If you’re a target of bullying, can you truly and totally rely on people in authority to help you? Can you rely on them to do something about the bullying you suffer and hold those who are bullying you to account for their horrible behavior? Can you rely on others to bring you justice?
I used to be all about laws against bullying and yes, the idea sounds great. I won’t pretend it doesn’t. However, I’m beginning to gravitate away from making bullying a crime. Why? Because most people aren’t going to protect targets until it happens to them or one of theirs. And even then, that’s still debatable.
Let’s Stop Relying too Much on Others
We cannot rely too much on laws and policies because they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. Entities, such as schools and workplaces, can write all the rules and policies against bullying they want. But until they enforce those policies, they’re only as cheap as the ink and paper administrators use to make them.
What good are laws and policies if these entities don’t enforce them? At what point do we stop relying on the system to protect us and begin protecting ourselves?
Understand that, no matter what anyone says, you don’t have to put up with anyone else’s crap. Therefore, it’s up to you to stand up to bullies and do it properly. And if defending yourself doesn’t work, you have the option to remove yourself from the situation and environment.
We Must Learn to Take Care of Ourselves
Here’s another reason I’m gravitating away from making bullying a crime: It’s because most seasoned bullies have ways of making innocent targets look like the bullies. Therefore, if lawmakers make bullying an imprisonable crime, many innocent targets would end up behind bars. Because, again, bullies, especially narcissistic bullies have a flare for flipping the script and, very convincingly, painting the target as the bad guy.
Too many targets have been conditioned to think that self-defense is wrong and it isn’t. And the people who condition these targets are often bullies themselves. Therefore, if bullies target you for bullying, you must know your enemies. You must do a lot of study and research on bullies, then use the knowledge you gain to outmaneuver them.
Also, yiu must do your own investigation and gather your own evidence. That means detailed documentation. Moreover, you may need to use the last resort and bust the bully in the mouth if all else fails and the bully tries to physically attack you. It’s the only way you can effectively defend yourself. Remember!
Bullies bully many of their targets long term, most over a period of years. Imagine what that does to the targets’ confidence and self-esteem. And sadly, it comes out in the targets’ body language.
Therefore, many targets of bullying are very nervous people, especially in social situations. And why not? Bullies have beaten them down- stripped them of their confidence, vibrance, their entire personhood. Is it any wonder they’re constantly walking on eggshells and monitoring every action and every word that comes out of their mouths?
It’s a crappy way to live when you’re always on guard.
Are they nervous and afraid or are they lying?
Consequently, many targets of bullying get accused by authority of lying about the bullying they suffer. Why? Because people all too often mistake nervousness and anxiousness for deception. If you’ve ever read “Othello,” by William Shakespeare, you’ll get a clearer picture of this heartbreaking scenario.
Many targets are often afraid to even look people in the eye, especially those with Asperger’s and on the Autism Spectrum. And being bullied to the point of lacking eye contact is a terrible thing. Although bad eye contact or complete lack of can, in fact signal deception, it’s usually not the case with targets. When a person is suffering from bullying or any type of abuse, it usually conveys nervousness and terror.
Therefore, we must look at context. Have we witnessed others consistently bullying and abusing the target? It’s too easy to confuse fear with deception if we aren’t careful.
Other signals of nervousness and fear are shaking, sweating, lip-licking and touching the face and neck. Again, targets of bullying are anxious. Who wouldn’t be if they were relentlessly bullied?
Before we make the snap judgement that the target is lying or has something to hide, we should always look for other nonverbals that go with it. Moreover, we must look at context- the circumstances in which the nervousness comes about.
Submissive Body Language
Many targets of bullying also display submissive body language. No surprise there. They have encountered bullies who have abused them so badly and for so long that they feel helpless. They bullying these targets have endured has rendered them powerless.
Therefore, these poor souls tend to be overly forgiving. They want to stay as far away from conflict or criticism as humanly possible because they already get enough of it in their bullying environments, be it at school, work, or home.
These targets will usually have a sheepish look on their faces. They also stay motionless to keep from drawing attention to themselves. Moreover, they tend to hold their heads down and look down all the time.
Targets of bullying often have closed body language, such as crossing the arms in front of them crossing their legs or hunkering down into the shoulders and hiding the neck. This signals self-protection. Another thing they do is display bad posture by slouching.
This body language that targets display is so easy to spot, yet most people in authority either ignore it or don’t consider it. Worse even, it attracts bullies, users, and abusers!
