Words Can Kill

Once again, it has been raised to my attention the alarming increase of bullying incidents in schools. More than 1,700 cases of child abuse and bullying was documented by the Department of Education for SY 2013-2014*. While not particularly new, people usually have their attention and action against hazing activities.

Before you read on, take a clean sheet of paper. Crumple it, stomp on it, mess it up, but don’t rip it. Try to unfold it, smooth it out after and tell it you’re sorry. Look how scarred and dirty it is now. Nothing you do will make it look brand new. the scars are left behind. Imagine this is how a child feels when another person bullies them, no matter how you try to fix things or tell them you’re sorry..

It’s a common misconception that bullying only involves physical harm, but in reality it goes beyond that. Any of these familiar to you?

  • being harassed or abused
  • name-calling, mocking or hurtful teasing
  • humiliating or threatening someone
  • someone forces you to do something you don’t want to
  • having rumors spread about you
  • socially isolating people from the group

If you said yes to any of these, welcome to our world.

What Is Bullying?

First, let’s define what bullying is. According to stopbullying.gov:

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

Some real, personal examples

  • In grade school, I was tagged by one of our teachers (and a beyond-3rd-degree relative of ours) as “Rocky Tulog“, just because I took a nap after finishing my 4th grade Achievement Test way ahead of time.
  • Back in high school, me and my friends were somehow the outcasts of our batch. Why? Because of our love for animΓ© – maybe it’s too geeky for them that they don’t appreciate it like we do. It was okay at the time, because we still had each other.
  • I believe what scarred me most is when I was degraded since I had to stop my studies. Never in my life have I been that humiliated and stepped on like I wasn’t a human being with feelings.
  • There were many instances too, in both school and work, where people judge you for who you are and who you are not. They would talk behind my back yet I didn’t treat them differently even if I knew because back then I hate confrontations. I was called many names like backstabber (to a professor nonetheless.. which didn’t happen at all) and a stalker. I always ended up in isolation.

Types of Bullying

Given my personal experience, you can see different types of bullying happened. There was:

  • direct or face-to-face bullying: name-calling, insulting
  • indirect or covert- excluding/isolating people from groups, spreading rumors/gossips
  • cyber bullying – the use of technology to do direct/indirect bullying. The bullyΒ  can remain anonymous and it has a wider audience.

Identify The Victims

Image source: stefanpotter’s Tumblr

Most of the time, we do not recognize someone as ‘bullied’. Let us define the characteristics of a victim. According to a post I read on Tumblr:

Typical Characteristics of Passive or Submissive Students who are Bullied:

  • They are generally quiet, cautious, sensitive, and perhaps easily moved to tears.
  • They are insecure and have negative self-esteem, usually the result of bullying.
  • If boys, they are usually physically weaker than their classmates, particularly the bullies, and they do not like to fight.
  • They have few or no friends, perhaps as a result of bullying.
  • They may be afraid of getting hurt or hurting themselves.
  • They find it easier to associate with adults than peers.

Typical Characteristics of Provocative Students who are Bullied:

  • Only 15 to 20 percent of victims are of this type.
  • They are often bullied more often and by more peers than passive or submissive victims.
  • They have tempers and may try to fight back if bullied, but usually without success.
  • They are restless, clumsy, immature, unfocused, and generally perceived as awkward or tiresome. Some are hyperactive; they may be fidgety, impulsive, or restless and have difficulty concentrating.
  • They may have reading and writing problems.
  • They may be disliked by adults because of their often irritating behavior.
  • They may try to bully weaker students and therefore may be both victims and bullies.
  • Some are popular, and some are not. Their popularity may decrease in higher grades, but it never reaches the lowest popularity levels.

Cause and Effect

Words hurt too, you know.

So what do people get from this? I think it’s the feeling that you are superior over someone, the attention, and a better status (just like in the movies). There are also cases where the bully was actually a former victim and tries to get revenge by doing it to others.

But what happens to the victim? There are short term and long term effects, mostly psychological. For me, I felt like what they’re saying was true. There were times I feel so alone or I was so confused and stressed out as to why that was happening to me that I got depressed to some point. There are other who can’t take it anymore and commit suicide πŸ™

There’s a Way Out

What if I didn’t have friends to talk it out to? Or what if we do, but we don’t tell them? That’s usually the case for victims – we are afraid for people to know about the real deal.

Bullies will never get the last laugh – unless you let them.

What should you do when you are being bullied?

  • Talk to someone you know well and trust.
  • If you feel safe and confident, talk to the person bullying you, tell them their behavior is unwanted and you won’t put up with it.
  • If you don’t, approach your parent/s, teacher or guidance counselor for help.
  • Know your rights. Everyone has the right to be respected and treated fairly. The Philippines has Republic Act 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act.
  • Limit what you share about yourself, especially on the internet.

Take for example this news anchor, Jennifer Livingston of WKBT, who received an email complaining about her weight. Watch her awesome response:

What should you do when you know someone is being bullied?

Image source: ~temari9100 DeviantArt

Don’t be just a bystander – be a supportive one! Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t just watch or encourage bullying.
  • Support the person who is being bullied to ask for help.
  • Report the bullying to someone in authority or someone you can trust.

For parents, it is important to build a relationship with trust and openness.

——-

There’s a lot more we can do and I can’t elaborate further. This is just based on what I know.

I am glad that there’s an existing law to protect these people now. For the bullied, take a stand. For the bystanders, make a difference. For the bullies, I pray that such destructive behavior will be put to a stop. We live in a world where nothing is perfect and we should not judge people, because only our God can do that.

October is Bullying Awareness Month. Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences or anything related to this issue.

Updated: October 7, 2014

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