Bullying can happen anywhere, at any age: in a residential environment, on the bus, at the gym, at the office, in cyberspace, etc. Small acts that look trivial can become bullying if they are repeated.
Have you witnessed acts of bullying? You can play an important role in changing things. Sometimes it is enough for only one person to speak up or show compassion for the person targeted by bullying to break the bullying cycle. However, if you fear for your safety, it may be more appropriate to look for help, band together with other witnesses or people around you to intervene, or opt to report the bullying to a competent authority.
The important thing is to act. Inaction makes you the bully's accomplice. Some bullies draw power from the fact that an audience is present for their actions.
Examples of actions you can take as a witness:
- approach the targeted person so that he or she and the bully understand that you are supporting the person who has been victimized;
- express your verbal disagreement with the perpetrator, if you feel safe to do so;
- ask the other witnesses to act with you;
- offer your assistance to the victimized person after the event;
- notify someone in authority;
- avoid laughing at acts of bullying.
When witnesses laugh, or when they support or repeat acts of bullying (for example, by spreading a rumour, forwarding a humiliating text or clicking "Like" to support certain statements denigrating a person), they contribute to and aggravate the consequences for the victimized persons.
As a witness, you may also
need help. Various resources can support you; don't hesitate to call on them for advice. These resources can also enlighten you how to choose the right intervention that will give the victim the most suitable help. Indeed,
other problems (e.g. conjugal or domestic violence, elder abuse) sometimes are commingled with bullying and these situations may require delicate action to avoid aggravating the problem experienced by the person who has been victimized. Specialized workers can tell you the best approach to take.
You can recognize a bullying situation when:
- people commit acts to gain power or take advantage of their position (due to their superiority in numbers, greater physical strength, older age, social status in the group, etc.) in order to hurt or humiliate; (power imbalance);
- the perpetrators
intend to hurt or harm the other person. For example, this may involve spreading a rumour with the aim of discrediting someone;
- the acts have
harmful consequences for the victims. These people may feel anxiety, develop low self-esteem or suffer major psychological distress;
the acts are generally repetitive. In most cases, it is the repetition of words and actions that causes the target person’s distress. The acts may be committed repetitively by the same person or by a group of persons who repeat the same action in turn (for example, removing the victim's cap, pushing the victim, shouting insults). Some serious acts or gestures can also be considered bullying without being repetitive.
Bullying must be reported, and you can act to put an end to it. Witnesses have the power to contribute successfully to stopping bullying situations. You must act even if you are not the person targeted by the bullying behaviours. People targeted by bullying have
rights. By acting in the manner you consider most appropriate, you can help them assert these rights.
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