Bullying

"Hold each other up" - Southeast Traditional Tribal Values

What is bullying?

Bullying, as defined by most teenagers, is someone trying to make you feel less about yourself, and you can’t stop it. It is an imbalance of power between the victim and the bully. This means that anyone can bully. Anyone can also be a bystander or victim. This includes you, your peers, or even your teachers.

The bully is the aggressor towards the victim. The victim is the bully’s target. The bystander is someone who literally stands by and witnesses the bullying.

What are the different kinds?

Physical - This one is the easiest to identify. It can include pushing or shoving, hitting, slapping, hair pulling, scratching, or any other form of physical abuse that ranges from minor irritation to hospitalization.

Verbal - This one is usually the first choice of a bully because it’s quick and simple. It includes teasing, name-calling, intimidation, demeaning or inappropriate jokes, or rumors, gossip or slander.

Sexual - This includes sexual assault like inappropriate touching/unwanted contact, as well as demeaning someone about their gender or sexuality or posting inappropriate photos online (yes, even photoshopped ones).

Emotional - Often done by a group, but not limited to groups, this form of abuse hurts the person on the inside. It can be done by leaving someone out on purpose, slander, or publicly humiliating the person.

Cyberbullying - This term gets thrown around a lot in the media, but that is because it is a very real problem. It includes mean texts, posting videos, stories, or photos that ridicule, or spreading rumors via social networks.

What can you do?

If you are the victim of bullying, don’t be a bystander to yourself! Being bullied in any way hurts. Make sure that you let someone know, because you have so much power on your own to stop it, but having backup helps. Bullying happens to a lot of people, and you and your peers have the right to a bully-free life. Here are some steps:

  1. Tell an adult you trust, be it your parents, grandparents, your teacher, a friend’s parent, or even that librarian you don’t see very often. If one adult can’t or won’t help, tell the next.  It helps if you write down what happened, who did it, and where it happened. This helps you can keep it clear in your mind or give it to someone should you find yourself unable to talk about it.
  2. Know that you are not alone. Bullying happens globally, in small rural areas or big cities, in or out of school. This does not mean that being bullied is the norm and you should “deal with it.”
  3. Create a student action plan! Be the advocate for yourself and for others by downloading PACER’s Student Action Plan. Make sure that you ask “What can be done so I and other kids feel safe at school?”
  4. If the bullying that occurred or is occurring is systematic (as in overlooked by the teachers or the principal or administrators), you have protections under Federal Law to prevent bullying of people who are discriminated against based off of:
    1. Race, color, or nationality
    2. Sex
    3. Religion
    4. Disability

Check out the Alaska Anti-Bullying Laws and Policies here and the Federal StopBullying site here to find out what your rights are.

Am I a bully?

Do you often make fun of that girl with braces? Do you prevent that boy from joining your game just because you claim he smells funny? Do you swear or yell at a person who you don’t like? Do you do anything remotely resembling physical violence against anyone, even if you think they’re okay with it? You could be a bully.

Think about it, you’re not going to make yourself feel better or look better just because you put someone else down. You’re causing damage, not only to that person, but to yourself, because bullying is a self-perpetuating behavior, and isn’t accepted in societies that are on the up-and-up (think drug dealer gangs vs. the local business) and definitely won’t be taken well as you grow older.

If you think you’re a bully, make sure you apologize to the person you bullied! They may not even want to talk to you or be near you, but that’s okay, don’t force it; it is not the victim’s responsibility to accept your apology, just your responsibility to offer it. Write a note, and be sincere about it, and never repeat the mistake. You may need help in that arena, so talking to a counselor will help. If you don’t have a counselor, talk to an elder. Find a team activity that you could join, even if it’s just skipping rocks with friends.

Chumps are chimps!

Chimpanzees seem cute, but they exhibit a lot of bullying behavior, even ganging up in groups to the point of killing one another. Bonobos, on the other hand, are more peace-loving compatriots who will ostracize an aggressive member until they come back to apologize. Read more about them here

I’m not being bullied, but someone I know is

It’s hard being a bystander. Do you just walk by and ignore it? Do you risk being bullied yourself by standing up for this person? The answers to these questions seem ambiguous, but they’re simple enough to answer.

If someone is in immediate danger, or you witness a fight, do not try to break it up. If you’re at school or in town, go run to tell an adult or someone who will be able to handle the situation with authority. If nobody else is nearby, try to get the aggressor to stop by shouting verbally “STOP!”, claim that someone like a teacher, parent, or older relative is coming, and make sure they are, or call 911 if necessary. Be loud and let the bully know that they’ve been caught.

If someone has just been physically or sexually assaulted, they need comfort, and may need a visit to the clinic to determine if there is long-term damage. Bullying often results in concussions, double vision, punctured eardrums, broken bones, or bruises and cuts. Help them get away from the abuser and to help in the form of parent, teacher, doctor, nurse, or neighbor.

If someone is being emotionally or verbally abused, speak up for them! Put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t, you’re only encouraging, or enabling, the bully’s behavior. You may be afraid that the bully will retaliate against you, but you have strength in numbers, and your testimony helps the victim's. Take the victim aside and let them know that you’re there for them, even if it’s just someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, they need you! They also probably need help approaching a trusted adult about this situation.