Beyond the bully and the victim

By shayna rodeman
rodemansh@mnstate.edu

We’ve all been there. We’ve witnessed it. We’ve done it. We have been the recipient of it — bullying. It affects everyone in some way, shape or form; but what exactly is bullying, and what can we do about it?
First, it is important to determine there are a lot of misconceptions about bullying. While acts such as arguing and disliking people may be unpleasant and deserving of attention, they aren’t necessarily the same as bullying. It is natural for people of all ages to engage in such disagreeable activities, whether they are acceptable or not; however, when taken the wrong way, they can easily transform into bullying. When disliking someone turns into repeated acts of aggression and harassment, it is time to consider if bullying is taking place. Some more common forms of bullying are spreading rumors, making threats, or attacking people physically or verbally.
According to stopbullying.gov, bullying has two main components: a power imbalance and repetition. This means that in order for bullying to occur, one person or party has to have control over another. Even if conflict is between the same two people, the person in power can change based on circumstances. If aggressive behavior is repetitive or has the potential of being repetitive, the act may be considered bullying. It is important to prevent repetition of aggressive behaviors towards others at a young age in order to prevent the occurance of bullying.
So if bullying has always been around, why talk about it?
The answer is that acts of repetitive aggression have powerful effects on both the victim and the bully. Victims can feel belittled and worthless, while the bully may develop an inflated sense of power. Moreover, bullying can happen at any age. Even adults can experience forms of bullying at a workplace or within their family. Recognizing bullying is the key to preventing it.
Bullying is not always obvious. It is the subtle form of bullying which may look like just teasing or joking around that needs to be taken with the most caution. It may seem harmless to joke with someone about their shabby clothing or to tell a friend about the personal situations in other people’s lives for entertainment, but another part of bullying is the effect it has on the recipient.
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center adds that not only does bullying involve a power imbalance, it also involves “behavior [that] hurts or harms another person.” This means that a lot of activities that many of us likely engage in during a day could actually be considered bullying if those activities are harmful to another person. It is easy to dismiss rude jokes and gossip about others as normal parts of life when, in actuality, they are the exact acts that can fall under the umbrella of bullying.
Everyone plays a role in bullying, so the question is this: What role do you play? Are you the bully, the victim, or the bystander? Most will agree these are the three main positions in any bullying situation. I like to think that there is one other person who plays a part: the advocate. The person who  is not afraid to speak up for the belittled and will go out of their way to help the victimized, or even the bully, to identify the problem.The next time you hear a rumor or see the pain in someone’s eyes as another person tears them down, don’t just be a bystander. Be an advocate.

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