“Stand up for yourself” is the advice often given to victims of bullying during their teen and adolescent years. It is a simple solution that can be extremely difficult to execute, and even when done so, does not always resolve the problem at hand. So why is it so hard to stand up to bullies?
The primary reason is the perceived level of power that the bully has over the victim. When a victim is being harassed by a bully and sees others laughing along with what the bully is doing, it creates a power dynamic that weighs in favor of the bully. The bystanders’ laughter reinforces the bully’s behavior, and increases his or her social standing, while the victim loses social support. Bystanders play an enormous role when it comes to bullies carrying and developing social clout.
Bullies can also draw power by physically outmatching their victims. The threatening stature of a bully puts the fear of physical harm in the mind of the victim, which makes them not want to do anything that would provoke them to become more violent than they perhaps already are. This fear can be absolutely paralyzing to victims, making them feel hopeless and trapped.
Bullies often isolate their victims by marginalizing them. They make them seem abnormal or “incorrect.” Victims can be marginalized by their race, sexuality, mental or physical disabilities, religion, body type, and a host of other things. By targeting someone based on one or a few facets of their character or appearance, bullies effectively dehumanize them, and thusly take away their social significance. How can someone find the strength to stand up for him or herself if they do not feel that their life is as meaningful or important as another’s?
Worst of all, marginalization is sometimes allowed to happen. When teachers or those with high social power do not speak on the issue of bullying, or when the vast majority of students ignore the problem, it validates the bully’s actions. That’s when the bulling becomes an accepted part of the school culture. In other words, makes it seems that “that’s just the way it is.”
The key to denying a bully of their power is by removing the reinforcement they gain from bystanders. If the support lies with the victim instead of the bully, the wrongness or abnormality is then turned onto the bully. This is why it is so important for everyone who witnesses acts of bulling to intervene. The more people that show disapproval toward the bully’s behavior, the less power the bully has over the person being victimized.
Building a support system that stands against bullying is absolutely necessary to stopping this problem within schools and other institutions. This is exactly what the HEAR presentation is designed to do. Students will learn how to spot bullying as well as how to stop it. It teaches kids important values like honor, respect, and integrity, and that we all have the power to make a difference.