Bullying is not a new problem that we are facing. For years, we've published books about it, and seen episodes published on film and television. Today, unfortunately, we are seeing more and more incidents of bullying on tragic evening news stories rather than quirky sit-coms in which the victims stands up to his tormenter. If bullying is not becoming more prevalent or more aggressive in our society, it is at least becoming more visible.
Bullying is defined as aggressive behavior that manifests as a habitual occurrence, and is triggered by a perceived imbalance of power; it is commonly directed at victims who differ in race, religion, and sexuality. This behavior can involve any type of abuse including emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or physical abuse. Emotional and verbal abuse has always been difficult for permissions to recognize and act upon; today, the situation is further complicated by the use of the Internet and the emergence of "cyber-bullying" or emotional and verbal harassment via IM, email, and other technology.
We are seeing more and more homosexual teens and young adults fall victim to bullying at school and the workplace. The media is displaying a growing number of stories about teenagers who are identifying themselves at homosexual being harassed at school and via the Internet about their sexuality; the stories we see on the news do not have the happy sit-com endings. It sees rare that the abusive behavior results in a moment of life-changing action. Instead, victims feel the impact of this harassment as depression, low self-esteem and self-worth, health problems, poor grades and performance, and suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, the effects of bullying for any reason, including sexuality, are felt more commonly that many of us would like to believe. In fact, the statistics related to bullying in secondary schools alone in 2011 are staggering:
- 1 out of 4 teens are bullied at school.
- 9 out of 10 LGBT students are harassed at school or online.
- 1 out of 5 school aged children admit to being a bully, or bullying someone.
- 8 out of 10 occasions, an argument with a bully ends with physical violence.
- In instances of bullying, adults intervene 4% of the time and peers intervene 11% of the time. 85% of these instances have no intervention.
Bullying does not end when we leave the playground. A large number of LGTB adults experience bullying in their day-to-day lives. Bullies still exist in both the social scene and the work place. Adult bullies attack their victims with verbal abuse and humiliation; it is still the same play to make them feel like they are the dominant person in the scenario, possessing power over another. Workplace bullying can come in many forms. Some of these include shouting at an employee or other verbal abuse, singling out an employee for unjustified criticism, excluding an employee from company activities, constantly ignoring an employee's contributions to projects, or language and action used with the intent to embarrass or assimilate a single employee reiteratedly. Unfortunately, many feel that there is little that can be done to break this cycle of workplace aggression. Popular suggestions include working with supervisors to make others aware of the situation and trying to avoid confrontation.
If you find yourself, your teen, or someone you know involved with a bully as a result of their sexuality or other differences, consider these steps to cope with the problem:
- Talk to someone about your experiences: Being bullied at school or in the office can be a humiliating experience. That does not mean that you should keep the instance or events to yourself. Talk to your friends, family, and other means of support about your experience. Discuss how you feel about the scenario, and how the bully's actions made you feel about yourself. Alerting people to your problem will help them keep better watch over you. If aware of the problems, your friends and family may be able to watch for signs of depression, and may also be able to help you avoid your bully in the future.
- Alert authorities about your problem: In the majority of situations, there is someone who is in the position to help you with your tormenter. If you are experiencing any form of harassment, you should alert the authorities at school, your HR representative or manager at work, the manager of a business you are visiting, or even the bouncer at a concert or club. Remember that it may not be possible for the authorities to take immediate action on your behalf, especially if you are only experiencing verbal abuse with no witnesses. However, alerting the people in a position to monitor these events may trigger them to keep a closer watch on the situation, accumulate evidence of the occurrences, and be ready to take action if the harassment continues. You should also remember that, if the harassment becomes violent, the law is often on your side.
- Be careful in situations where you can be harassed: Although it may seem unfair, often the best way to avoid being bullied is to avoid the bully. As adults, we are more able to walk away from situations where we may experience harassment. In occasions when this is not possible, a large group may be a deterrent for the bully; it is usually difficult for one person, even one who is aggressive, to face their victim when they are outnumbered.
- Be assertive and remember your rights: When faced with verbal and emotional harassment, sometimes a display of strength and assertiveness will work in your favor. Do not encourage a bully at school or in the workplace by fighting back with verbal barbs or physical violence. Instead, tell them to stop the behavior and leave you alone. Try not to show that their actions are bothering you; if they find that they are unable to break your spirits and dominate you, their harassment may stop.
In many instances, a victim of bullying may need more than a few simple tips and tools to handle the emotional tension of the harassment. If you or someone you are suffering from depression as a result of bullying behavior, you should seek professional help to begin coping with these issues. While family and friends may form a great support group for your day-to-day life, a counselor can help you work through feelings of low-self worth, depression, and suicidal thoughts that were triggered by the harassment.
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