Bullies can read this body language from a mile away and they will instantly think, “target!” and take full advantage.
It won’t be easy. However, if you’re a target of bullying, it is imperative that you watch your body language. And if you catch yourself displaying any of the above nonverbal cues, you must do your best to correct it.
How do You Stop Looking Like a Target?
When you catch yourself slouching, sit or stand up straight. If you see that you’re looking down, hold your head up and look ahead. Uncross your arms and legs, start making eye contact with people, and stop being overly forgiving. Begin seeing your worth and setting boundaries. Lose the sheepish look and replace it with the look of confidence.
All too often, targets of bullying have a hard time setting boundaries. Many just keep their mouths shut, grin and bear it while others wipe their feet all over them. They suffer in silence and obscurity, which only further damages their mental health. If being used as a rug hurts so much, why do they allow it to continue?
There are several reasons:
1. They don’t have the confidence.
Many targets of bullying feel helpless and simply think it wouldn’t do them any good. So, they see no point in speaking up because they know that they’ll likely get bullied worse for it. It takes confidence to set boundaries, which, sadly, is something a few bullying targets have.
Also, as we know, bullies don’t respect boundaries because they don’t acknowledge them. In their minds, you’re a target and, to them, a target has no rights and deserves no human dignity. Bullies don’t see targets as human beings deserving of the same human rights as everyone else. That’s a fact.
2. They feel powerless to stop the abuse.
Again, setting boundaries is anything but easy- it’s one of the hardest things to do after people bully you for so long and brainwash you into thinking you’re to blame for their horrid behavior.
Many targets have been abused for so long that they’ve “gotten used to it.” In other words, bullies and their sycophants have conditioned the targets to take the abuse and allow them to ride roughshod over them. Many times, targets have been fooled into believing that setting boundaries is selfish.
This is why many targets cave in to the bullies’ demands. They feel it’s safer just to give them what they want and pacify them.
3. They fear the bullies will retaliate.
If you’re a target of bullying, you may badly want to tell your abusers to knock it off. You may want to tell them to get the hell away from you and stay away. You may even want to fight back, but you don’t know how they may react.
Another thing you don’t know is whether they’ll accept your boundaries, nor if they’ll want to accept them. You know that there’s a chance the bullies may act violently toward you for having the chutzpah to speak against their abuse.
Bullies despise even a hint of opposition because they see it as your challenging their power and perceived authority. And they’ll do whatever they can to tighten their grip if they suspect you’re defying them. And sometimes, things get dangerous, and you must do it scared.
But what they don’t realize is this. When you set boundaries, you enact your autonomy and speak from a place of self-care and self-love. You decide what you will and won’t tolerate. You take your power back.
Before you’re able to do that, you must be clear of what you will not accept.
It takes uber-confidence to stand up to a bully. It would be best if you also gave up your old self-protective behaviors – those you tried in the past that failed, which are ways your bullies and a few other abusers in your life probably conditioned you to respond.
2. You must stop trying to explain yourself to anyone.
3. You must stop trying to figure out what made the bullies so hostile.
4. You must stop wondering what you did wrong.
5. You must stop wondering if something’s wrong with you.
6. You must stop asking, “why me.”
Before you can stand up to abuse, you must squash the mentality that compels you to do any of the above mentioned.
You must understand that all the why me, why this, why that, gets you nowhere. And all the wracking your brains wondering and trying to figure out what’s wrong also serves no purpose. It’s a complete waste of time and only makes you feel worse.
Instead, be real with yourself and conclude that your bullies are just a bunch of ignorant, moronic jackasses who lack character and live fake existences. You must also learn to trust yourself, which includes trusting your body and how it feels. Trust everything you see, hear, feel, sense, and the vibes you pick up from the people around you. And finally, trust your decisions.
It also takes dogged determination:
1. Even if your bullies rationalize and justify their behavior, you won’t take their crap.
2. Even if they blame you for their despicable behavior, you won’t take it.
3. Even if they tell you that you’re crazy or mentally imbalanced, you won’t take it.
4. Even if they call you a bitch, an asshole, or any other degrading name, you won’t take it.
5. Even if you made a mistake and your bullies call it out in an abusive manner, you won’t take it.
6. And, for the love of Pete! If the bullies commit physical violence, you definitely won’t take that! Get the police involved, file charges, and sue for any damages! Or, put up those dukes and throw down if you need to!
And it’ll take calling your bullies out every single time they cross the line.
