Innocent Bystanders to Bullying and Sexual Coercion?

Welcome to our community of kind, thoughtful people who want respect for all,

Bullies have always been around.  Those who want all the power take it from those who appear to be less powerful.  Although we are used to seeing a bullying  or sexual coercion experience s one that is essentially between two parties, the victim and the offender, there is a third group involved.  That important part of triangle is the bystander or witness.

Bystander Bullies

Important research has been done by Ken Rigby and Bruce Johnson from the School of Education at the University of South Australia.

Bullies will often stop if a bystander or witness speaks up. Bystanders can help either directly or indirectly.

Their ground breaking studies have shown that while most bullying and sexual coercion takes place in at school and in the presence of bystanders, teachers are rarely present or find out what happened.

Although bystanders sometime will speak out to discourage the bullying, the most common response is to ignore what is going on and thus the bullying continues.

Step Up and Speak Out

When a witness or bystander does speak up and object to the treatment of a fellow classmate, in more than half the cases the bullying actually stops. A large number of the children interviewed indicated that as bystanders they would ignore what was going on as “it is not my business.”  A small minority admitted they would not only ignore the victim, but would yell encouragement to the bully.

This seemed to be true especially in teenage boys.  Over half of the boys interviewed indicated they would, as bystanders and witnesses, ignore both physical and verbal bullying.  However, when it came to sexual coercion fewer students were prepared to ignore what was going on.  They either helped the victim directly or helped indirectly by telling a teacher or adult.  But, sadly, there were still twenty percent of the witnesses, mainly boys, who were prepared to ignore what was going on.

What To Teach Your Children

When one observes or witnesses trauma, it affects our spirit and sense of values.  There are no innocent bystanders.

Schools, churches, clubs, sports and other places where children gather need to be aware of the dynamics of the group and the opportunity of some to misuse power by bullying and sexually coercing others. The positive feelings and self esteem

that those who step up and defend victims are important and need to be congratulated and encouraged.  By encouraging empathy and courage, we can all empower the bystanders to not just stand by, but to speak up when there is bullying and sexual coercion occurring within our circle of influence.

I have confidence in you, Judy

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