If someone you know is being, or has been bullied, there are many things you can do to help or support them. As a society we musn't just accept bullying in schools or workplaces or online, as an acceptable fact of life it isn't. It exists where ever there are power structures, social groups, hierarchies and people participating in them.
The people who can do more to stem bullying than anyone else, are those who witness bullying but do nothing either through nervousness of being targeted, or concern that they may make things worse for the target. So I've compiled a list of suggestions to counteract this.
We can all make small changes which can improve the lives of those being bullied and challenge the mindsets of people who are bullies.
Here are some strategies drawn from my own and my children's experience of being bullied. Knowing that support is there when you're being bullied is crucial and can make a valuable difference to the lives of people who are being bullied.
1) Listen to what they have to say, for as long as it takes them to say it, don't expect a fluent explanation at all times.
2) Don't judge their experience to them or to others.
3) Avoid phrases like "don't you think you're over reacting", "You're being too sensitive", "well you brought this on yourself", "you're just deliberately misunderstanding?", "This is just a part of life"
4) Don't suggest strategies unless you have successfully overcome bullying yourself. Even in that case proceed with caution and sensitivity.
5) Don't tell someone being bullied to "just ignore it".
6) Don't defend or explain bullies to their target.
7) Don't ignore the target of bullies, isolating the target is a common ploy by bullies.
8) Don't suggest to someone who tells you they are being bullied that they are "just imagining it"
9) Don't enable bullies in their behaviour.Don't repeat their view or any accompanying "evidence"of target's "transgressions", as this promotes bullying.
10) Refuse to be drawn into discussions which promote the target as the aggressor.
11) If one person is being denigrated or verbally or physically attacked by more than one person, this is not just an "argument".This is bullying.
12) Understand the methods of bullying. Criticism, mocking jokes, repetition of targets words or actions, social exclusion, promoting myths, distortions and whispering campaigns, discrediting of achievements, reactive allegations of bullying, organising of others to attack target, threats and physical attacks.
13) If you know your friend is being a bully, don't ignore the facts or enable the behaviour, just because you like them. If they try and get you to participate refuse.
14) Recognise the part we all play in promoting and allowing the culture of bullying to thrive. This is never "justified" or "deserved" an argument is not an excuse for bullying anyone, but it is often the catalyst.
15) "Weak" people are not the targets of bullies, they are the friends of bullies. Strong people are bullied everyday irrespective of ( sometimes precisely because of) sexual orientation, race, status, gender, faith, atheism or disability.
16) Bullying is not just a part of growing up or a rite of passage. It is a damaging life long problem encountered in school, work and online.
17) Adults are just as likely to be bullied as children.
18) Bullying can occur from strangers and within friendship groups.
19) Social media has prompted the rise of cyberbullying. If you see people being bullied online report it and support them. Don't just ignore it- it won't just go away.
20) Contact those being bullied, regularly. It's amazing the difference being supported makes in the lives of those being bullied and the greatest weapon against the devastating despair that being bullied provokes.
Standing together against bullying is crucial, after all the next person targeted might be you. It will help and it might even save a life.