You can say:
“Cut it out!”
“Knock it off!”
“Get away from me!”
You get power just by loudly giving either one of these commands. And who knows? I’m not making any guarantees here, but you might shock your bullies back to reality and make them leave you alone. There were times when I was pleasantly surprised, and it worked for me.
You do not have to walk on eggshells around anyone! Know that you do have a choice and a voice. You can choose not to accept the bullies’ behavior. You have more power than you know.
Here’s a list of several things you can do to rip the mask off and keep yourself safe.
1. Know your enemy.
How you do this is to stand back and always OBSERVE the people around you, but without looking like you are watching them. Pay close attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. I can’t stress enough the importance of this. This is how you find out who the trouble makers are.
If you see another student or coworker gossip and make trouble for others, you can be sure that in time, they will do the same to you. This is how I now know who to avoid at all costs. However, be advised that avoidance will not work if you have a determined bully after you. If a person wants to get to you badly enough, they will seek you out until they find you.
2. Document everything!
As it has been said, “if it isn’t documented, it never happened”. Keep a journal and write down everything. I did this in junior high and high school just in case one of my bullies either hurt me bad enough to hospitalize me or worse…killed me.
You must write down the names of your bullies, the names of any bystanders or authority (teachers, principal, or any member of authority) present at the time the altercation took place, the date, time, place it happened, what happened and if possible, why it happened. Also, record what is said and by whom. Document every… single… detail!!
3. Do not reveal any information about yourself that you would not want to be told to anyone.
Including your friends! If you do, you’re asking for trouble because if you are the target of a bully, you can be sure that your bullies will, at some point, either try to pry information about you out of your friends or they will turn your friends against you altogether.
4. Keep a low profile.
Don’t do anything that may draw attention to yourself. And stay away from places the bullies may gather. Think, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Just don’t make it obvious to your bullies that you are ducking and dodging them. I avoided several confrontations by simply laying low.
5. Save any threatening texts, emails, and/or voice mails for evidence.
And if possible, set your cellphone to record during any altercation brought on by a bully, provided it is hidden in your pocket. You certainly do not want the bully to know what you are doing. keep your composure and be sure not to tarnish the recording by yelling or using foul language.
Schools are now becoming more aware of the issue of bullying. If you happen not to have a cellphone, keep a digital recorder handy (if possible) and be ready to record as soon as the torment starts.
6. NEVER brag about any evidence you have against a bully.
Not even to your best friend…PERIOD! Again, bullies have a knack for prying information out of people, even your friends. They can also turn your friends against you, making them more than happy to volunteer the information. Don’t do it! Anytime you are a target of bullies, you are in no position to trust anyone!
7. Call the bully out in front of an audience.
This is risky and could bring retaliation. However, the bully will also know that you are on to him/her and you just might intimidate them enough that they will leave you alone. It happened for me on a few occasions.
But keep in mind that this doesn’t happen for everyone. Calling the bully out in front of people can also humiliate the bully and make that person more determined to get you. So access the bully’s personality and the situation carefully before you decide to do this.
Many times, I would pit a few of my classmates against each other. If I knew of a few who disliked or hated each other, I’d very quietly and secretly pit them against each other. An offhand comment here, another there, and I’d have them fighting among themselves. Yeah, I know, it was a shady thing to do. However, if I could keep them fighting among themselves, then I could distract their attention and hostility away from me and, thus, keep the spotlight away!
And when people chronically bully you as they did me, you’ll do anything, and I mean anything to get a nice, albeit short, a reprieve from all the drama. And sometimes, “ya gotta do what ya gotta do” to keep yourself safe.
If you can find a few bullies who hate each other as much as they hate you, then perfect! Or, you can find classmates or coworkers who are mad at each other, stoke the fires a little, and take advantage of it! Stir the pot between them because if you can keep them busy fighting each other, they’ll leave you alone. And let me tell you! It worked wonders!
Understand that your goal is not to cause trouble. Your goal is to take the “hadar” (hate radar) off you and to protect yourself.
The only thing I’d advise is that you should use this sparingly. Save this little technique until you’ve exhausted all other options.
So, if you must, keep them too busy to even think about you. It’s not that you’re trying to hurt anyone; your only goal is to keep yourself safe!
My grandmother once told me this: “Never. And I mean never let anyone get comfortable with abusing and mistreating you.”
