When kids are victimized by a bully, they can suffer from significant consequences including feeling alone, isolated, and humiliated. And yet many targets do not tell a single person what is happening to them. The reasons for remaining silent are diverse and vary from person to person. But in general, bullying is scary and confusing when it first happens. This fact leaves most tweens and teens unsure of how to handle the situation. As a result, they keep bullying incidents to themselves while they try to figure it out. Here are a few other reasons why victims of bullying may be hesitant to admit bullies are targeting them.
Are Ashamed and Embarrassed
Bullying is about power and control. As a result, it causes victims to feel powerless or weak. For many kids, this creates feelings of intense shame and embarrassment.1 Likewise, if victims are being bullied because of something they are already sensitive about like a physical attribute or an accusation, they will often be too embarrassed to talk about it.
To talk about the bullying would require them to highlight their “defect.” For some kids, the thought of bringing up their “defect” to an adult is worse than the bullying itself.
Afraid the Bully Will Retaliate
Often kids feel like reporting a bully won’t do any good. Instead, they worry that the bully will only make their lives worse. They would rather try to weather the storm alone than risk escalating the problem. Sometimes they even believe that if they keep quiet that the bullying will eventually end.
Feel Pressure to Be Quiet
Many times, kids feel like they need to accept occasional bullying in order to belong. As a result, they will succumb to peer pressure and accept the bullying as a way to maintain their social standing. This mixture of peer pressure and bullying often exists in cliques. The victims often yearn for acceptance from the very people who are bullying them. So, in order to remain part of the group, they tolerate mean behavior.
Concerned No One Will Believe Them
Many times, bullies target kids who are loners, have special needs, are prone to storytelling, or may already have disciplinary issues.
As a result, the victim is very aware of the fact that they are sometimes in trouble and when it comes to bullying they are afraid that others will assume they are lying or making it up. As a result, they keep quiet because they feel that opening up to others would not do any good.
Worried About Being Labeled a Snitch
When it comes to bullying, there is often this unspoken code of secrecy about the bullying.
Victims of bullying are often more afraid of being called a tattletale, a baby, a rat, or a snitch than they are about enduring more abuse.
Feel Like they deserve it
Kids are often very aware of their faults. As a result, if someone zeroes in on one of those faults and begins using that to taunt and tease them, they automatically assume that they deserve the treatment. Many times, kids are so internally critical and lacking in self-esteem that they are in some ways in agreement with the treatment they are receiving. And while it hurts to be made fun of, they agree with the bully in some way.
Fail to Recognize Subtle Forms of Bullying
Many times, kids only report physical bullying because it is easy to recognize. In turn, they fail to report more subtle forms of bullying like relational aggression. They don’t realize that spreading rumors, ostracizing others and sabotaging relationships also constitute bullying.
Assume Adults Expect Them to Deal With It
Despite all the progress with bullying prevention, there still is the underlying message that kids need to be tough during difficult situations.5 They fear that the adults in their lives will think poorly of them or be angry about the abuse they are experiencing. Additionally, many schools fail to distinguish the difference between tattling and reporting. Instead, because they are busy trying to meet academic goals, they would prefer not to be bothered by bullying and encourage kids to handle all problems on their own. This can be especially troublesome if kids try to deal with potentially violent situations on their own.
Fear Adults Will Restrict Digital Access
When it comes to cyberbullying, most kids won’t admit they are being targeted because they are afraid their parents or teachers won’t allow them to use their electronic devices any longer.
If adults take away their access to computers or cell phones because they were bullied, this sends two messages. First, it’s not worth telling an adult. And second, the victim is to blame because she is the one being punished.
Instead, addressing cyberbullying should involve keeping copies of the correspondence, blocking the offender, changing passwords or telephone numbers and reporting the cyberbully.