How to Stop Being a Victim
In order to change a behavior one has to be committed to the change. It takes time, effort and discomfort to establish a new pattern, a new way to respond.
Change the way you think:
This is the most important change. You need to stop thinking like a victim.
To do this, visualize yourself as someone strong, independent, resilient.
- Just say NO! Research shows that 50% of the time a bully will stop if you just say no. However, your body language, tone of voice, and expectation has to communicate your firmness and sense of self. Use this as a mantra: “No way, no how, not me.”
- Do you have equal rights? You have a right and a duty to protect yourself and the space around you. Just like America protects the air space above the country.
- Think about someone you respect because they are independent and secure and would not be victimized by a bully. It could be a real person you know, or a celebrity. Imagine the person walking next to you; being your friend, telling you how much they respect you. Visualize the person walking around with you, all the time. Allow the positive feelings to seep into your self-image.
- Are you an injustice collector? Do you find evidence that you are being mistreated everyday? Change your lens, and stop validating the perception that you are being hurt. Look for the good in people and the positive parts of yourself.
- Evaluate your values. Have you accepted the winner/loser mentality of our current vulture culture? Do you consider yourself a loser, and everyone else a winner? It is a myth. People have experiences that range from the best to the worst, and most of us operate in the mid-range, most days. Re-write your value system and aim to be “good enough.”
- Be with others, always. Even if you are alone, walk within a crowd, be in a group especially in the halls, on the playground, on the bus, and walking home. Sit with others at a table. Do not isolate yourself. You have every right to be wherever you want.
- If you are feeling shy, scared, intimidated, sad, lonely and/or you have trouble making friends, seek professional help.
- Parents must give children the verbal and non- verbal message that it is OK to protect oneself. Kids must be self-reliant. They need to be able to navigate the world without adults who control or manipulate their environment. To do this, parents must release kids to do what is necessary to be safe.
- Parents must teach kids when to be aggressive; like when one is guarding their parking space; when to be compliant, like when being spoken to by a principal and when to compromise, like when playing a game with peers.
Change the System
In order to change the culture that supports the bully/victim cycle, intervention should be aimed at victims, bystanders and bullies.
- Victims or potential victims are evident as young as age 2 or 3. Teachers and parents must help kids who are shy, who are fearful and who need to improve their social skills. Parents should seek professional guidance.
- Schools recognize students who are consistently victimized, and they are aware of classes or grades that are particularly sadistic. Such circumstances need to be addressed early in their appearance; and consistent and significant discipline needs to be given.
Bully Prevention Education:
Does it work?
- Research shows that bully prevention programs teach students about bullying but it does not stop bullying and may even increase it. (School Psychology Quarterly, vol 23, number 1; March 2008)
- “Zero tolerance” does not stop bullying.
- Adults don’t listen to kids when they report bullying. By age 7, kids stop “telling” because they find no relief or help by doing so.
In a school with a significant bullying problem “the bully lady” was introduced. This was a specialist in bullying who was in the elementary school on a full time basis. Kids reported that when she was around no one bullied; the moment she left the bullying continued. This illustrates how often the school institutes programs but the group dynamics are stronger than the adult.
What Schools Can Do? Schools must provide better supervision during typical times and places that bullying occurs, for example:
- locker room
- teach kids to be self-reliant and not be dependent on a specific adult, but to learn how to defend themselves, report problems, and talk about emotional stress… (before it is overwhelming.)
Empower the Bystander
- Usually the largest group are bystanders. Students need to be taught how to be empathetic and pactive bystanders. Two or more students can interrupt a bully and protect the victim. Everyone, students and personnel, need to be taught that they are responsible and that they have the power to either report a bullying event (anonymously if they prefer) and when reasonable, to intervene.
- To encourage people to be active bystanders a system of rewards, both verbal and actual, needs to be functioning. Consider the fact that the police have tip lines which give rewards. Law enforcement professionals report that significant information is reported when rewards are provided.
- Everyone is responsible, not just bullies…principals, teachers, aides, coaches and even janitors see bullying in action. They all need to be trained to know when and how to stop bullying.
- There is a global community that reinforces bully behaviors by modeling them on television, on the news and in the home. Intimidation and humiliation are integrated and accepted as a way to assert one’s status and power. This needs to stop.
- The culture of the school…starts with the superintendent, and continues with each principal. All school employees, teachers and students need to be treated with respect and forceful and continuous message needs to be sent that bully behavior is not accepted, Not here, Not now, No way!
- This same message must be reinforced by all authority figures, including parents.
What is the Psychology of Bullying
Why do kids support the bully? It is called “identification with the aggressor.” The bystander or audience identifies with the aggressor and sometimes feels pleasure. (For example, they have measured brain activity when men watch football, hockey, and professional wrestling. The same chemicals are released in the brain that increase excitement and pleasure. Watching is almost as good as doing.) For bystanders watching a bully, they may identify with the bully and feel more powerful; like the winner vs. loser.
Kids are afraid of the bully. Challenging the leader/bully could mean social suicide for the defender. The only way to succeed is to add the power of the group. Current culture reinforces bullying and therefore the potential defenders are in the minority; they have no voice and few venues to use.
Fear of retribution by the bully or social group maintains the status quo. Parents, teachers and students are often afraid to report or intervene because the victim expects the bullying and ostracism to increase…and it usually does.
Kids who have been victimized repeatedly get accustomed to the role and act like a victim…Often parents and children do not have the insight or tools to change the victim’s behavior. Outside counseling should be sought in chronic or extreme cases.
Extreme and Sexualized Bullying
- Everyone needs to change a victim’s behavior as quickly as it develops; karate does not do it, psychology does.
- Parents and professionals need to model, and role play; practicing ways to deal with bully situations.
- Parents need to get professional help from sources outside of school.
- Parents need to look carefully to make sure bullying is not happening in the home or family.
- Parents and teachers should talk about bully behavior wherever it occurs; on reality shows,on “ Gossip Girl”, in the news.
To avoid extreme bullying, intervene early and effectively.
Quick Guide on How You Can Stop Bullying Now!
The Parent’s Role:
- model assertive behavior
- consistently give verbal and non verbal messages that give the child permission to defend himself and protect his space and body
- teach kids to be good reporters, of incidents that happen to themselves or to others
The School’s Role:
- create a school culture that hold’s everyone responsible for bullying and treating everyone with equal respect.
- create many different ways to report and positively reinforce reporting incidents, even if anonymously and establish a meaningful reward system
- increase supervision with well trained personnel.
- train counselors and mental health professionals to be alert to bullies and victims, and train bystanders on when and how to intervene.
The Child’s Role:
- to be safe and protect oneself,
- to be a good bystander, to report if someone is being victimized; and/or to intervene if possible
- never give up and know that adults do want to listen and help.