Words Can Kill

October 6, 2012

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

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 animé – 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 bully  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 🙁

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

    1. Yes, ’cause even if it isn’t happening right now to me, there’s always this fear.. “what if it happens again?” especially when I meet new people.

  1. I actually saw the news about that, that certain incident from CSA. I really felt bad for the victim. You know, I was also bullied as a kid but not as intense as what the CSA student experienced. I eventually gathered the strength to stand up for myself because I knew being oppressed was not right.

    1. In my case I didn’t seek for any, since my thinking was “it’s nothing.” I didn’t know it was a kind of bullying until I researched about it.

  2. Quite an impressive article about bullying here. And I agree with you that bullying does not only have a physical effect but emotional effect too which may trigger depression to the bullied individual.

  3. most kids today have mobile phones and other gadgets that can record video and audio… teach them to record the kids who are bullying them secretly then use it to get those kids expelled… post it to youtube or even facebook to humiliate them… bullies hate being bullied…

    1. I’d agree on the part that they can record the bullying to use as evidence, but posting it to humiliate them will only do more harm than good. Isn’t that bullying them in return?

  4. Bullying is very rampant in the schools and I’d agree, it has been one of the sources of unfortunate fate for the kids and even adults. I think it is important for the parents and teachers to cooperate on this matter.

  5. So much has been said about bullying but not much has been done to address it especially in environments that are beyond parental control such as schools. This is a serious problem that has to be addressed immediately.

  6. Bullying do happen everywhere. Not only in grade school, high school or even in the university. Even at the work place it does happen. But we will not know who is being bullied or who the bully is unless the victim talks about it. Hope media will intensify the campaign against bullying and us concerned citizens be watchful and do the necessary steps to put a stop to this =)

  7. This is true. My nephew was once bullied in school and it is very hurting both to the parents and the kids. We don’t want to tolerate this kind of attitude. Actually now my nephew suffered a lot and he stays home to study. He is afraid to go to school now.

  8. I was a bullying victim when I was in elementary school. I had low self-confidence and very overweight. It all changed when I got to high school; I started immersing myself in activities I was actually good at and with the confidence that came with that, I’ve learned to move on from the painful experiences and memories 🙂

  9. very true, the memories leave scars that tale time to heal and they greatly damage your self-esteem. and the sad part is, you feel defenseless. and it happens not only in school, it is very rampant even at playgrounds and the corporate setting 🙁

  10. bullies are everywhere and kids are the easiest to target. i remember being one of those kids in my childhood. good thing there’s a growing awareness of this

  11. Yeah, being a bully victim during my younger years, it was really difficult and at times you’re helpless. Good thing I grow up surrounded with good people. And Now I just realize the one who bullies me during those days are the ones ended up miserably in their adult life.

  12. It’s sad when we see our kids being bullied. I hope parents will be observant of their kids and have an open communication so they will be aware on what’s happening to their child.

  13. I remember I was also bullied by some of my classmates in elementary and it made me so sensitive and stay away from making friends up until high school. I had overcome it when I was able to show my sing and dance talent in High school – most people admired me and likes me too.

    1. God has ways for us to overcome trials in our lives. I’m happy He made your talents the way for people to appreciate and love you and for you to finally be free from the chains of the past 🙂

  14. Words are indeed powerful. NO TO BULLYING! Lots of reports nowadays are related to this type of behavior. I think it is about time to intensify the awareness among schools and community. Now, most of us heed that October is anti-bullying month.

  15. I actually experienced being bullied back in grade school, and I remember not being able to do anything for fear of being disliked even more. And when I stepped into HS, I learned how to stand up for myself. The bullying stopped since.

    Many kids may not have the kind of strength to surpass such obstacles. But I just hope that there are people around them, willing to save them from this kind of brutality.

  16. Bullying is indeed alarming especially in the United States wherein teens commit suicide left and right because they couldn’t take the pain anymore. 🙁 I’m glad that you were able to come out of it unscathed. I likewise hope that the government works on laws like this rather than the nonsensical ones.

  17. though people have the right to express their thoughts, they must also be careful of not to step on others right and be harsh… we must be responsible with our words and action. Yahweh bless.

  18. Words can kill… I read in some articles that those who make these bullying are even the the victim themselves. They do these acts because they need psychological help. These kids are products of broken families and domestic violence. They want an escape that’s why they bully others to feel they’re not alone. They have to be treated so that NOBODY can ever be bullied again.

    1. I myself is a product of a broken home but I’m a little bit more introverted than extroverted in nature. Bullies need love in their lives :c

  19. This bullying issue is so rampant. We need to teach our children to be kind and to chose the TV show they are watch, better guide them to be a good citizen. What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger. Live strong!

  20. Wow, you put a LOT into this article. Very thorough and well done.

    I think the best articles come out of topics that you have experienced yourself…and way to turn a negative into a positive.

    I believe that “Hurt people…hurt people” and with the rampant issues broken families, poverty, the rush-rush lifestyle…it’s no wonder we get these kids of people.

  21. this is why I totally support anti-bullying.
    i’d have to agree with what you said “dont just be a bystander, be supportive”
    victims from bullying needs people who truly supports them

  22. Reposting this to Special Education Philippines. Bullying is a relationship between the bully and the bullied. However, this might be surprising to some because it is not a relationship that you want to keep, it only means that both parties should be helped and not just the victim. Bullying stems from serious socio-emotional behavior issues that if not addressed leads to serious cases of abuse.

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