We’ve all seen television shows, especially the older ones, where the bully was the bigger kid in the striped t-shirt who would use their size to intimidate the smaller kid, usually the hero of the show.

Most of the time this would be stereotypically for lunch money, or to force the smaller kid to do some homework for him. We would laugh at the antics of the bully and sorta-kinda sympathise with the bullied kid, but not really. After all, we thought, this is easily solved by a punch on the nose and why-oh-why does the bullied kid not just ‘man up’ and give the bully some of what he deserves?

Maybe that was the reality of it then. While this does happen in today’s society, this is not even the most common type any longer.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines bullying as “to treat abusively” or “to affect by means of force and coercion”. That is all very good and well, but often times the bullied person doesn’t even realise there is abuse, force or coercion because it happens over such a long time, and sometimes in such subtle ways, that it becomes commonplace and, the bullied person believes, it is not really “abuse” at all.

Bullying takes many different forms. Physical bullying is the kind we most associate with, again thanks to television shows, and involves the bully pushing, hitting or even spitting on another person. It does not even have to involve actual physical violence but may include the very threat of violence. Mental bullying would include telling lies about another, or telling them that they are stupid or worthless, and making fun of them in front of others. There is even bullying within relationships, where it is often about controlling the other person. Some bullies use silent treatment as a way of coercing or punishing another, refusing to talk to them until they comply. And, of course, there is workplace bullying, where one person may keep another from advancement, or forcing another to quit through bullying tactics. You need only pick up a paper or browse a website to see the amount and the level of sexual harassment in the workplace today as well.

In fact, the sheer amounts of types of bullying are so vast that we could fill volumes. Perhaps then, it is much easier if we ask a simple question, irrespective of the type of bullying: how would I know if I am being bullied? Seeing as it may happen over time and become seemingly normal, are there signs that I should look out for in myself and in those I love and care for?

Most parents can tell when something is wrong with their child; an honour student suddenly or gradually gets worse. There may be sudden outbursts over seemingly minor things. Yes, these can be signs. But consider the following as well:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged items;
  • Feeling sick often;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Trouble in school or at work;
  • Changes in eating habits;
  • Self-destructive behaviour;
  • Withdrawing from family and friends; and
  • Low self-esteem.

Yes, bullying is an ever-growing problem. With the right tools, however, it can start decreasing. If this is a subject which holds particular importance or significance for you, if you feel that either yourself or a loved one is being bullied, or if you believe that a loved one is being the bully, then I encourage you to join me on Saturday the 11th of November at 42 On Sonneblom Deli at 10h00, were I will be delivering a talk on “Bullying: Be The Change”. In addition, we shall also hear from Seugnet Nelson from Heyns and Partners, and from Jessica Morton, a Grade 7 pupil at Eversdal.

And then watch this space as well, as we unpack this subject via this newsletter (and my blog) in the coming weeks, looking at the triggers of bullying, who is likely to bully and what can be done to help both the bullied and the bully.

Kindest regards,
Marléne