She was right. By the time she gave me that little gold nugget of wisdom, it was already too late. I was in high school and had been a target of bullying since moving to *Oakley School District in the sixth grade. But right then, I understood what my very wise grandmother meant and why she gave me that advice.
Here’s what Uma (what I called my maternal grandmother) had already known by being a people-watcher and very good at people-reading:
Once the mistreatment of a person has gone on for so long, the people around them get comfortable with mistreating that person. They grow so accustomed to being cruel to the person that they don’t even think about, nor do they care about how they hurt that person. Even worse, they come to expect the target the take the abuse without question, without talking back, speaking about it, and without defending themselves.
Put another way, if a target firmly stands up to bad treatment in the early stages of being targeted, it’s more likely that others will respect his right to be treated well and either leave him alone or began treating him better.
Whereas, if the target lets the bullying go on for a long time, then begins to stand up for himself after getting fed up with being everyone’s doormat, others will more than likely be only angry and resentful of the person for daring to open his mouth about it. They will then double down in their abuse or eliminate him somehow.
Once a person gets comfortable in mistreating you, it’s much more difficult to fight. Therefore, always speak out the moment the bullying begins. Never let it go on for any length of time. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to assert your rights and avoid retaliation.
Bullies are known for being highly emotional when they don’t get their way. They scream, they curse, they act out and they don’t care who’s around to see it because they use fear and intimidation to keep people from speaking out against them. Or, if they’re sneaky, they may hold it in until they get to a place that’s private and with people they trust, then fly into a rage.
Just as hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, it can also be said that hell hath no fury like a bully disappointed.
Here are 3 safety measures you must carry out when your bully begins to rage at you. Things can get dangerous quickly when a bully becomes enraged.
1. Turn and walk away right then! You must get away from the raging bull(y) fast. Think, out of sight, out of mind.
2. Watch Your Back. The bully is postal. Even scarier, he’s outraged at you! So, you must cover your six until you’re either out of the environment or things have cooled off. Just don’t look like you’re watching your back.
3. Whatever you do, don’t mirror the bully. You’ll only look just as nuts as the bully. Also, the last thing you want to do is scream and curse back because things will likely become fisty, or worse, the bully might pull out a knife or gun.
4. No sarcasm or witticisms. This will prompt the bully to throw fists or pull a weapon faster than yelling and cursing back because, in your sarcasm and funny remarks, you’re making the bully look like a basket case and he knows it. Save the witticisms for when the bully is attacking in a calmer state.
Remember that bullies, especially narcissist bullies, have a sadistic nature and have absolutely no moral compass. Many bullies of the narcissistic variety become murderers. So, get away from the person, stay away, and make sure they aren’t stalking you.
The best defense is to know bullying when it happens to you, and to know how to unveil a bully’s deplorable behavior. Here’s a list of several things you can do to rip the mask off and keep yourself safe.
1. Know your enemy. How you do this is to stand back and observe the people around you, but without looking like you are watching them. Pay close attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. I can’t stress enough the importance of this.
This is how you find out who the trouble makers are. If you see another student or coworker gossip and make trouble for others, you can be sure that in time, they will do the same to you.
2. Document everything! As it has been said, “if it isn’t documented, it never happened”. Keep a journal and write down everything. I did this in junior high and high school just in case one of my bullies either hurt me bad enough to hospitalize me, or worse- killed me.
You must write down the names of your bullies, the names of any bystanders or authority (teachers, principal, or any member of authority) present at the time the altercation took place, the date, time, place it happened, what happened and if possible, why it happened. Also, record what is said and by whom. Document every… single… detail!
3. Do not reveal any information about yourself that you would not want to be told to anyone. Including your friends! If you do, you’re asking for trouble because if you are the target of a bully, you can be sure that your bullies will, at some point, either try to pry information out of your friends or they will turn your friends against you altogether.
4. Keep a low profile. Don’t do anything that may draw attention to yourself. And stay away from places the bullies may gather. Think, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Just don’t make it obvious to your bullies that you are ducking and dodging them. I avoided several confrontations by simply laying low.
However, be advised that avoidance will not work if you have a determined bully after you. If a person wants to get to you badly enough, they will seek you out until they find you.
5. Save any threatening texts, emails, social media messages/posts, and/or voice mails for evidence. And if possible, hide a digital recorder on you or ease your hand down into your purse and set your cellphone to video during any altercations. Do it covertly so that the bully doesn’t know what you are doing. Just make sure you live in a one-party consent jurisdiction. Screenshot any nasty emails, messages, comments, and posts on social media.
