Just Standing By

What do you do when you see someone being bullied? Do you speak up? Do you walk away? Or do you stand and watch and hope someone else intervenes?

One of the reasons bullying is such a huge issue is that even when people witness it, sometimes they turn away. They believe it isn’t their problem, or they fear they’ll be next on the bully’s list if they try to stop what’s going on. When a group is bullying someone, often at least one member of the group doesn’t want to be part of it, but they believe they can’t stop it and if they try, the group will turn on them.

Sometimes, sadly, bystanders ignore or even encourage the bullying because they think the victim “deserves it” for whatever reason. They aren’t afraid or reluctant to intervene. They don’t want to stop the bullying because they think it should be happening.

Being bullied feels horrible. You lose confidence and self-esteem. You feel anxious and fearful about going to the place where the bullying happens. Sometimes fear makes you physically ill. Even decades later, sometimes those emotions and impact don’t go away. And the aftermath can be even worse when you know people are seeing the bullying occur and choosing not to do anything about it.

I’m not only talking about schools, by the way. Bullying happens to adults in workplaces as well. It isn’t only physical fighting; it can be shunning someone who’s “different”. Whispering behind their back. Spreading rumors. Making threats. All of it has an impact on the person who’s on the receiving end, and sometimes that impact turns deadly.

If you see someone being bullied, please speak up. Tell the bully to stop. Report what you’ve seen to someone who has authority. At the very least, tell the person who’s being bullied that they aren’t alone, that you’re on their side. Don’t just stand by.