At some point in our lives, we have to reach the understanding that things are going to happen whether we like it or not; and all we can do is go with the flow, and learn how to adapt accordingly. So how do you deal with Bullying Aftermath ?
To handle the bullying aftermath, you need to consider that in a lot of times bullying cannot be prohibited, for four main causes:
1-Its vindication under the pretext of freedom of speech (which is usually the case when the abuse is indirect, in the form of criticism, random remarks etc…)
2-the unwillingness of the victims themselves to report the abuse in fear of escalating the situation, or becoming a “squeal”.
3-the negligence or condoning of involved authority figures
4- often the bully may resort to blackmail, using whatever they can get their hands on that may condemn the victim, or give them leverage.
Research has shown that the repercussions of cyber bullying-depending on the extent of the abuse, and the situation of the victim- range from emotional distress, social withdrawing, permanent psychological damage (many reported cases have been associated with post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), among other severe mental disorders) but most alarming, is the number of reported suicides following the bullying occurrences.
In extreme cases, Victims have reported lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and a variety of emotional responses, retaliating, being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed; mainly leading up to hopelessness, and isolation… a classic recipe for suicide.
That’s why the necessary reaction when the damage has already been done, (after reporting the incident) is to turn towards the victim, and deflect the negative energy they most likely have felt after their abuse.
In cases where the parents start sensing that the abuse has led up to deep emotional or psychological scarring- even though the victim may not acknowledge this- therapy is recommended; but not mandated (depending on the condition and willingness of the afflicted individual)
Nevertheless, if therapy is not an option; then there’s a series of simple steps, to ensure the recovery of the victim after their stressful experience.
Bullying Aftermath First step: the Confrontation
Occasionally the victims themselves will not be willing to admit the abuse; either because they’re in denial, or they already feel stressed out by other occurrences in their life (family issues, school work and activities etc…) so although the effect of the abuse on them will be obvious; they will try to ignore it, and won’t be keen on discussing it- as a defense mechanism- That definitely doesn’t make the problem go away, and even though time may fade the emotional scaring; it will still leave a trace, and an unsavory one at that. Parents might think it better to give them their space, in fear of applying further pressure on them; but that would just be covering up the problem as opposed to solving it.
In this situation, what’s needed is a type of “intervention” where everything can be put out into the open, all the distractions left aside, until the inflicted party faces what they’re dealing with, how they feel about it, and accept that they need to handle it. (Breakdowns are permissible; they boost the healing process).
Bullying Aftermath Step 2: explanation without exoneration.
It is crucial that the injured party receives a valid explanation for their maltreatment, in order for them to be able to move on; and a lot of the times-especially with younger victims- this aspect is absent.
This is not an easy process; it requires a broad investigation of the events leading up to the abuse process, as well as an understanding of the perpetrators’ mentality and background. It has to be made clear that this is not justifying the offenders’ actions, but merely shedding light on the situation, to avoid any confusion or self-condemning manner on the victims’ side.
– If the bully goes to the same class or school, parents should ask their school guidance counselor, teacher for a detailed report on him/her (keeping in mind that the bullies behavior might not always be public) Ex. Do they have a history of violent-aggressive behavior? Is it possible that they might be mistreated at home? Have they previously shown signs of social hostility? Etc…
Is their family struggling financially? Do any of their family members show sign of alcohol or drug abuse?
-If the bully lives in the same neighborhood, then the information can be requested from residents of adjacent homes; when there’s a will there’s a way. Then after gathering enough information and analyzing the causes behind their behavior, a list of possible theories should be presented to the victim; and they should be allowed to make their own deductions accordingly.
Bullying Aftermath Step 3: Healing!
Once the inflicted has come to terms with the fact that they have been through an ordeal which they’ve had no hand in and that it’s come to an end, then it’s time for them to leave the past, look forward and move on.
If the bully has not been expelled, and the victim feels uncomfortable remaining in the same school, then a transfer should be considered (mid-semester transfers are unsavory, but if their academic functioning is already in question due to psychological distress; then it might be the only way out).
They need to become more involved in social events, sports or other activities, and most of all a hobby if they don’t already have one.
If they have previously resorted to seclusion, they’ll most likely have their apprehensions regarding dealing with crowds, so the change can be made gradual, and they can set their own pace; but social involvement is necessary for building character, and being a part of a team instills a sense of contribution and belonging.
And last but not least is to help them grow a passion for life, to enjoy simple pleasures such as riding a bike or jogging in the local park, and to have hope and ambition; being able to look beyond their experience to their life ahead. By organizing their life and devising an exciting daily schedule, they’ll have the incentive to progress, and won’t be tied down to their ordeal.