4 Reasons Bystanders Refuse to Help Targets: The Cold, Hard Truth

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.

With knowledge comes empowerment!

29 thoughts on “4 Reasons Bystanders Refuse to Help Targets: The Cold, Hard Truth

  1. Cherie, while reading this, I had the thought that first responders seem to have some sort of ‘code’ or personality that ignores the reasons why others avoid involvement… dare I speculate that their willingness to step in and help could be a reason why there has been such a demand to defund them?

    • You made a great point there, Jeanne! 👍 And, you know what? You’re RIGHT! 💯🎯💯🎯 Certain groups DO want to defund them and I believe it’s because they want us unprotected so they can move in on us. They’re just waiting, with bated breath, for the day they can unleash death and destruction on all their perceived enemies…US!

      • Exactly, Cherie! They don’t want first responders to protect us and they don’t want us to protect ourselves. Hence, the way they continually try to attack and undermine the 2nd Amendment. Sad thing is that ‘they’ and their lying media cohorts have convinced so many that ‘they’ are the majority – they aren’t – they are just the loudest, most brazen liars and they know how to shut most of us up. I’m hoping we all figure this out a s a p and give those bullies whatever karma they deserve.

        • Don’t worry, Jeanne! The awaking to this realization is spreading far and wide and they know it! It’s why they’re panicking right now! They won’t be able to stop what’s coming for them!

  2. Spot On here Cherie! Especially the first one, afraid of being the next target of Bullies, is what I saw and heard so often. “Be quiet Stella, don’t give them more ammunition to twist against us” It was their business you see that was also being affected and my personal mental distress was of no consequence to that, of course.

    As for the other tenants who stood by? It was too much hassle for them, they didn’t want to get involved. Not with them against me, nor to help me stop the abuse, they prefer to ignore it. I was one person trying to pick up for my own personal rights against the property owners business, the lawyer, even the members of tribunals I dealt with and who were personally named as targets too. Everyone was telling me to shut up, so they wouldn’t be more of a target because I spoke up against the Bullies and what they did in my name on the internet. Sorry, it is still a sore spot with me, all the avoidance people did of this situation, so they could be comfortable and no concern for my feelings.

    • I totally feel your pain, Stella. My classmates did the same to me. It was always, “Be quiet, Cherie! They’re going to hurt you if you don’t keep your mouth shut and just let them do what they’re going to do to you. Ha! They weren’t afraid of me getting retaliated against and hurt, they were afraid of themselves getting it! I totally understand where you are coming from, sweetie! 👍👍👍

  3. Very true.. those bystanders are just as guilty as the abused being that they are silently cheering on the bully and letting them do their despicable act.
    Thank you for a great share 🙏

    • You and me both, Michael! They did the same to me amd no doubt that if we had smartphones back then, you can bet they would’ve recorded it and they still might if a few of them caught me in the supermarket somewhere and wanted to jump me.

        • I go to visit relatives but I usually go there on a very low key. Many of my former bullies are cops, deputies, and local politicians, so, I slip in and out of that town without being noticed. And if they aren’t, they have connections with them. Many are nurses so I’d be a little concerned if I had to go to the hospital where any of them work. Many of these nurses are also married to cops.

          I live in the town next door. As far as I know, none of them know where I live and that’s the way I like it! But I’m sure that if they really wanted to find me they probably could with computers and all.

  4. I was never one who liked cliques very much so I never really paid that much attention to the popular and unpopular. I either liked you or didn’t put a lot of thought into many people. But I look back now and there were many people bullied that I didn’t stand up for. I knew it was wrong. I think the fact I wasn’t a bully was my justification, not realizing if you aren’t doing something about the problem you are part of the problem.

    The few times I wanted to speak up there were two factors. One, I guess I was afraid I would be bullied too if I intervened like you said. Second, I was a chicken back then when it came to a physical altercation. It wasn’t until later that I realized I could actually handle myself. For an analogy, I kind of equate to being little sister or little brother. You grow up being younger and because of age you naturally assume they are in the dominant alpha position until one day you find out that might not always be the case.

  5. Excellent article as usual. Reminds me of the Bystander Effect where you are more likely to be assisted if there’s only one bystander as opposed to many, which seems counterintuitive on its face.

    • Absolutely! And you’re so right! It does seen counterintuitive, doesn’t it! You’d think it would be the the more people present, the more chance of the victim getting help. Sadly, this isn’t the case!

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