Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The behavior engaged in by Bullies: Bullying

In colloquial speech, bullying is most often used to describe a form of harassment associated with being performed by a child who is older, stronger, or otherwise more powerful socially, upon weaker peers. Bullying can occur in situations including in school or college/university, the workplace, by neighbours, and between countries. Whatever the situation the power structure is typically evident between the bully and victim. It seems to those outside the relationship that the bully's power depends only upon the perception of the victim, with the victim being too intimidated to put up effective resistance. However the victim usually has just cause to be afraid of the bully due to the threat and actually carrying out of physical/sexual violence, or loss of livelihood. Bullying is behind most claims of discrimination in the workplace.

Types of bullying

Bullying is when someone repeatedly acts or says things to have power over another person. Bullies mainly use a combination of intimidation and humiliation to torment others. The following is some examples of bullying techniques:

* Calling the victim names and stating the victim is useless at whatever they do
* Spreading gossip and rumours about him/her
* Threats of job loss and disciplinary action for unspecified reasons
* Constant negative criticism for unspecified allegations
* Taking the victim's possessions or taking control of the victim's work
* Demoting the victim
* Making the victim do what they do not want to do with a threat of violence or disciplinary action if they refuse
* Actually following through with a threat on one occasion to ensure the victim will comply with all future orders

Locations of bullying

Bullying can occur in schools, universities, families, between neighbours, workplaces, between countries and in the military.

Both school and workplace bullying has come increasingly to public attention. Bullying is now one of the most contentious issues in the occupational health and safety arena.

Cyberbullying is bullying through the internet, e.g. in a blog.

In the 1990s, the United States saw an epidemic of school shootings (of which the most notorious was the Columbine High School massacre). Many of the children behind these shootings claimed that they were the victims of bullies and that they resorted to violence only after the school administration repeatedly failed to intervene. In many of these cases, the victims of the shooters sued both the shooters' families and the schools.

Since media coverage has exposed just how widespread is bullying, juries are more likely now to sympathize with victims. In recent years, many victims have been suing bullies directly for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and including their school as a defendant under the principle of joint and several liability.

As a result of all these trends, schools in many countries strongly discourage bullying, with programs designed to teach students cooperation, as well as training peer moderators in intervention and dispute resolution techniques.

However, with respect to workplaces, there are few localities that are governed by legislation which specifically targets workplace bullying. This is because lawmakers fear that those rules could be used as leverage in other industrial or interpersonal matters. Therefore most bullying claims are conducted under discrimination laws.

Bullying in the family is normally ignored by society unless it includes a form of physical/sexual abuse. Once it does outside parties such as the police and social services can get involved if the victim speaks up, or if the abuse has gone too far - the victim is in hospital or dead.

Between neighbours bullying normally takes the form of intimidation by nuisance behaviour, such as excessive noise to disturb sleep and normal living patterns, and reports to authorities such as the police for minor or made up incidents. The purpose of this form of behaviour is to make the victim so uncomfortable they move from their property. It should be noted that not all nuisance behaviour is bullying, as some individuals are unaware of other people's feelings and the havoc they are causing.

Bullying between countries occurs when a more powerful country such as a superpower decides to make a smaller one do its bidding. This is normally done with military force, the threat that aid and grants will not be given to the smaller country or the smaller country will not be allowed to join a trading organisation.

Bullying in the military can occur when a superior misuses their power to get subordinates to do whatever they want including sexual favours. However the excuse for this sort of behaviour is that the military is not subject to normal civilian laws so they should be allowed to do what they want. This can lead to a high number of suicides and mysterious deaths of subordinates which are not investigated openly. Deepcut Barracks in the UK is one example of this where the UK government refuses to do a full public enquiry.

An extreme case was where an eighth grader named Curtis Taylor at a middle school in Iowa had been the victim of continuous bullying for three years, which included name-calling, him getting bashed into a locker, chocolate milk poured down his sweatshirt and vandalism of his belongings. This drove him into committing suicide on March 21, 1993.

Effects of bullying

Persistent bullying may have a number of effects on an individual, and in the environment where bullying takes place.

Effects on the individual include:

* Reactive Depression, a form of clinical depression caused by exogenous events
* Posttraumatic stress disorder
* Anxiety
* Gastric problems
* Unspecified aches and pains
* Acne and other skin disorders
* Loss of self esteem
* Relationship problems
* Drug and alcohol abuse
* Suicide (also known as bullycide)

Effects on a school include:

* High levels of truancy
* High staff turnover
* Disrespect for teachers
* High level of absence for minor ailments
* Weapon-carrying by children for protection
* Legal action
o Against the school or education authority
o Against the bully's family

* See Only Wayne (http://moodle.ed.uiuc.edu/wiked/index.php/Only_Wayne) - a racist bullying case study in a wiki-format, that illustrates some of the unfortunate effects of bullying on a particular school community.

Effects on the organisation such as a workplace:

* Loss of morale
* High level of sick leave absence for depression, anxiety and backache
* Decreased productivity and profit
* High level of staff turnover
* Loss of customers
* Bad reputation in industry
* Negative media attention
* Legal action
o Against the organisation for personal injury
o Against the organisation and individual bully under discrimination laws


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