By Kendall Stewart
The fact of there matter is there is a silent majority of people that you and I have likely been part of at some point: witnesses of bullying.
I once read a news article about a brave young girl who wrote a book on what to do about. She pointed out that though bullying is being fought constantly, usually only two parties are addressed: the bully and his or her victim. But there is in fact a third party that merits more attention: the bystander. And bystanders are key in prevention.
Kids in school—regardless of their age—see bullying everyday. As do many adults in their day to day lives, too. The #MeToo movement is just one example bringing this to light, specifically as it relates to sexual harassment. There is even a proposed Healthy Workplace bill to address the wide range of misconduct at work. Yet, we all know that bullying takes many shapes whether in the school yard or in an office building. It may be as serious as a kid being beat up in the parking lot, or it could just be someone being laughed at briefly for an answer they gave in class, but it is seen at least once a day by every person in a school. I know because I saw it every single day in my high school. Sometimes I was the victim, sometimes I was even the bully, but more often than not I was just a spectator.
The truth is the spectators are crucial to the bully’s plan of attack. Have you ever had someone who teased you every single day? I have. But they only teased me when other people were around. I would pass that person in the hallway when it was just the two of us and they wouldn’t say a word. Bullying is a show and the performers always rely on the energy of the audience.
So don’t give it to them.
Don’t laugh at what the bully is saying. I understand that you probably think that if you laugh the bully won’t pick on you. This might be true, but I know that what worked for me is that saying something back to the bully stopped them from picking on me.
If you see one of your friends being picked on tell the bully to stop. It’s as simple as saying, “Hey, be quiet!” and taking your friend and walking away. And if you’re the one being picked on don’t be afraid to defend yourself. The best defense is a good offense. The bully is probably picking on you because they see you as an easy target, they don’t expect you to say something back to them. Surprise them and do it. You’ll get them to think twice and you’ll earn the respect of the bystanders and, importantly, the respect of yourself. In some states, bullying in schools and on buses is now illegal. That means teachers and school staff have to report any incidents. Parents are important roles models, too. There’s no reason to keep quiet about bullies anymore.
Last reviewed and updated May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD.