According to Merriam-Webster, the literal meaning of bullying is ‘the abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone strong or more powerful.’ According to statistics, approximately 160,000 teens have skipped school because of bullying. There could be various reasons as to why this may happen; firstly, stating the obvious: bullying might be so extreme that students may not have the mental capacity to go through it every day. I mean, who would want to bear so much physical and mental pain, only to then continue to smile and control the tears of helplessness that are waiting to escape from their eyes. Labelling an incident as bullying can be important because it influences whether students tell an adult, as well as how adults respond to the students’ report.
The most commonly reported type of bullying is verbal harassment (79%), followed by social harassment (50%), physical bullying (29%), and cyberbullying (25%). These stats may vary over time because bullying victims are less likely to report bullying as they get older. Additionally, only a miniscule percentage of victims reported what they were going through because many believe that their perpetrator had the ability to influence what other people thought of them.
Verbal harassment has a particularly scathing effect, since it can take place anywhere and at any time. People sometimes forget the power that words hold. Some may give short-sighted or hurtful remarks ignorant of the negative effects this may incur; even a few negative words can lead to overthinking, which then leads to various mental disorder, and in worse cases; (Trigger Warning starts) even suicide. (Trigger Warning ended)
Some may cover up their insults as a ‘joke’, and the victim may laugh it off at the moment, but they may overthink about it all day long, embedding the messages into their minds and catalysing new complexes. I read a post on Tumblr which stated that if you joke about your friend’s features or something that they don’t have any control over, then it is no longer a joke but can be considered as bullying. Research has shown that verbal bullying and name-calling has serious consequences and can leave deep emotional scars.
To create more awareness in order to prevent this type of bullying, we will list down signs that someone around you or even in your friend group, is a perpetrator or a victim. This includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and lastly, threatening to cause harm which may be considered as a red flag.
There are various ways in which you can prevent verbal bullying:
- Ignore the bully: Shrug off insults and provide no reaction; there is a chance that eventually the bully will move on to someone who provides a more interesting and responsive target. However, this is a short-term solution, and doesn’t get at the heart of tackling the bully themselves.
- Tell an authority figure: A trusted teacher, parent or coach can help the situation by being on the lookout for bullying behavior. However, at the same time, some authoritative figures may manipulate their position to perpetuate bullying or harassment, in which case the victim is forced to resort to other mechanisms.
- Remain civil: Do not resort to rudeness yourself. Many bullies lose interest if you do not sink to their level. Also, if you act rudely and aggressively yourself, you may invite a physical confrontation, which could lead to negative repercussions for the victim if this confrontation takes place within formal premises (such as a school).
- Look for others sources of enjoyment: After school activities and interests and hobbies or even hanging out with some of your close friends can help you take your mind off of the verbal bullying.
- Collective Struggle and Social Media: If the bullying persists or you discover that you were part of a friend group which actively subjected you to verbal bullying, you must realize that you are not alone, and there are ways through which you can ensure that the bullies do not go living with complete impunity. This can be done through social media outlets or even through isolating problematic people and exerting the collective pressure of the community onto them. Only through such communitarian punishments can, in the long-run, a culture devoid of bullying be created.
Another type of bullying which may be found in school grounds or sometimes outside of school is known as Relational Aggression. It may sound like a foreign term to some of you, and while we hope to God that none of you can relate to this, this is unfortunately a very common and destructive type of bullying. Relational aggression or alternative aggression is a type of aggression/bullying in which harm is caused by damaging someone’s relationships or social status. It basically includes modern day bullying which includes excluding people from their friend group, spreading baseless rumors (and through that breaking confidences), talking badly about others, backstabbing one another, making fun of who they are, the way they dress or how they look, ostracizing others, leaving hurtful comments or messages on their social media (which can be considered as cyber-bullying), using peer pressure to get others to participate in bullying, establishing rules for anyone who wants to be part of the social group, forming cliques, spreading rumors or engaging in gossip which may affect others. Basically, the whole Mean Girls experience can be found in this type of bullying, but it is much more serious and concerning. Victims of Relational Bullying experience alienation, and in some cases, victims of emotional bullying show more signs of distress than those bullied physically. For instance, victims of relational aggression often display the following signs: feeling of rejection, socially ineptitude, inadequacy, unattractiveness and unlikability, depression, contemplation of suicide, eating disorders, academic misery, and they struggle to make healthy relationships.
To sum up everything that has been stated so far, please prevent or at least try to prevent bullying; be encouraging, be patient, be empathetic to people who try to open up to you to tell their past experiences. As a personal message from us, here is a quote from a Norwegian T.V show ‘Skam’.
Mairah Ali & Javeria Adeel