If you are being bullied you might feel like there's no way out. Find out how to break that cycle right now and get rid of bullying for good.
What is bullying?
Bullying usually involves a person or group exploiting the fact that they feel more powerful than another. This can be acted out through physical or emotional harm - or both. Bullying takes on many forms, such as: leaving people out of a social circle; racist and homophobic abuse; being singled out as 'different'; sexual abuse and discrimination; being taunted about your family situation; being forced to hand over money and possessions; and physical and violent attacks.
Doesn't it just happen at school?
Bullying doesn't finish the minute you leave the school gates; it can happen to anyone at any age, and people can become bullies at any stage in life.
"Often bullying is described as a school thing but from our standpoint it's a community issue," says John Quinn at Beat Bullying. "It affects people on buses, in the street, at work and at youth clubs. It can affect relationships between cousins and siblings and it can strike at any stage."
New ways of bullying
As technology develops and becomes more readily available, bullies are finding new and innovative ways to pick on their victims. 'Happy slapping' is the latest craze, where bullies take pictures or video clips of physical attacks to send on.
Texting and emailing threatening messages is another form of bullying that is on the rise, with one in five children now reporting that they have been bullied in this way.
- Body language: Bullies pick on easy targets, so poor posture and averted eye contact will attract unwanted attention. Stand proud with your shoulders back and your head up, and look people in the eye - you'll soon give out the message that you're not afraid.
- Safety in numbers: This is particularly important when bullying is taking place outside of a regular establishment. Work out your safest and most public routes home and try to stick with others at all times.
- Walk away: If you find yourself in a situation that is making you feel uncomfortable, calmly but quickly walk away. If you are near other people or a public place, head in that direction.
- Speak up: This is exactly the thing that bullies expect you not to do, so you are already regaining some control by speaking up. If the bullying is taking place in an established setting like a workplace or university, approach a colleague or tutor you are comfortable with - or try a student counsellor, an NUS rep, or the human resources department - all of whom have a duty to take these issues seriously and offer their help and support. It can be difficult to know who to turn to when bullying is happening outside the boundaries of regular establishments. Telling friends and family may help you feel more protected, but if they feel unable to solve the problem, contact the police.
- Explore your feelings: If there is no one you can tell, or you just don't feel ready to open up face-to-face, consider talking anonymously to an organisation such as Bullying Online. You can send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) at any time of day, offering you the support you need without having to pluck up the courage to speak in person. You may find that keeping a diary of your thoughts and feelings also helps you to start facing the issue.
Coping with childhood bullying as an adult
"Bullying is not a simple issue," explains John Quinn. "It can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and self harm, all of which can follow young people into adult life." Adults can find it particularly hard trying to come to terms with the problems they faced as a child. Dragging up all those old memories is a painful process, and it can seem easier to keep repressing them than face them now, but pushing problems deeper down doesn't make them go away.
Start by opening up to a close friend or family member - or even by writing your feelings down on paper. You may find that simply sharing your bad memories in a kind and supportive environment is enough to help you move on. Other times, opening up to a friend can help people to realise just how much support they need. If this is the case, counselling may be the best route forward - you can talk to your GP about a referral or contact the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Alternatively, Quinn suggests talking to someone anonymously through a helpline such as Samaritans or Saneline.
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