I’d like to take a moment to talk about bullying. According to statistics reported by ABC News, almost 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, with 130000 kids staying home each day out of fear. Additionally, there are over 4400 suicides committed by young people each year (and for every suicide there are 100 attempts. That’s right – 440000 total acts of suicide or attempts at it), with over half of those related to bullying. It’s a focal point in the media lately, with the suicides of Amanda Todd, Eric James Borge, this unamed 7 year old and countless others.
With all this attention, there has been a lot of emphasis on what the bullied should do; what the parents should do. We are told we must stand up to our bullies. We must report the instances to the schools, to the authorities. We must demand justice and harsher punishment for these crimes (and yes, I believe bullying is very much a crime). All of this is true and logical and I don’t disagree. When we see this happening to our children; to our friends; to a stranger we have an obligation to speak out against it and take action.
All of that said, most of the articles and information I have been reading have been placing the responsibility of stopping bullying on the bullied, as if they are the ones who are in charge of stopping it. In fact, crime prevention tips are almost always geared toward what the targeted should do, like it is somehow their fault and thus ultimately their duty to correct. Think about it: we are told to lock our doors, for example, so a burglar won’t easily walk into your home and steal all of your possessions (and I’ve actually heard of insurance companies denying claims if a door was proven to be left unlocked), because clearly an unlocked door is an open invitation for stealing. How was the burglar to know that you wanted to keep your electronics without that universal locked door indication? Obviously, (s)he lacked the common sense to know that taking someone else’s things was wrong. We receive emails and read articles about how not to get raped as if the rapist can’t be held accountable for their actions if we don’t practice due diligence in deterring them.
While I agree that taking measures to reduce the likelihood of being a victim is prudent and smart, especially in a world where crime is inevitable, is it logical that the responsibility of stopping this crime is in the hands of the victims? Should I be held liable for forgetting to lock my door – is it then MY fault that an unauthorized person entered my home? Should I be barred, as a woman, from walking after sunset with a short skirt and a ponytail in case someone just dying to get some walks by me? Should a bullied child (or adult!) be chastised for not speaking up sooner; not standing up to their aggressor because that is what they were supposed to do? What if that child is afraid of the bully’s reaction if they did say something? What if they believe the bully’s ability to make their life even worse if they tell someone? Is it still their responsibility; their fault that they didn’t speak up?
As a society we need to stop placing the burden and blame on the victims and start focusing on the perpetrators. We need to stop acting like criminals simply can’t help themselves in the absence of appropriate pre-meditated countermeasures to their actions. It’s no mystery to me why so many of these crimes (rape and bullying, especially) go unreported – would you step forward if you were reasonably sure you were going to be berated about what you did or did not do to prevent the crime in the first place? When victims are made to feel like the ones at fault for the crime committed against them, we lose. We lose our power, our voice. We lose our dignity. We lose any ability we had to empower people to make better choices and not commit crimes. We take the blame off the shoulders it belongs on and place it on the shoulders of someone who has already endured too much. We fail that person and we fail our society.
So, with that in mind and inspired by posts like this, I offer you bully prevention tips (for bullies).
- If you see someone who looks differently than you, do not make fun of them.
- If you see someone who acts differently than you, do not make fun of them.
- If you want something that someone else has, do not take it without permission. Also do not scare them into giving it to you against their will.
- If you believe someone’s actions make them a slut or a nerd or a dweeb or a jock or a space cadet, keep your opinion to yourself.
- If you believe someone’s sexual orientation differs from your own, keep your opinion to yourself.
- If someone’s faith differs from your own and you cannot respectfully ask them about it, say nothing at all.
- If you do not like someone and see them on social media, do not make snide comments to them online.
- Use the Buddy System. If you find it difficult not be rude to others, ask a friend to tell you when you’re being a giant douche.
- If someone tells you that you’re being a giant douche, assume it to be true and stop what you are doing immediately.
- Remember that you are not a monkey and are not required to mimic. If you are a victim of bullying yourself, think about how being bullied makes you feel and take all steps to avoid making others feel the same way. Break the cycle.