Keep your composure and be sure not to tarnish the recording by yelling or using foul language.
6. NEVER brag about any evidence you have against a bully. Not even to your best friend! Again, bullies have a knack for prying information out of people, even your friends. They can also turn your friends against you, making them more than happy to volunteer the information.
gavel and soundblock of justice law and lawyer working on wooden desk background
Don’t do it! Anytime you are a target of bullies, you are in no position to trust anyone!
7. Call the bully out in front of an audience. This is risky and could bring retaliation. However, the bully will also know that you are on to them and you just might intimidate them enough that they will leave you alone. It happened to me on a few occasions.
But keep in mind that this doesn’t happen for everyone. Calling the bully out in front of people can also humiliate the bully and make that person more determined to get you. So access the bully’s personality and the situation carefully before you decide to do this.
Let’s face it. Conflict is a part of life and something we all encounter at many points in our lives. Many targets and survivors of bullying are deathly afraid of conflict. Why? Because they’ve had so much of it forced on them in the past by bullies who just refused to let them be. Also, many targets and survivors are traumatized by the bullying they presently suffer or from past bullying.
Understand that these poor souls haven’t yet dealt with the hurts they still have, and they don’t yet know their worth and the good they deserve. Many targets and survivors of bullying suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of this, they’re still stuck in survival mode.
As a result, target’s cave in and give in to bullies to appease them just so they’ll shut the hell up and go away. And people do get tired of hearing self-entitled and self-indulgent bullies bitch, rant, and beat their chests when they don’t get their way.
So, the unspoken message is, “Look! Just take what you want and get lost!”
I can understand why targets and survivors end up being this way. It’s because a person gets exhausted when they’re constantly have to battle and struggle to take back their autonomy, their self-determination, their personal power, their safety, their dignity, and their right to exist. They get worn down, they get weary, and all they want is for people to leave them alone and let them have some peace.
However, this can become a problem. If you go out of your way to avoid conflict, people will soon mistake you for being weak and they’ll walk all over you. You must set boundaries. There are times when you must say no. There are even times when you may have to show your ugly side to get your point across and let people know that no means no and enough is enough.
Understand that this requires guts. It means you must step out of your comfort zone and take risks. You must risk hurting others’ feelings and making people angry. You must risk being lashed out at and retaliated against. Moreover, you must also risk losing relationships and no, none of it feels good.
In short, you must stand up for yourself and that means facing conflict.
Think of it this way, if you’re a target of bullying, you’re going to face conflict no matter what because people will bring the conflict to you. Hiding from it does no good because it will eventually find you. When you are a target of bullying, conflict is unavoidable and certain.
In other words, run from conflict and you’ll end up running from it for the rest of your life!
So, why not face it head on, better yet embrace it and stand up to people, then you can feel better about yourself later knowing that you finally grew a spine and told them where to shove it. You may face retaliation for it, but you would face it anyway because, right or wrong, bullies will always find some justification for attacking you.
Is there ever a time when you should surrender to a bully? The answer is yes, or at least make it look like you’re surrendering to them. In life, there are times when we should pick and choose our battles- to decide whether to fight back or leave well enough alone. It is a must when your bullies are extremely powerful because it isn’t smart to fight them and give them a chance to defeat you.
Sometimes real power comes with swallowing your pride and giving in to them first. When you do this, you’ll only enrage the bullies and throw them off-kilter because they were looking for a fight and so sure they’d get one but didn’t.
There’s no point in fighting an unwinnable battle. Showing weakness can be a strength if you know how to use it correctly.
When you surrender (or make it look as if you do), you give yourself time to recuperate and time to torture and irritate your bullies subtly. You can sneakily sabotage your bullies in ways they’d never expect nor detect. Maybe you can get what you can out of the surrender, then fight later when your bullies are not so strong. Believe it or not, bullies do eventually lose power.
You don’t surrender because you give up. You do it to humor your bullies and lull them into a false sense of complacency- to fool them into thinking they’ve won. Understand that bullies are continually trying to show dominance and superiority, and if you make it look like you surrender to them, it’ll be so easy to trick them.
Being submissive to them (for the time being) makes them feel satisfied and powerful. In this, the bullies become easier targets for a later countermove or indirect ridicule.
For example, You surrender, and the bullies let you walk away. But as you turn and walk away, you can cut a silent fart in their general direction, and they won’t think it came from you. They’ll only be looking at each other and wondering who dealt it.