Direct bullying is the most obvious form of bullying, but does not lessen the effects of indirect or cyber-bullying. Although bullying covered in the media is primarily reports about children who are bullied, bullying of adults occurs all too often, especially in the workplace. Parents, educators, managers, human resources administrators and those working with victims should learn the different types of bullying, how to distinguish between them and how to address bullying.
Direct Bullying vs. Indirect Bullying vs. Cyber-Bullying
Direct bullying is:
- Confrontational bullying
- The most obvious
- Acts of physical assault when someone is hit, punched, kicked, stomped, beaten, stabbed or shot.
- PBS explains that direct bullying occurs when an individual is verbally teased or called names or physically attacked.
- Stopbullying.gov says that bullying can include inappropriate sexual comments or gestures.
- Males are often the perpetrator of direct bullying
- Those responsible for the bullying are easily identifiable
In indirect bullying:
- Lies and rumors are spread
- Mean comments are made about the intended target of bullying.
- The person or persons responsible for indirect bullying may not be immediately known.
- The bullying is committed on-line
- A person is pretending to be someone else on social media sites and then spreads rumors or lies
- A victim is contacted through social media and threatened or harassed
- The bully tries to get others to join in to commit acts of cyber-bullying.
When direct bullying occurs there is little or no effort made to conceal the identity of the bully or bullies. It primarily occurs with schoolchildren, but also occurs in the workplace. Workplace bullying is reported even less often than the bullying of children.
Direct bullying has led to intimidation so severe that the bullied person committed or attempted to commit suicide. After photographs of 17 year old Rehtaeh Parsons being raped by a boy at a party began circulating at school and in the community, she was frequently called “slut” and other names by students at school. Rehtaeh told her mother what happened a few days later, but after investigating, police told the family it was a he said, she said situation, according to a CBC report published by MSN Canada. Even when made aware of the pictures, police said there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges, stating the photographs were not a criminal issue, even though the girl was a minor. Rehtaeh died a few days after her suicide attempt.
Another woman claims her mother was driven to suicide as a result of workplace bullying, as reported by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Annette Prada worked for a state agency, the Public Relations Commission in New Mexico. After a series of demotions, direct verbal abuse on the job as well as bullying emails, her family explained that Annette committed suicide, unable to deal with the bullying for another 2 years, when she would be able to retire after 25 years of service.
Although workers stated there was a pattern of bullying at the PRC, as demonstrated by reports and lawsuits, the chief of staff for the state agency claimed to know nothing of any report filed by Annette Prada regarding the bullying and harassment that co-workers said she complained about for 5 years before committing suicide.
Bullying does not just cause hurt feelings and bruises; it causes physical and emotional illness that is well-documented. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health published results of a study that tested how being a victim of childhood bullying results in “low-grade systemic inflammation” into young adulthood that is not present in young adults who were not victims in childhood. Structured interviews and blood tests produced the results, which even demonstrated that children who did the bullying had less risk of the low-grade systemic inflammation as they entered young adulthood. Other studies have long demonstrated the psycho-social effects of direct bullying, leading to stress and even PTSD.
A child who is hit, punched, beat on and verbally abused learns to hit, punch, beat on and verbally abuse others. This is what the child knows because it is what happens to him or her at home. The workplace bully may be the abuser at home or may have been a victim of bullying and is now inflicting pain and suffering on the target at work, leaving the employee to feel weak and helpless like the spouse or child victim at home. The perpetrator is overwhelmingly a male, just as in cases of domestic violence.
There are common misconceptions about who bullies are and the effect that bullying has on victims. You may be surprised at the actual facts:
- Bullying is just a part of growing up
Bullying is not just a part of growing up. No one has the right to physically assault another person and that includes children. No one has the right to intimidate a person through verbal threats such as those that occur with direct bullying.
- The bully is just insecure and lonely
Studies have proved this is untrue in many cases. The bully is not just another weak individual like the victim who is being preyed upon; the bully is often a popular boy or girl who is very socially connected. With his or her many friends, it is easy to get others on-board to commit the bullying as well.
- My child would never bully anyone
Parents are often shocked, even in denial when confronted by authorities or school administrators with evidence that their child is a bully. Parents often believe a mistake has been made, that the victim is lying on their child or that school personnel is out to get their child. The fact is that children often act differently when in their circle of friends or at school.
Recognizing the definition and signs that a loved one is a victim of bullying is not enough. Taking action and encouraging the victim to stand tall will help address bullying. The Workplace Bullying Institute explains that not calling “bullying” bullying “is a disservice to bullied individuals whose jobs, careers, and health have been threatened as the result.” Here are ways that you can help stop direct bullying:
- Intervene immediately if you see bullying going on. Get help from another adult to intervene with you if necessary
- Separate all parties involved and make sure that everyone is safe
- Do not try to immediately sort out the facts; that could lead to further bullying and intimidation if kids are confronted in public to tell what happened
- Address any medical needs immediately. Even if you cannot see injuries, if the victim seems disoriented or exhibits other symptoms that tell you something is not right, get emergency medical attention on the scene immediately
- Call police immediately if there is physical harm, sexual assault, threats made to the victim or to rescuers
- Also call police if a weapon was involved or if other crimes have been committed such as robbery or threat of robbery
Parents, school administrators and teachers, community leaders and the public should become educated in preventing and responding to all types of bullying. It begins at home. Talk to your children about bullying and make sure they understand it is not acceptable behavior. Tell them to report any bullying directed at them or someone they know as soon as it occurs. Do not have just a single conversation with your children about bullying; keep the lines of communication open by letting them know they can talk to you at any time about anything.
If you see bullying in the workplace, follow the chain of command for reporting the bullying. If it is a manager doing the bullying, report it to your human resources office or union representative. If you are the victim of direct workplace bullying, keep documented notes of when bullying occurs and who is doing the bullying. If it turns into a legal case you will have to accurately state specific events and dates. Do not keep the documentation in your desk drawer. Take it home with you at the end of each day. Educators and administrators should have regular training sessions for staff regarding bullying. Students and employees should be included in regular sessions to educate them about the definition of bullying, the effects of bullying and what to do about it. Only when direct bullying is finally addressed as an illegal act, will there likely be a larger response to address it and end it.
There are laws against bullying that vary from state-to-state, but there is currently no federal law against bullying. You can click the map on the Stop Bullying state map page to learn about the anti-bullying laws in your state.