Over time we are discovering more of the long-term effects of bullying. We are seeing what is happening to the bullies and their targets as they get older. The immediate effects of the situation may not seem so bad, which could lead others to think the bullying is just harmless teasing. When in fact it is not harmless at all. No one ever wants to think about and ask: “What can bullying lead to?”
Actions are considered bullying when the intensity of the bully’s actions increase in nature and are repetitive, continuing over a long period of time. These actions may start out as simple teasing, but over time verbal harassment can lead to physical harm. This alone can have severe consequences for both the bully and the target.
Simple teasing and verbal harassment could build up to what is known as physical bullying. Physical harm is one of the most common and more serious problems associated with bullying actions. This type of bullying can harm the bully, the victim, witnesses and innocent bystanders.
Examples of physical bullying can include:
- Spitting on
- Steal or destroying personal belongings
Signs of physical bullying may include, but is not limited to:
- Unexplained injuries, such as lacerations and bruises
- Coming home with damaged clothing
- Lost or damaged possessions
- Always complaining about not feeling well before school or school-related activities
- Skipping class
- Taking strange and indirect routes home from school
- Appearing sad and depressed most of the time
- Showing low self-esteem
- Withdrawing from others
- Drastic and uncontrollable mood swings
- Always takes the blame for everything
- Making mention of running away
- Trying to take a weapon to school
- Makes mention of harming others
- Makes mention of committing suicide
Bullying may affect people differently, but it does indeed affect everyone, including those bullied, the targets and witnesses. Kids who are bullied can experience depression, anxiety, health-related complications and decreased academic achievement.
In some of the more extreme cases, the victim lashes out and will bring a weapon to school as a means of defense. This could lead to the victim retaliating against the bully during the school day and innocent bystanders may get caught in the middle. It has also been reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that 12 out of 15 school shootings back in the 1990s were related to a student being bullied at one time or another.
Some media reports have tried to link bullying with the victim committing suicide. When in fact, the actual acts of the bully are not the leading cause of the victim committing suicide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those who are bullied generally do not have thoughts about committing suicide because of the bully’s actions. These thoughts are not developed as a result of the situation.
In cases when the victim does commit suicide, he or she is already having thoughts of committing suicide and is already engaging in related behaviors. These thoughts and behaviors were present well before the bully started harassing the target and could be a reason why the victim was selected as a target. He or she may have already been viewed as weak and an easy target for the bully. Though bullying may push those already contemplating suicide to follow through with it, it is not the cause.
Other effects bullying may have on the victim include:
- Ongoing low self-esteem even as an adult
- Trouble keeping a job
- Falling victim to other bullies as an adult, especially in the workplace or in a romantic relationship
- Chronic health issues, including on-going anxiety troubles, resulting in high medial expenses
- Drug addiction to deal with the pain of being a victim of bullying
- Trouble having a relationship
- Become the bully as an adult
Kids who are acting out and bullying others may also engage in other violent actions or participate in activities which may seem risky. These behaviors start when the bully is young and can follow him or her into adulthood. As the bully gets older, his or her risky behavior intensifies and could become more violent.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services those who are the bully are generally more likely to:
- Start using and abusing drugs and alcohol
- Vandalize public and private property
- Drop out of school
- Continually get into fights
- Become sexually active at an early age
- Contract a sexually transmitted disease
- Have a high number of traffic citations
- End up being convicted on a crime
- Spend a lot of time in jail
- Trouble maintaining and keeping a job
- Trouble finding a job or place to live because of a criminal record
- Become abusive and violent toward romantic partners, spouses and children
- Become abusive toward animals
- Injured from a physical assault from the target
- Killed as retaliation from his or her victim
- Become depressed at an older age when he or she realizes what the bullying actions did to others
- Isolated because no one wants to be around a bully
Those who are present when a bully is causing harm to his or her intended target may also be affected by what is witnessed. Bystanders may be affected by what they see or hear, which could have long lasting psychological consequences, even as an adult. Kids who are witness to bullying may be more likely to:
- Use tobacco
- Abuse alcohol and drugs
- Experience increased mental health issues
- Become depressed or anxious
- Fear he or she may be next on the bully’s target list
- Start missing classes
- Retaliated against by the victim of the bully for not doing anything
- Become a bully because the other bully got away with it
According to Bullying Statistics if the bully is male and the target female (or the roles are opposite) both verbal and physical bullying could eventually lead to sexual harassment or assault. Bullying tends to start at a young age with basic taunting and teasing. However, as the two grow older and they both start physically developing, the harassment may turn to be more sexual in nature. It is even possible that the bully may start to feel rejected from his target, which could lead to forcing himself on her.
Sexual harassment can start through cyber bullying. This is when the bully sends sexually explicit materials and makes comments through various forms of electronic media. Cyber bullying can occur through text messages, harassing phone calls, sexual postings on social media sites, requests for sexting and other unwanted comments and advances of a sexual nature.
More common cyber bullying tactics in these situations include posting photos of the victim naked or engaging in sexual activities for everyone in the school to see. Then the bully refuses to take it down or threatens to put it back up unless the victim does what is asked.
It is also reported that bullies are generally stronger than their targets and have trouble with following rules, self control and concern about another person’s safety. Because of this, the bully will not think twice about the harm of the actions associated with a sexual assault.
According to Do Something, the following are a list of statistics showing how serious bullying needs to be taken.
- More than 3.2 million students fall victim to a bully every year
- One in four teachers do nothing because they see there is nothing wrong with bullying
- Approximately 160,000 students miss class every day because they are afraid to confront their bully
- 17 percent of students claim they are being bullied two to three times per month or more
- 67 percent of students believe schools do not respond appropriately to bullying
- Only 71 percent of students will report acts related to bullying
- One in ten students drop out of school because of bullying problems
- Physical bullying starts and increases during elementary school, peaks in middle school and starts to decline in high school
- Verbal bullying remains constant through all grade levels
In most cases, the bully desires to feel wanted and to fit in with his or her peers. When they do not feel like they are a part of the group, bullies tend to act out torturing those he or she believes rejects or disapproves of. Because there are so many possibilities, there is one real answer to “What can bullying lead to?” There are many consequences the bully, the target and the innocent could face as a result of bullying.