Written by Néhémie Bikin-kita
In most cases, a bullying situation is made up of three (3) actors:
➡️ the individual displaying bullying behaviour
➡️ the individual suffering from bullying,
➡️ and the bystander.
What is a bystander?
- An individual who is present during a bullying incident. Dan Olweus, a professor of psychology and pioneer of research on bullying, identified different types of bystanders, ranging from the henchmen to the defenders1:
Unfortunately, bystanders are often afraid of compromising their own status and simply witness the incident without intervening.
However, some recent research indicates that defenders actually become more popular with, and are more liked by, their peers2.
Being a defender can, therefore, benefit the defender as well as the target.
How can a passive bystander become a defender & help individuals suffering from bullying?
It is important to not join in on or assist the bullying in any way. How? Don’t engage in direct means of participation such as planning, helping or supporting the individual displaying bullying behaviour.
Also, refrain from less direct participation such as laughing or cheering at the situation3.
DON’T BECOME AN ‘AUDIENCE’
Individuals displaying bullying behaviour love attention4. Even if you’re not actively taking part in the bullying, just standing there and witnessing it while it occurs, without offering any help to the individual suffering from bullying or voicing your displeasure, acts as a show of support to the individual displaying bullying behaviour.
Openly state your objection to the bullying that is occurring. You can:
🔹 State your disapproval of the bullying behaviour
🔹 Defend the individual being bullied, and/or
🔹 Redirect the situation away from bullying.
If you can, get others to support you and intervene as a group5 to show the persons bullying that their behaviour will not be tolerated.
TELL SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY
Report the bullying incident to someone who can help. It is important to report the behaviour so that it can be addressed.
If you’re at school, speak to a member of the school staff.
At the workplace? Then speak to your manager or to HR.
If the bullying occurs online, inform the website administrator.
If the bullying includes behaviours that are against the law, tell the police.
REACH OUT IN FRIENDSHIP
Individuals displaying bullying behaviour often target people who are socially isolated5. Inclusion thus goes a long way towards reducing bullying.
If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you and include them in some of your activities.
1 Dan Olweus, “Peer Harassment: A Critical Analysis and Some Important Issues,” in Peer Harassment in School, ed. J. Juvonen and S. Graham (New York: Guilford Publications, 2001): 3-20.
Image from https://www.chaconcomicsart.com/ma-projects [Accessed 19 Mar. 2019].
2 Rozemarijn van Der Ploeg, Tina Kretschmer, Christina Salmivalli, and René Veenstra, “Defending victims: What does it take to intervene in bullying and how is it rewarded by peers?” Journal of School Psychology 65 (2017): 1-10.
3 RedCross.ca. (2019). Bullying. [Online] Available at: https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/violence-bullying-and-abuse-prevention/youth/bullying [Accessed 16 Mar. 2019].
4 Fried, S. and Fried, P. (2003). Bullies, targets & witnesses. New York: M. Evans and Co.
5 StopBullying.gov. (2019). Who Is at Risk. [online] Available at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/index.html [Accessed 16 Mar. 2019].
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.