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Bullying and Harassment

February 11, 2011

Community-based harassment is a grown-up version of school yard bullying. Multiple individuals within a community participate in the harassment and stalking of a single individual. However, rather than attack a victim physically, techniques are used to undermine a person psychologically. This can be far more damaging than a physical attack because not only is it very hard to prove, but it is extremely traumatizing for the victim. (Also known as cause stalking or gang stalking).

In addition, this form of harassment often leaves the target a victim of ridicule among friends and family because of the subtle nature of the attacks, which further compounds the trauma to the victim. It is emotionally draining and isolating to the victims because it is extremely difficult to prove, and virtually impossible to prosecute.

  • In 15% of cases, the victim could provide no possible reason for their harassment
  • 13% reported that their homes had been bugged
  • 32% reported that the stalker(s) broke into/damaged the inside of the victim’s home
  • 38% reported damage to the outside of the home
  • 30% reported that the stalker(s) stole from the victim
  • 91% reported being watched
  • 82% reported being followed
  • 60% reported having their character slandered/defamed
  • 84% were victim to repetitive phone calls
  • 60% reported hang up phone calls
  • 57% reported silent calls
  • 46% reported negative attitude from the police, and 51% reported negative actions
  • 6/201 (approx. 3%) of respondents reported multiple stalkers
  • In 5/95 (approx. 5%) of cases perpetrators were part of a group. 40% of victims (38) said that friends and or family of their stalker had also been involved in their harassment (stalking-by-proxy). All cases of multiple stalkers involved mixed sex stalker groups Source: CATCH Canada

What are the myths about bullying?

Myth #1 – “Children have got to learn to stand up for themselves.”
Realities
– Children who get up the courage to complain about being bullied are saying they’ve tried and can’t cope with the situation on their own. Treat their complaints as a call for help. In addition to offering support, it can be helpful to provide children with problem solving and assertiveness training to assist them in dealing with difficult situations.

Myth #2 – “Children should hit back – only harder.”
Realities
– This could cause serious harm. People who bully are often bigger and more powerful than their victims. This also gives children the idea that violence is a legitimate way to solve problems. Children learn how to bully by watching adults use their power for aggression. Adults have the opportunity to set a good example by teaching children how to solve problems by using their power in appropriate ways.

Myth #3 – “It builds character.”
Realities
– Children who are bullied repeatedly, have low self-esteem and do not trust others. Bullying damages a person’s self-concept.

Myth #4 – “Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.”
Realities
– Scars left by name-calling can last a lifetime.

Myth #5 – “That’s not bullying. They’re just teasing.”
Realities
– Vicious taunting hurts and should be stopped.

Myth #6 – “There have always been bullies and there always will be.”
Reality
– By working together as parents, teachers and students we have the power to change things and create a better future for our children. As a leading expert, Shelley Hymel, says, “It takes a whole nation to change a culture”. Let’s work together to change attitudes about bullying. After all, bullying is not a discipline issue – it is a teaching moment.

Myth #7 – “Kids will be kids.”
Realities
– Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or at home. Research shows that 93% of video games reward violent behaviour. Additional findings show that 25% of boys aged 12 to 17 regularly visit gore and hate internet sites, but that media literacy classes decreased the boys’ viewing of violence, as well as their acts of violence in the playground. It is important for adults to discuss violence in the media with youth, so they can learn how to keep it in context. There is a need to focus on changing attitudes toward violence. Source: child.alberta.ca

Myth #8 – “Bullies are looking for attention. Ignore them and the bullying will stop.”
Realities – The research: Bullies are looking for control, and they rarely stop if their behavior is ignored. The level of bullying usually increases if the bullying is not addressed by adults. Source: Bullying – Myths and Realities

Myth #9 – “Most bullying now happens online.”
Realities
– As tragic as they are, these high-profile cases should not distract from more traditional – and more prevalent – forms of bullying. Whether battling rumors about their sexual orientation, enduring criticism of their clothes or getting pushed around at recess, kids are bullied offline all the time. While it’s hard to stereotype bullying behavior in every school in every town in America, experts agree that at least 25 percent of students across the nation are bullied in traditional ways: hit, shoved, kicked, gossiped about, intimidated or excluded from social groups. In a recent survey of more than 40,000 U.S. high school students conducted by the Josephson Institute, which focuses on ethics, 47 percent said they were bullied in the past year. But, according to the 2007 book “Cyber Bullying,” as few as 10 percent of bullying victims are cyber-bullied. Meanwhile, a study of fifth, eighth and 11th graders in Colorado that same year found that they were more likely to be bullied verbally or physically than online. Of course, with increased access to computers, cellphones and wireless Internet – not to mention the exploding popularity of social media sites – cyber-bullying will be on the rise in the coming years. But for now, traditional forms of bullying are more common.

