The Cold, Hard Truth About Bystanders

bystander effect

You not only never forget the bullies, but you also remember the people who were there- the people who had the power to help you but did nothing. Many times, the bystanders who saw it never tried to intervene and stop the attacks, nor did they speak up on my behalf.

As much as I hate to say it, I was guilty of the same thing. When I watched a few others get bullied, I said and did nothing, thinking that my voice wouldn’t make a difference if I did speak up. Other times, I was just damn glad that, for a change, I wasn’t the one targeted and that it was someone else taking heat for a change.

For this, I am very remorseful and would like to apologize to all the other targets I left to fend for themselves. I’m truly sorry.

Bullying Poster Concept Illustration bystanders

Here are the reasons bystanders do nothing to help a target of bullying:

1. They’re afraid of arousing the bullies’ anger and becoming the next target. No one wants to be a target of bullying. I get that. Many bystanders fear getting involved, and for good reasons. However, many bystanders do have some power because they’re high on the social hierarchy.

And the higher you are in the pecking order, the more weight your actions and words carry. So, why not use your power to help the target? Because if you’re extremely popular, the chances are that other bystanders will follow your lead and join you, and the bully will leave the victim alone. There’s strength in numbers.

2. The bystanders see the bullies’ torment of the target as entertainment. Bullies always bully in front of an audience to humiliate the target. During altercations between bullies and targets, bystanders immediately gather around to watch it go down.

Most bystanders then stand around, laughing and pointing fingers. Many of them cheer and egg the bully on, stirring it up to get more entertainment, all of which only encourages the bully to continue and even escalate the abuse.

As long as it isn’t them getting dogged out or having their brains beat in, most bystanders think it’s funny to see it happen to someone else.

Silhouette of two hands with smartphones, shoot a video on a sinking person’s hand, asking for help. The concept of a selfish society, a social problem

It’s the reason that instead of helping the target, bystanders will automatically whip out their smartphones and record the confrontation. They can then watch it later, send the film to their friends, and have another big laugh over it.

But! It’s not the least bit funny to the target. It’s painful and humiliating. It can be devastating to a victim who has already been a target of bullying for an extended time and can drive them over the edge.

3. The bystanders themselves either dislike or hate the target. In many cases, bullies have run vicious smear campaigns and turned everyone against their victims. When an altercation finally breaks out, the bystanders refuse to help the target because they think she deserves the abuse. Many times, these bystanders secretly or openly take pleasure in seeing the target suffer.

They may stand around snickering or join the bullies in tormenting the target. Often, the bullies are only doing to the victim what many bystanders wish they had the stones to do themselves. So, they get complete satisfaction in seeing someone else attack the target. Bystanders often hate the victim so much that they would defend a total stranger before protecting the victim they hate so intensely.

4. They don’t want to get involved. Many bystanders figure that it’s none of their business and choose not to get involved. These bystanders are so indifferent that they won’t even stop and watch. They will only pass by and keep going. They don’t care. Period.

Understand that bullies always perform in front of an audience to show their superiority, strength, and power. Bystanders who do nothing to stop the attacks only silently support and encourage the bullies. These bystanders are just as guilty as the psycho bullies who perpetuate the attacks.

Often, bystanders either don’t understand or underestimate the power they have, especially in large numbers. When witnesses speak up for the target, the bullies will likely stop and leave the victim.

15 thoughts on “The Cold, Hard Truth About Bystanders

  1. Once when I was having a problem with a supervisor I filed a complaint and an investigation was conducted.

    Everyone in the department was interviewed.

    Given the chance to air out their complaints everyone (including those who had complained to me) choose to remain silent and/or denied what I claimed was taking place in the department.

    I was eventually driven into an emotional collapse and became suicidal.

    I was hospitalized and moved to another department then laid off a year later when my job was eliminated.

    • That’s exactly what happens, David. One thing I want you to remember. HR may act like they care about you and promise to help you. They won’t. HR is there for the company and big bosses, not the employee.

          • Thank you. My problem is my extended family members who live in intellectual bubbles and refuse to listen to anything they do not want to hear. My son is the only one who actually listens and respects my opinions.

            I’m at the point where I have decided to self isolate once I am financially able to do so. That is if our new government doesn’t arrest me first for daring to think outside of their dishonest intellectual bubble.

          • I hear you there. They’ll probably arrest me to because I expose bullying from all angles, which are the very tactics they use, only on a massive scale.

          • What doesn’t surprise is how many of the Republicans are rolling over and kneeling in submission.

            I’ve been observing them closely ever since Bush 2 was in office; and noticed how they talk conservative until in office then deliberately betray the voters who put them into office by doing the opposite.

            And their Economic Theory and penchant for passing laws that benefit their campaign donors.

            Is carefully crafted to to cause wealth to trickle up instead of down as they claim. Indeed the yearly bonuses the management class receives is money that should have been paid to the workers on the bottom of the pyramid of the Ponzi Scheme of our economy.

            I can only hope that the Useful Idiots who vote them into office wise up enough to demand leaders who are loyal them ins

          • Most go in with good intentions but end up astray. They get sucked into it I think. Special interest groups through money at them and who’s going to turn it down. It’s like a woman throwing herself at a man- he’s not going to turn down a free romp in the hey.

  2. I only hope that the useful idiots who vote them into office will demand leaders who are loyal to them instead of their campaign donors – but i think that is just wishful thinking.

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