By Gina Burgess ~ Picayune, MS
A six year old girl is walking home from school. The street is deserted and there are no other children at play close by. Suddenly an older girl stops her bicycle in front of the little girl. She grabs the little oneâ€™s chin and slaps her face leaving a redden hand print on her little cheek. The older girl then verbally abuses the child and slaps her again, threatening the child with more of the same treatment if the older girl sees her walking down her block again.
The childâ€™s parents are concerned, but donâ€™t have a recourse because they donâ€™t know the older girlâ€™s name or where she lives and the incident didnâ€™t happen on school grounds.
Bullying like this is more prevalent than most people realize.
Dr. Ken Druck, the founder of Families Helping Families program, worked with families at Columbine High School and Santana High School and other families who have had tragedies. He describes bullying as having two faces: physical bullying and social bullying. Other researchers from around the world agree with him.
The US National Center for Education Statistics breaks the two different categories into direct and indirect bullying. The center goes on to define direct bullying as pushing, shoving, poking, throwing things, slapping, punching, biting, pulling hair, grabbing, kicking and the like. Indirect bullying, or social aggression, is characterized by isolating a victim with various techniques such as forming cliques to ostracize a person, rejection of former friends, bullying others who desire to socialize with the victim, deriding manner of dress or ethnic background, religion or disability. Other forms of indirect bullying are also delineated as spreading false rumors and gossip, name calling, manipulation, reminding of past failures, as well as taunting which is different from teasing because it has a malicious intent to harm.
Mona Oâ€™Moore, PhD of the Anti-Bullying Center, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland says the growing body of research indicates bullying victims faced with many risks.
“Whether child or adult, those who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide. Individuals who bully others now risk judicial correction and conviction in courts,” Oâ€™Moore said.
“Furthermore, passive bystanders in any bullying situation also risk suffering from anxiety that is brought on by the shame and guilt so often felt at not being able to intervene or defend a victim.”
Bullying is a problem that knows no cultural or county boundaries. It is as prevalent in Ireland and England as it is in Canada and the U.S.
It is a behavioral problem that affects the lives of thousands.
Oâ€™Moore points out the humiliation, fear, social isolation and loss of self-esteem results in absenteeism from school, deteriorating grades, personality changes, depression, illness and even suicide.
Unfortunately, it is often called horseplay, or just a game, Oâ€™Moore warns, but the roughhousing can lead to brutal physical attacks.
In this day of advanced technology a new term has come into play: cyberbullying. In an article by Chris Page, a BBC news producer, he made the point that one in 10 students admit to sending a harassing e-mail or text message according to a survey of school children in England. It is difficult to stop these cyberbullies because of the anonymous nature of the Internet.
“People often think bullying just involves the bully and the victim, but the bystanders can make a big difference, particularly if theyâ€™re in an Internet chatroom,” Childrenâ€™s Commissioner of England Al Ansley-Green said.
Closer to home, the BullyingPolice.org has researched the laws regarding bullying in school. Not every state has an anti-bullying law. BullyingPolice.org gives Mississippi a C for its law.
The website states, “It is the belief of many experts that conflict resolution and peer mediation is not appropriate for a bully vs. victim situations, especially after the bullying has occurred.” Confronting the bully is akin to coming face to face with oneâ€™s rapist, the explanation continues. The usual response in situations such as this, the victims will try to save themselves from further retaliation by assuming some of the fault. The site cite incidents such as abused wives being confronted with their abuse in front of their abusing husbands, “many times she even feels the beating she received for burning dinner was justified.”
“Mississippiâ€™s policy rarely mentions the word bullying and the code is not an anti-bullying law, but Mississippi gets a C for having a well written policy as well as a clear code to punish bullies who intimidate or use threats against other students,” BullyingPolice.org says.
That little girlâ€™s parents told her to walk with her head up high and shoulders back. Told her to not stop walking when someone stopped in her path, but to walk around the person, and told her to be on the look out for the older girl at school and report what she did to a teacher or the principal.
One week after the incident, the little girl spied the bigger girl on the school playground. She marched up to her and accused her of the dastardly deed in front of the girlâ€™s circle of friends. She also told her what her parents would do if it ever happened again. The six year old was never bothered again on her walk home.