Bullies, Victims, and Bystanders

Bullying involves multiple players. Bullies, victims, and bystanders all play important roles in contributing to bullying—and each can help make bullying stop. Since bullying is primarily learned, it can also be “unlearned”—or conditions can be changed so that it is not learned in the first place. 

Bullies . . . select and systematically train their victims to comply to their demands. They seek active encouragement, passive acceptance, or silence from bystanders. But, bullies can be stopped when victims and bystanders learn and apply new ways to stand up against bullying. Bullies can also learn how to make friends and get what they want by helping, rather than hurting, others.  

Victims . . . reward the bully by yielding control and showing signs of intimidation. They often fail to gain support from bystanders and avoid reporting the bullying. But, victims can learn to defeat the bully by responding assertively, rallying support from bystanders, or reporting the bullying to adults. 

Bystanders . . . play an important and pivotal role in promoting or preventing bullying. Often without realizing it, they may exacerbate a situation by providing an audience, maintaining silence, actively encouraging, or joining in. But, bystanders can neutralize or stop the bullying by aiding the victim, drawing support from other bystanders, or obtaining help from adults.