Bullying has sunk its wretched claws in the lives of many youngsters. When kids are victimized by a bully, there are often significant personal consequences including feelings of isolation and humiliation. Yet, nondisclosure is a common choice among bullying victims. The general mindset of victims regarding reporting bullying is “what’s the point?” Thus, they have become adept at concealing behaviors associated with bullying as well as the unequal power dynamics that exist between them.
Taking an intersectional approach, aspects like racial and cultural concerns, sexuality, gender, etc. influences whether the bullying is reported or not. Even the school structure plays a crucial role in determining this. Children want to blend in, so bringing up a topic like ‘I’m being teased about my race' obviously makes them stand out and highlights the fact that they don't blend in with their surroundings. Often schools don’t want to admit there’s a problem. Or, the first thing they do is try to find out what is wrong with the person getting bullied. “How come the child doesn’t fit in?” This makes the victim feel that they’re at fault.
Bullying is marked by the bully possessing more power than the victim, whether that power is real or perceived. Children learn to gain power by aggression and to accept when others wield aggressive power. So a "weak" victim is not likely to open their mouth. Victims may not report bullying as it makes them feel ashamed, afraid, and powerless. Over time, they may feel a sense of personal inadequacy and come to feel like they deserve to be bullied.
Students often find it inappropriate, futile, or counterproductive to open up to a teacher or counsellor about bullying. This may be due to the fragile or poor quality of relationships that students typically have with the school staff. They might feel that bullying is a personal matter and wouldn’t feel comfortable telling someone they don’t trust about it. The lack of belief that the school would take the bullying issue seriously is also a major factor contributing to the silence of the victims.
Some victims try to tell an adult, but they don’t feel heard. The adults would just laugh and brush off the issue as something trivial. This gives the message that bullying is no big deal, that they should just ignore it, or that bullying is just a part of growing up. Many adults believe that young people need to solve problems like these among themselves. This belief promotes a “code of silence” about such behavior. Adults don’t get it and give advice that isn’t helpful. Telling a teen to fight back or saying “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” just doesn’t cut it. Some teens are told to 'man up,' that they could have stopped the bullying. They’re told if they just stood up to the person or acted differently, this wouldn’t be happening to them, therefore, blaming the victim.
Victims don’t want to be teased and get labelled as a snitch. There is also a fear of repercussions that things might get worse if they tattle. Victims don’t dare to stand up if the bully has an economically stronger background and connections. Well-liked and successful children can be the most skilled at bullying. Cases are often not reported when popular students are the bullies as no one might believe the victims because of the good reputation of the bully.
Students may not report more subtle, indirect, and relational types of bullying such as deliberately excluding peers or spreading rumours because they don’t realize that these are also forms of bullying. Some kids don’t want their parents to worry about them. They think that those who care for them may already have enough problems so they don’t wish to be a burden. Sometimes the relationship between bullies and victims isn't so straightforward. If the victim counts the bully as a friend or wants to be his or her friend, telling may not seem like an option.
Cases of bullying are often far from easy to resolve. They may have their roots in the darker side of human nature and frustrations experienced in the home and society. Victims can be encouraged to report bullying and more importantly abuse, but they won’t do it until they know that they will be respected and protected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pursing an Honors degree in Economics and a minor degree in commerce; I'm an ardent cynophilist and a plant parent who's a child at heart. An ambivert who's always seeking adventures or just staying cooped up inside her room with a soft drink in her hand and a screen in front of her face, there's no in between. You can find me humming and swaying my body along to anything from 90s rock music to K-pop. I'm an avid reader with a diverse range of interests. You can always find me with a pencil in hand sketching or doodling a lil' something, just going about my daily life, viewing the world through rose tinted glasses.