Bob Denny: Bully me? I don’t think so


Published: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 22, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

What exactly is bullying? The Wikipedia definition: “Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others … It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability.”

Psychologists tell us that it can take away our feelings of safety and security, result in a loss of our power to make choices or control our own lives, and damage our self-confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes the victim reacts violently or aggressively, as seen in recent school and theater mass shootings. The victim can become the abuser of others.

Is bullying on the rise in recent years? As our population grows, we’re influenced by hard economic times and other pressures and stresses of today. Frustration rises. The fire is often fueled by life’s problems and challenges, boredom, long hours watching violent television or playing aggressive video games. Since bullying is an emotional issue that most of us have experienced, it gets significant media attention.

March 10, 2011: President and Michelle Obama attended the first ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, to dispel the myth that it’s a “harmless rite of passage,” or just “part of growing up.” Soon, the StopBullying.gov web site was launched, followed by ads and a campaign to build awareness. (Information found on Wikipedia website.) Many state laws have been passed.

Any experience we have with bullying may leave us feeling frustrated and powerless. What can you do? Here are some ideas to try:

Recognize the seriousness of the problem. Sometimes intimidation leads to suicide or violent behavior. An impulsive or inappropriate response to bullying may get you in trouble!

Educate yourself. Find out what are the local laws and policies, of the police, schools, city or county commissions, other government agencies.

Learn and understand the laws that may apply: “stand your ground,” “reasonable response to a real threat,” and “minimum force necessary to meet a threat.” Don’t rely on rumors about the laws.

Follow the laws. Do what’s right.

Have a plan. Talk to the school counselor, teachers, principals, and maybe the school board. A problem at work? See your supervisor, or human relations office. See whoever is responsible for developing and implementing policy on dealing with bullying. Visit your city or county commission, neighborhood watch program, or those close to you. As agencies may “circle the wagons,” don’t be put off. Ask for their written policy on bullying.

Handle each situation as a mature, fair, responsible, and law abiding citizen.

Hold their feet to the fire! Get involved. Stand up to the bully, or whoever is responsible for taking action against bullying. Research shows that bystanders tend to tease the victim or egg on the bully. They often don’t intervene because of fear of the risk involved in an intervention, or feel that others won’t support their efforts to help. They may even feel a vicarious satisfaction from watching an incident.

Protect yourself! If you are involved in an incident, consider getting a lawyer involved, to ensure you take appropriate legal action to receive a fair outcome of the situation.

Taking action instead of standing by, and protecting yourself in the right way, can help empower you to continue building that happy, successful life for yourself that we all deserve.

Bob Denny is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida who teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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