Bullying - Cry for Help
According to Psychology Today, "Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully." Research shows that bullies tend to be antisocial; lack empathy; and/or have a need for attention, revenge, or power. Males often use aggressive verbal and physical behaviors to gain power and control while females tend to employ shaming, coercive language to establish popularity and power. People of all ages bully. Trump was constantly showing how grownups exert power over and threaten others by not necessarily using physical force but by employing money, status and professional position to intimidate individuals. Men, often under the influence of alcohol, may use the threat of violence and/or exert physical strength, as well as speak loudly and aggressively, in order to maintain control within criminal circles or in personal relationships. Gang culture exemplifies an extreme form of this aggressive behavior toward opposing groups and within their own ranks in order to keep members in line.
There seems to be an ever growing epidemic of children/youth bullying each other, especially in schools and in the community as a part of gang culture. Most young people who are harassed either withdraw into a sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem or act out verbally and/or physically. Both scenarios result in some sort of inner and/or outer damage to one or both parties. The Chicago Sun Times released a story in June 2021 about a special needs student in the Chicago Public Schools who died at the age of 13 from injuries sustained during an attempt at suicide after being bullied by staff and students. This is one example of the most serious impact aggressive behavior can have on a young individual.
How many individuals have suffered from the effects of bullying, how much damage have they endured, and for how long? The longer coercive bullying behavior continues and goes unchallenged, the more difficult it is to motivate individuals to change and the more violent their methods may become. How do we interrupt this cycle?
Restorative Justice practices give a voice to both the victim and the offender. These processes allow the one who has been harmed to explain the impact the wrongdoing has had on them as well as to ask their offender why they did what they did. The offender responds by revealing their thoughts and circumstances, often difficult and challenging. Case studies show that perpetrators have often been the victims of violence themselves. These restorative strategies include: Family Group Conferences, comprised of victim, offender and their supporters; Peer Mediation Panels, made up of trained students who help fellow students work through conflicts; and Talking/Sharing Circles, in which participants share their experiences, along with thoughts and feelings about bullying, its impacts and possible solutions.
Isolating victims and punishing offenders are not the answer. These consequences leave both parties alienated, lacking closure and missing
opportunities for healing and growth. It is essential we adopt restorative practices as early as possible with children and youth in response to bullying in our schools, in order to prevent more serious damage and to teach more productive ways to express feelings and settle conflicts. Victims tend to feel more satisfied while offenders have an opportunity to own up to negative behaviors and make amends allowing the restoration of both parties, who can then move on as quickly as possible.