by: Staci Stallings
Bullying. We hear about it a lot more now than we used to. Possibly this is because it is more prevalent now. Possibly it’s because we’ve taken it into the light more now.
I do think some of this issue is exacerbated by the breakdown in the family–absent fathers can’t provide a stabilizing influence on young people’s emotions (who’s going to stop me?). Anger issues surrounding a struggling family can make people lash out at those perceived as weaker. A breakdown of authority in schools (again, who’s going to stop me). All of these contribute to the bullies thinking they can both get away with it and feeling the emotions that lead to bullying.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. I said this would be about “abuse” and I instead went into “bullying.” That’s because they are basically the same issue.
Bullies and abusers are basically the same thing although most of the time, we think of bullies as those who harm people they aren’t in a direct relationship with.
We think of abusers as those who do have a direct relationship. Child abuse = parent on child bullying; spousal abuse, elderly abuse are all abuse inside of a relationship.
However, I think that bullying and abuse are the same thing with different names, so I’m going to use them interchangeably for this article.
Abuse and bullying are power struggles with a severe power imbalance. The more powerful person takes advantage of the weaker and progressively asserts their power further weakening and ultimately destroying the other person if it is not stopped.
Often the bully or abuser starts small… with words or “head games.” They begin by being emotional abusive until the victim has lost control over the situation. Then they escalate the abuse to physical violence.
The pattern is very similar; the power struggle very clear.
So, first, let me be very clear. If the power struggle you are dealing with has risen to the level of outright bullying or abuse, you will need help to get the situation under control. Do NOT try to handle these types of situations on your own!
If it’s a bully, go to parents, counselors, school administrators, or church officials for help in getting the bullying to stop.
What you do not want to do is to try to rebalance the power struggle yourself because a bully or abuser will simply ramp up their “power” to get you “under their control” again. And these situations end very badly.
Default settings when dealing with the beginnings of bullying or abuse are often the “roll over and play dead” strategy–i.e. don’t do anything and it will go away. Although I think this is almost always the line of “defense” that encourages the bullying/abusing to continue, if you’ve tried this and it hasn’t worked, don’t think you are alone.
You see, the thing is bullies and abusers know how to “groom” a victim.
I once read an article about a sexual molester who was a teacher. When asked how he chose his victims, he said, “They were the ones who didn’t protest at first and get someone else involved.” What they do is something very “small” and “insignificant.” In fact, many of these first incidents, the victim will often think afterward, “I probably overreacted to that.”
Keep in mind that those who fight back immediately are often removed from the victim list because it’s not worth the trouble to the bully or abuser.
If, however, you didn’t/don’t react or stop the behavior at first, it will then escalate. So maybe the person calls you a “sissy” and then a “dork” and then a “moron” and then “stupid” and then…
You get the idea. At first it might not seem a big deal, but the insults escalate. By that time it can be easy to rationalize that this was a special case with the bully/abuser. They were having a particularly bad day and took it out on you, etc.
Understand, however, that this is not random. It is a set pattern of abuse and bullying that leads right to the destruction of the victim–mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually.
If you are caught in this deadly cycle, please get help now.
Whatever your default setting to this point has been, you NEED to manually change that setting to: GET HELP!
Don’t wait until “something really bad happens.” Don’t make excuses for the bully or abuser.
If you feel you have been bullied or abused, NOW it the time to override the defaults that haven’t been working and do something to get the abuse to stop.
Reach out. Call someone. Get others involved. Let them know what’s going on.
Silence is a bully/abuser’s greatest weapon against you. Speak up. Speak out. Get help from someone in a position to help you. And do it NOW!