Bullies are cowards.

As with workplace abuse, school bullying can be physical, psychological, verbal, and sexual, or a combination of all four. It may involve one child bullying another, a group of children against a single child, or groups against other groups. It is cruel, and involves a lack of compassion, and a lack of concern of how the victim feels. As in adult abuse, it has to do with power, control and isolation, and sometimes leads to suicide. Name calling, insults, using nicknames, being picked upon, being excluded (a frequent form of abuse among girls), are all part of school bullying. Victims are ridiculed, attacked, and isolated because they are too fat, too thin, too stupid, too intelligent, ugly, handsome, reserved, outgoing, and so on. What is perceived as difference attracts the attention of young abusers. Students with special education needs are a significantly greater target for bullies. These include children with disabilities, such as poor sight, children who are deaf or partially deaf, and children with physical disabilities. Racism and homophobia are very much involved in bullying activities. Immigrant students, for example, can be ridiculed simply because they have a different accent or skin colour, or because of sexual orientation. 30% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students suffer abuse in the UK. Homosexual youths are often subject to social exclusion and psychological persecution, and they are at least four times as likely to report a serious suicide attempt. The psychologists Kimeron Hardin and Marny Hall, experts in human sexuality, remark that ‘getting from childhood to adolescence, or from adolescence to adulthood can feel like running a gauntlet’ for homosexual youths.
I first encountered bullying, when, at the age of 12, I changed school in the late 1950s. It was a shock to be physically assaulted by two boys. Bloodied but determined, I held my own and at that young age discovered that bullies are cowardly when confronted and defeated. Today, we agree that bullies are vulnerable, but that is of little consolation to a battered, demoralised victim. However, the bully and the victim both need support.
When I was a child, schools did not have anti-bullying policies, and it was ‘every man for himself’. The law of the jungle prevailed, and only the hardy survived unscathed! Most schools now have such policies, and try to make being part of the school community an inclusive and positive experience. However, cyber bullying is on the increase. Children are more adept at using electronic devices than most adults, and this type of bullying can have a devastating effect on children, isolating them and making them figures of ridicule and humiliation.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, workplace and school bullying