Is bullying illegal? Bullying in and of itself is not illegal. Name calling and saying things that are intentionally hurtful isn’t illegal. It’s covered under the First Amendment and protected as free speech. It is up to the person on the receiving end of the comments to look past them and not give them the value the abuser intends, There are, however, forms of bullying that do cross the line and can be considered illegal.
Types of bullying that are illegal include:
- Slander – Comments used to defame or damage a person’s character and reputation that are spoken.
- Libel – Comments used to defame or damage a person’s character and reputation that are written.
- Harassment – Sexual, physical and verbal actions that are used to intimidate or cause a person to fear for their safety.
- Discrimination – Excluding someone from an activity or the consideration for advancement because of their race, gender, religious preference, etc.
- Stalking – Following or observing someone to the point where their personal privacy is continually being jeopardized.
Comments That Cross the Line
In the case of bullying, most comments and gestures are made with malicious intent but few are destined to have long term consequences. Repeated comments and threats, however, gain momentum with each and every incident. Individuals who are the victim of name calling and taunts must rationalize that it is only the other person’s opinion. Just because a person says something doesn’t make it common knowledge or representative of other peoples’ viewpoints.
Victims will often take hurtful comments to heart and begin to believe them. As difficult as it is to accomplish, learning to disregard hurtful statements makes them meaningless if the person they intended to harm, lets them go by the wayside. Bullies primary intention is to harm or malign a person and make them feel bad about themselves. If they cannot accomplish this, they will often lose interest and leave their victim alone.
Comments that are written or spoken with the intent to harass, degrade or cause financial damage to a person can be considered illegal and charges of slander and libel may be pressed. This often occurs in the workplace when one person hopes to achieve financial gain due to the loss of another. If the comments are proven to be malicious and are inaccurate or false in any way, the bully may have to compensate the victim for their actual, or perceived, financial losses.
Learn more about Bullying and the Law
Actions That Are Considered Illegal
Harassment, discrimination and stalking are all forms of bullying that are considered to be illegal if pushed past the limits of the law. Is bullying illegal? It can be if the victim is physically harmed or placed in fear of their life.
*Sexual and physical harassment can be upgraded to various forms of assault and battery if the bully charges or physically touches their victim. Both misdemeanor and felony charges can be levied, depending on the severity of the abuse inflicted on the victim.
*Discrimination that denies an individual the opportunity to participate or advance in social and professional settings can be deemed illegal if the resulting impact harms the victim financially or damages their reputation.
Laws protecting individuals from discrimination rose out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960′s and are still staunchly enforced today. The laws are designed to give every citizen the equal right to earn an appropriate wage and have the same opportunities afforded to all members of our society.
*Stalking laws are intended to protect individuals from the unwanted advances and attention of others. Stalkers use various means to observe or monitor the movements of their intended victims. Law enforcement officers often include stalking as a serious form of bullying. The invasion of privacy inflicted on victims can cause irreparable damage to their sense of security and will often cause victims become reclusive in an attempt to avoid unwanted attention. Stalking becomes illegal when the victim feels their privacy has been jeopardized to the point they can no longer protect themselves and their families from the offender.
Is bullying illegal? In most cases, the answer is no. Offenders who cross the line and begin to intensify their bullying activities to the point where they irreparably harm their intended victim can be charged with minor crimes. If the activities persist and the offender harms his or her victim physically, prosecutors may choose to pursue felony charges against them.
Sources: http://www.todaysworkplace.org/2013/07/26/workplace-bullying-vs-workplace-harassment-is-there-a-difference/, http://safe.met.police.uk/bullying/consequences_and_the_law.html, http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/22/gaga-bullying-is-a-hate-crime-must-become-illegal/, http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Libel+and+Slander