Did you know that about 28% of students in grades 6 through 12 have experienced bullying in schools and about 30% of students have admitted to bullying others? And did you know that an astonishing 70% of students say they have witnessed bullying at their schools?
These are some significant numbers. However, the large amount of students who have witnessed bullying means that the amount of people who have the opportunity to help is just as large. Fortunately, there are different ways a witness can help those who are being bullied, so if one way doesn’t work, there’s always another option. Even though it can be hard to speak up on behalf of others during bullying situations, statistics show that positive intervention can really make a difference. By taking action, you can make a difference!
Stand up for the person being bullied. Immediate intervention can be powerful enough to stop a bullying situation. Sometimes all it takes to end a bullying situation is someone pointing out that it is wrong. Standing with the person being bullied can help them feel stronger. Knowing they aren’t alone can make all the difference; you’ll be providing them strength, courage, and support. And standing with them can also remind the person doing the bullying that their actions are not okay.
We realize that it can be frightening to directly step in and deal with bullying situations. However, doing so can really make a difference in the life of someone who is being bullied, and it can make a difference in your life for helping someone need.
Get the person being bullied away from the situation. Sometimes those who are being bullied feel helpless and passively accept whatever is being done to them. They feel powerless and need help escaping from the harmful situation. As a witness, you have the ability to step in and get them away from the bullying. If you feel it’s safe, guide the person being bullied away from the situation. Walk up to them and ask if they’d like to join you for a snack or a walk. If you witness someone being bullied as they walk to class, walk with them and keep them company. Or if someone is being bullied during lunchtime, join them for lunch. Just being with them can take them away from a bullying situation, and the distraction can be helpful in this process. Getting the person being bullied to a different place both physically and mentally can make a huge, positive difference in their life.
Find help. It’s okay to seek someone else’s help. Many times, adults can provide support in ways that other peers aren’t able to. Adults can be a helpful source of advice or can take measures to help prevent future bullying. Sometimes they just aren’t aware of bullying circumstances and need someone to inform them. Finding help is often difficult for those who are being bullied. Sometimes they don’t know who to turn to or how to initiate a conversation about asking for help. Therefore, you can be a huge help for someone being bullied if you help them tell an adult.
Spend time with the bullied person. A great way to help someone who is being bullied is to simply show compassion and understanding for what they’re going through. Let them know that you’re there for them if they need you. Talk to them and get to know them better outside of the situation. Your friendship can help them feel better. In addition, you can also benefit from making a new friend. Sometimes just knowing that one person is on their side can make all the difference in the world to someone who is being bullied, and you can be that person!
While spending time with them, try giving advice of your own. Perhaps in the past you’ve been in a similar situation as the person who has just gotten bullied. When you were in their shoes, what would you have wanted to
know? What do you wish someone else had told you during this time? What helped you to get through the problem? Knowing that someone else has been through similar experiences can help someone who has been bullied feel more comfortable.
Check in with the person who was bullied. See how they’re doing the following day. Ask if they’re feeling better. Carefully listen to what they have to say about how the situation has affected them. Show that you’re there to help even after the bullying may be over.
Don’t tell the bullied person that it’s their fault they’re in the situation. Blaming someone who has been bullied for the situation is very harmful and untrue. Don’t tell them that it wouldn’t have happened if they acted differently. Unfortunately, anyone can potentially find themselves dealing with a bullying situation, and it so important for them to know that it’s not their fault.
Nobody should feel that they have to change themselves due to bullying. Instead, their individuality should be celebrated. Be accepting. Show that you are comfortable around them and help them to feel comfortable with themselves.
Don’t make fun of them. Don’t change your position in the situation from bystanding to bullying. The person experiencing bullying already likely feels alone. Joining in the bullying would send them further into feelings of isolation, which could end up devastating them.
Stand up to bullying. Please don’t succumb to the pressure to make fun of others, and be mindful of the effect that your actions could have on others.
Don’t stay silent. Many people who have experienced or witnessed bullying stay silent due to shame and fear. Some have even advised that the best thing to do is to ignore bullying, stating that eventually it will stop. However, simply walking away from bullying doesn’t help the situation. Ignoring an issue doesn’t mean it will disappear; in fact, it can make things worse.
Turning away from others being bullied shows indifference on your part. When bystanders ignore bullying, it sends the message that nobody cares about what happens to the person being bullied, and it can cause the bullied person’s self-esteem to plummet even further. If nobody steps in to stand up to the person doing the bullying, then that person may likely continue their bullying action.
Make sure you don’t begin bullying the person bullying in the spirit of standing up or protecting the person being bullied. Often times, the person bullying is going through challenges in their own life. They could be experiencing their own feelings of insecurity. Or they may be feeling powerless in other areas of their life, so they turn to bullying as a way to feel some control in their life. They, too, may be in need of compassion and support, so turning the tables on them is something to avoid.
When you or someone you’re witnessing is being attacked, don’t react and attack back. This may be difficult at times, but it’s important to come to each situation with understanding. Retaliation can fuel the fire of hate.
Here are a few celebrities who have spoken about feeling alone while experiencing or witnessing bullying and the power of positive intervention:
Jonathan Davis (lead singer of Korn): “It doesn’t make me any better if I see someone getting picked on and then go and pick on that other person – that’s not going to solve anything. It’s about having the facility to take a deep breath and try to teach that person how what they’re doing can hurt another person. It’s about restraint and teaching kids that that’s not how to treat people.”
Derek Hough (professional dancer): “I know now the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence… Let me tell you right now, you are not alone. Seeking help requires incredible strength and incredible courage. The most powerful weapon you have against bullying is your voice.”
Jackie Chan (actor): “I allowed myself to be bullied because I was scared and didn’t know how to defend myself. I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied. By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself.”
Brittany Snow (actress): “You are not alone in this. There are so many people going through the same thing. Just know you are stronger than any voice that brings you down.”
The person being bullied is not the only one feeling negative effects. Those who have observed bullying are also susceptible to adverse mental health outcomes. Therefore, it is important for all those involved in the bullying situation to try fixing the problem as soon as possible.
Your voice matters and you have the potential to yield a lot of power in bullying situations. There are many ways to support someone who is getting bullied. You putting the effort into making a change can really make a positive difference. Whenever you witness bullying, challenge yourself to step in and help those who are in need!