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Who’s to blame for bullying?

Image: kenfotos /

The reports in The Mirror about Rula Lenska being “hit” by her husband Dennis Waterman have evoked many conversations and discussions in the short time since it was announced.   Making news on Loose Women in the afternoon, Denise Welch was said to have reported that Rula was relieved her ex-husband had admitted he had hit her.

Reported comments seem to intimate that he feels that it is possible to be pushed into hitting another person, and that he feels there is a place for women at home.  Whether those comments are completely truthful or not, I don’t know, but to think that there are specimens of our species walking about with the attitude that the victim is somehow at fault is ridiculous.

I’m not just talking about the man who hits a woman, there are also :

  • women who beat their men
  • teachers who hurt children
  • bullying kids who hurt each other
  • children who abuse their parents
  • workmates who pick on an easy target
  • bosses who abuse their positions
  • cyberbullies

Bullying, and abuse is physical and mental.  Physical abuse will become mental in time, with the victims unable to stand up for themselves, or to even think that there is a better life for them.  Worn down from repeated attacks, many find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of abuse and apologies, with their self-confidence being chipped away with each attack.

Our children find themselves in these situations often, and bullies in schools are far more prevalent than most education authorities will admit, but thankfully there are some sensible teachers out there who will put sensible strategies in place, and realise that sometimes, the bullies are also victims in another chain of abuse, stuck in the cycle.

What is bullying

The explanation from Childline is the most simple explanation that I have found and says :

“Bullying can mean many different things. These are some ways children and young people have described bullying: being called names, being teased, being pushed or pulled about, having money and other possessions taken or messed about with, having rumours spread about you, being ignored and left out, being hit, kicked or physically hurt in any way, being threatened or intimidated.  Bullying can also be part of other forms of abuse, including neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.”

Who is to blame for bullying?

The victim is never at fault.  The attacker can choose to walk away, no matter how much the person they attack has annoyed them.  If we hit our children, then we have lost control of the situation, why is it any different for an adult? How can anyone justify hitting another adult because the words they used annoyed them?

Who is to blame when a child or an adult cannot live with the bullying any more and decides to take their own life?

I include myself in the misguided section of our population who once believed that we can all freely choose to walk away from a bad situation and leave bullies behind.   That would have been my opinion in my twenties, but being older, wiser, and having been through social services and fostering procedures, I can honestly say that until someone has been seriously bullied, or have a child who has bullied, they have not got a clue how bad it can be.

I also include myself among that category.  I have experienced bullying, there are not many of us who haven’t, but when it is sustained, planned and life altering, we cannot possibly hope to presume that the person on the receiving end is in any fit state to be able to help themselves, nor are they able to accept much of the help available at face value when it is offered.

Their self esteem is knocked out of them, and their self-worth is chipped away to the degree that they feel they are to blame for what is happening to them.  “If only they hadn’t opened the oven at the wrong time, they might not have had their head pushed in it.”  “If only they had kept quiet when the TV was on, they wouldn’t have received that punch.”

  • abusers tell victims how sorry they are, and that it won’t happen again, or they threaten a child that they’ll kill their family, or they pretend they are helping you while they steal your work in business.
  • groups of workmates make snide remarks to others about their victim (s), they gloat about their power over another human being to declare their strength to the rest of the world.
  • victims often can’t see a way out, even if it is right in front of them.
  • victims are often mentally ill, physically disabled or sensitive people – they can rarely fight back alone.

What about the bully?

Bullies have feelings too, and they could be being bullied by someone else, which can lead to them looking for victims of their own.  Life isn’t cut and dried and looking behind the obvious can reveal surprising results.  At times, both could be victims, as the results of bullying can be astonishing and crippling.

What can we do

For adults

  • we must stop pretending that it shouldn’t be happening – it is.
  • we should stop telling people that they must be strong and not put up with it – that’s like asking someone with no legs to get up and walk.
  • give friends and workmates who are struggling support – be an ear to listen, without judging why they don’t leave their abuser.
  • let them know that you will support them in whatever they decide to do.
  • find the help that is available for them and give them options for themselves, but don’t join the bullying by withdrawing your support if they choose to stay.

For children and workmates

Standing by and watching abuse is just as bad as taking part in bullying.  Yes, it’s easier not to get involved, and just to walk away, but remember, we all need some help in our lives.  There are times when our bullied friends need us to help them.  How would we feel if it were us being bullied?  Would we like it?

  • standing by while someone is being bullied means you are approving of it – don’t join in by default.
  • help someone who is being bullied – can you defend them, if not, can you get someone who can to help you?
  • believe in yourself, and that you can help someone who is not managing to stand up for themselves.
  • don’t pass on silly rumours and stories designed to upset another person – would you like it?
  • find someone who can help, whether it is a parent, a teacher, a manager or a friend.
  • help the person to find out what options they have got for standing up to their bullies – could you find the information for them, explain it, help them see they are worth a life that is free from fear and intimidation.

The only final thing I have to say is THE VICTIM IS NEVER TO BLAME.