying wishes to go to the authorities, then the chances are that it's already fairly serious and cannot be resolved on a personal basis. A responsible authority should take steps to resolve the situation — if they refuse, then they are acting as enablers and should be held to account.

• Being bullied is not your fault

Bullies have a very simple criterion for finding somebody to pick on: they look for people who they don't think can fight back, or have strong friends to fight back for them. You could be pleasant and friendly, or awkward and solitary, but if the bully thinks they can get away with picking on you, you're an open target to them.

A common method to transfer blame onto the victim is to criticise the target for aspects of their behaviour, lifestyle or beliefs, and claim that this actively encourages bullying. This is both reprehensible and inaccurate. When victims of bullying move away, bullies often simply switch to their next preferred target — whilst their former targets frequently experience no bullying at all in their new location.

• Being bullied does not build character

The goal of a bully is to damage you and your chances in life. They will try to destroy your friendships, ruin your reputation, and undermine your achievements. They will attempt to upset you, panic you, and remove any self-esteem you have. And the more they succeed, the easier it becomes for them to bully you.

Bullying harms educational or professional achievement, emotional development, and physical health. Prolonged or severe bullying can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological conditions.

• Bullying is not about social dominance

Regular social dominance struggles are complex, and might involve arguments, belittlement, gossip, name-calling, posturing and sometimes even physical fights. But saying "I give up", admitting that somebody is stronger or more popular than you are, should be the end of it. Saying "I give up" to a bully doesn't make any difference at all — and might even make things even worse.

Normal dominance struggles happen between two roughly evenly-matched individuals or groups, and end when one has established dominance. Bullying, by contrast, happens after dominance has already been established, and is persistent and needlessly abusive.

• Bullies do not necessarily have low self-esteem

Bullies come from all walks of life and across the social spectrum. At school, they might be the popular kid that everybody wants to hang out with, or they might be the unattractive, friendless loner who hides and smokes behind the bike shed. At work, they might be your boss, or they might be the office gossip. They might be the self-hating loser who picks only on people smaller and weaker than them in order to prop up their self-esteem, or they might be a bored egomaniac who picks on random people because they think it's funny. Pretty much the only thing that all bullies have in common is that they are petty, sadistic and lacking in empathy.

Research has disproven the idea that bullies typically have low self-esteem. In contrast, they often have a sense of superiority and entitlement. They typically lack compassion, impulse control, and social skills.

• Being bullied is not 'just part of life'

We don't accept racism, discrimination, domestic violence, stalking, assault, sexual abuse, or murder in society, even though these behaviours are demonstratably part of life. Why should we accept bullying?

It is true that over 16% of children are bullied in any given school term. This means that bullying is widespread, but doesn't mean it's acceptable. Targets of bullying need support, whether emotional or practical, and bullies need to be held to account in order for their behaviour to change.

• Bullying is not just a kids' problem

Bullies at school sometimes grow up and reform their behaviour. Often they do not — they simply get more subtle and sneaky. The ex-schoolyard bully may no longer hold people's heads in the toilet — but the nasty remarks they make about their co-workers hurt just as much.

Nor do childhood and adult bullying necessarily remain separate. Sometimes when the parents of school bullies are confronted about the bully's behaviour, the parent(s) will prove to be just as much of a bully, by spreading misinformation to authorities, and making threats to the target's parents, teachers, or even the target themself. Even teachers and authority figures can become bullies, at which point the situation becomes very serious indeed.

Although bullying is particularly a problem in schools, there are bullies of all ages, in potentially any institution.

• It is not 'admitting defeat' to move away from a bully

Often, the only thing that gets you through the ordeal of being bullied is your own pride in withstanding it. It's easy to characterise it as a battle between them and you — and to move school or job would be to "lose" that battle. But even if you did somehow "win" and force the bully to move out instead of yourself, it might not be as satisfying an outcome as you might believe — memories of the bullying can remain fresh in your mind, and a known history of being bullied makes you a more tempting target to future bullies. 'Giving up' and moving to a new school or job might be disheartening, but those who do usually only have one regret: that they didn't leave sooner.

In an ideal world, bullies would be punished and forced to move away, while their targets would would never be forced to undergo the hassle and discomfort of moving to a new school or workplace. In practice, it can be difficult to bring enough evidence against bullies to force authorities to take such drastic action — especially since bullies usually become experts at hiding their activities. In practice, the easiest and least stressful solution is for the target of bullying to move instead.

From: (Anonymous)

Dream Your True Love Spell Come To You

Bullies come from all walks of life and across the social spectrum.


From: (Anonymous)

If you don't respond to verbal taunts, they will use other tactics — theft or destruction of your property, rumour-mongering and false accusations, or direct physical assault.



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