Myth #10 – “Bullies are bullies and victims are victims.”
Realities
– Actually, it is common for kids who are bullied at home by an older sibling or abused by a parent to become bullies themselves at school. Domestic violence and bullying feed each other. Researchers have found that elementary school bullies are more likely than non-bullies to have witnessed domestic violence during their preschool years. According to a 2007 study of bullying in Japan, South Africa and the United States, 72 percent of children who were physically abused by their parents became a bully, a victim of a bully or both. But taking out their frustrations on kids at school doesn’t help bullies. Researchers have found that bullies who are bullied themselves have higher rates of depression, anxiety, anger and low self-esteem than kids who are only bullies, only victims or who are not involved in bullying at all.

Myth #11 – “Bullying ends when you grow up.”
Realities
– Bullying is negative, mean, repetitive behavior that occurs in a relationship characterized by an imbalance of power. It can happen in a middle school – but it can also happen in an office. According to the Journal of Management Studies, nearly 50 percent of American workers have experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace, even if they did not recognize it as such.

Myth #12 – “Bullying is a major cause of suicide.”
Realities
– According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, behind traffic accidents and homicide. And while individuals who are bullied are at increased risk for self-harm, it’s too simplistic to blame the deaths of victims solely on bullying. According to the CDC, risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide, depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, a personal loss, easy access to firearms and medication, exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, and isolation. Bullying can be a trigger for suicide, but other underlying factors are usually involved. Interpreting a teenager’s suicide as a reaction to bullying ignores the complex emotional problems that American youth face. To understand the complexity of suicidal behavior, we need to look beyond one factor.

Myth #13 – “We can end bullying.”
Realities
– Can we? The debate rages on. In 2008, a study of school bullying-prevention programs over nearly 25 years found that they changed attitudes and perceptions about bullying, but not bullying behavior. This isn’t great news. Victims of bullying don’t want to know more about bullying – they want it to stop. Nonetheless, when schools collect data about bullying and intervene when they observe it, they can change the culture that supports the behavior. Programs such as Steps to Respect, Second Step, Bully-Proofing Your School and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program have proved particularly promising. A 2009 study in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that Steps to Respect – whose Web site says it “teaches elementary students to recognize, refuse, and report bullying, be assertive, and build friendships” – reduced bullying by 31 percent in some schools in Washington state. Parent training, increased playground supervision, effective disciplinary methods, home-and-school communication, classroom management and the use of training videos have also been associated with reductions in bullying. No program can end bullying in every community, and no program has eliminated 100 percent of bullying behaviors. However, when awareness of bullying becomes as much a part of school culture as reverence for athletics or glee club, we’ll have a shot at finally stopping it. Source: Five myths about bullying

Myth #14 – Non-lethal weapons don’t exist in the public domain.
Realities
– See the following for examples of “low-tech” non-lethal weapons: High-Tech Harassment: How to Get Even with Anybody Anytime; Ultrasound Generation Devices; Revenge Devices; Sonic Nausea

Myth #15 – You have to be important to be a target of such intense and persistent stalking.
Realities
– This is primarily a hate crime, whose targets tend to be neither wealthy nor public figures. Because the target is often no longer able to hold a job, s/he usually lacks the funds to fight back. What makes this different from other hate crimes is that the target is often not made aware if the reason behind it.

Myth #16 – If you think you are targeted, you must be mentally ill.
Realities
– While delusional thinking does exist, these situations have an identifiable pattern to them. This type of harassment has been modelled on past hate crimes and refined through years of use. It is intended to make the target look crazy. In addition, the activity is so traumatizing that many otherwise “mentally healthy” individuals might easily develop mental health issues as a result of the stalking. Hence, mental illness is not an indicator of whether or not the activity is actually taking place.

Myth #17 – If you don’t make them angry, they will stop.
Realities
– Like bullies in the school playground, they do not go away if you ignore them. Victims have found, to their dismay, that the targeting can go on for years. Exposure is the way to stop them. CATCH Canada



RELATED READING: myths and realities of bullying
prevention of bullying
Prevention of Workplace bullying
Workplace bullying: your co-worker, boss, supervisor, staff member?
Workplace Bullying: The Silent Epidemic!!!
Dealing with workplace bullies
Bullying at work (VIDEO)
workplace harassment

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