Bullying is more common than most people like to admit. Fortunately, people are more educated about it now than ever before and are becoming more aware of this issue. However, despite the effort to educate people about bullying and eradicate it, bystanders feel powerless to help and victims are left in the dark. Bullying is a vicious cycle and a lot of people don’t know how to handle it effectively. Bystanders are often too intimidated to help, perpetrators need help of their own, and the victims isolate themselves for fear of making it worse. Thus, bullying doesn’t just affect the victim; it affects everyone around them. Do you know the true effects bullying has on people?
Perpetrators often have issues of their own. Something is typically going on in their lives to make them feel the need to harm other people. Some perpetrators bully others as an unhealthy coping mechanism, similar to self-harm. Some are in denial of their own issues and they repeat what was previously done to them. People like this are often used to being treated poorly themselves. Thus, they don’t understand that mistreating others is wrong.They’re also more likely to skip school and commit crimes such as vandalism. A lot of people who bully others are at risk for dangerous behavior, such as abusing drugs and alcohol or engaging in unsafe sex. This increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections or becoming a victim of abuse if they aren’t already a victim.
Bystanders are often too scared to stand up for victims for fear that they’ll be bullied too. They’re stuck making the rash decision between doing what’s right or wrong by deciding whether or not to stand up for someone. They’re putting themselves on the line in their eyes. Frequent bystanders are likely to use alcohol or drugs, particularly tobacco products. They have an increased risk of developing mental health issues, especially anxiety or depression. Bystanders may not feel safe in school and they’re likely to skip classes as a result of this.
Victims do not usually stand up for themselves for fear of retaliation. Victims tend to lock themselves away from the rest of the world. They often make a world of their own to help escape their negative surroundings. Victims have trouble concentrating on school work when they’re being harassed, so they’re more likely to perform poorly in school. They’re also likely to have physical illnesses due to the mind and body connection. They’re prone to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, and eating disorders. In extreme cases, a victim will attempt or commit suicide. Some people use the term “bullycide.”
Bullying can be hard to talk about and that makes it more likely for people to feel alone in their experiences. Here are a few of many true stories of victims of bullying. If you’re a victim, know that you’re not alone in this.
“I tried to be positive and have a good day, but most of the time I would come home in tears. I was so nervous to go to school that every morning I would feel sick. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or not, but I started having panic attacks when I was 13, and they happened in school. I didn't really tell anyone what I was going through, because I didn't think it was serious enough to be classed as 'bullying.' I just thought it was me.”
“I was bullied all throughout primary school and this really knocked my confidence. It made me really nervous around people I didn't know as I was scared that I was going to be bullied again. I started to believe all the horrible things that the bully said about me which made me feel horrible about myself.
The bullying was mostly names but in year six, the bully started to steal and break my things. I kept telling the teacher and staff in the school but nothing was done about it. Finally in my last year of primary school, the school dealt with the bullying and I was able to enjoy the remainder of my time in primary school.”
“I think this is part of how my self-esteem, self-confidence went down the drain. It was relatives too, I don't know. If what they did counts as bullying....my cousins tended to single me out/leave me out. Even my grandma's neighbor's children would single me out. Not sure if that counts as bullying because they weren't always outright bullying. I guess it was more 'mean' than 'bullying'.”
“I think a lot of the problems I have now relate back to this, especially trouble with assertiveness, guilt and things like that.”
“I was bullied throughout middle and high school. I was called names, and got shoved around a fair bit by students and teachers. I was a really really quiet kid in school, only because I was taught not to bully others. I was called horrible degrading names by the teachers and support staff. I was shoved into the showers, people threw scissors and rocks at me, I was purposely the aim for sports. I discovered self harm and I avoided school for almost 4 months before I got moved to a different school.”
“I was bullied in elementary school and since then I have a hard time socializing with anyone and I am over critical about myself. This has made it hard for me to meet and have friends.”
“Well, to begin with I was born with something that affected my emotional, physical and (to a much lesser extent) mental development. When I began elementary school, I was called mentally retarded. I still remember that as clear as day all these years later. When I was older, I had fake friends that would have me confide in them and then turn it around, tell others, and then they would harass me about whatever thing I told those so-called friends.”
“I used to come home from school with marks on my arms kids would tell me that I was worthless. Because of this I have no confidence and I struggle with leaving the house and it's generally ruined my life. I'm still trying to fix it but the after effects of bullying damage the victim so much inside sometimes they never heal. I could go in to a lot more detail but it would be really long but bullying is one of the key factors which is stopping me from making friends and talking to people in life.”
“The effects of being bullied took its toll on me in terms of making my anger worse. During Year 11 I was the angriest out of my friends, I always had cold looks on me and rarely laughed because I despised my school and wanted out. I always tried to pull sick days whenever I could because I couldn't take it anymore, I hardly told mum the reason why.
It's caused me to withdraw into myself, seeking protection in my home or from my mum because it's a major part of my comfort zone, my experience (not just with bullying but school as a whole) has caused me to have panic attacks if I ever step foot in the direction that my school is in.”
“Well as a result for years no matter where I went I was convinced that people were out to get me. I didn't and still barely trust anyone, including my parents and friends. Worst is, that I can't show negative emotions anymore, cause I'm scared they will be used against me and bottling everything up is bringing a whole bunch of problems along.
Also thanks to it I missed and still miss out on a lot of stuff. I'm too scared to go into some shops cause they remind me of my former classmates, I'm scared to go dancing, or shopping, or anything teenagers usually do.”
“A lot of my experience in being bullied came from being excluded and subtly teased. For example, people would make fun of lisps/speech impediments right in front of me but they never directed it right at me (I have a bit of a lisp - it's gotten much better over the years but I had to take speech therapy for a really, really long time, like 8 years or so). I had girls who, in grades 6-8, would form circles to hang out and talk during recess/lunch breaks and somehow I'd always get shunted to the outside of these circles and excluded, I wasn't always invited to get togethers even though mostly everyone else was and then they'd flaunt it in front of me. The girls in my grade 6-8 class where pretty mean and catty. I got the brunt of it, and I would come home in tears practically every day, especially in grade 7 when it was really bad. By grade 8 I had a different group of friends that weren't as mean.
In high school, I was also excluded a lot. I always got the impression that no one really cared if I was there or not and I didn't know how to insert myself into the group and ingratiate myself to them.
The one thing that makes you different (being tall, being a geek, being very smart) is the one thing that will make you a target... but someday it'll probably be your greatest asset.”
There are quite a few activities to try if you're struggling to understand how bullying affects people. Get a sheet of paper and write hurtful words all over it. Scribble on it, and crumple it up. Tear tiny pieces off and then try to smooth it out. Take a look at all the hurtful words and graphics drawn on it. Will you ever be able to fully erase the things written on it? Can you make the paper as smooth as it was before you crumpled it up? No. This paper resembles a victim of bullying. The wrinkles represent the physical and emotional wounds, and the words show the hurtful things said to the victim. That paper will always be left with those marks, much like a victim of bullying will always carry the hurt that someone caused them. The same can be demonstrated with a bottle of liquid. The liquid cannot be returned to the bottle once it is squeezed out, and words cannot be taken back after they’ve been said.