The importance of the bystander

One reason bullies get away with what they do is that the people who witness the bullying do nothing about it. These bystanders can be the adults who dismiss bullying with a wave of the hand and a “kids will be kids,” or they can be other children, who even may be uncomfortable with what they’re seeing and want to do something, but are not sure what to do. Regardless, a bystander is in part culpable in allowing the bullying to continue and for giving the bully one of the things a bully craves: an audience.

Educating the bystander, the witness to bullying, seems to be a key to truly bringing an end to bullying. We can’t go into people’s homes and arrange for parents to engender empathy and understanding in their children. But we can teach children from the earliest years what it means to witness a wrong and to point it out.

Bystanders may take on many forms. They may be onlookers who don’t like what they’re seeing but out of fear or a reluctance to get involved, they say nothing. They may be friends of the bully who don’t want to interfere for fear of losing their friendship. They may even be defenders of the bully, as the friends of Dharun Ravi and Mae Wong have proved to be, coming to their friends’ defense in the face of some pretty clear evidence of bullying, at least on Ravi’s part.

A question for you, the reader. Have you ever found yourself in a bystander situation? If so, what did you do?

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About ejwillingham

Sciwriter/editor/autism-ADHD parent. SciMaven @ http://doublexscience.blogspot.com/. I speak my pieces @ http://daisymayfattypants.blogspot.com/ & @ http://thebiologyfiles.blogspot.com/
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3 Responses to The importance of the bystander

  1. Josh says:

    Yes, I was a bystander on a few occasions. I was a frequent target of bullies myself, so I usually wasn’t so keen on furthering that by intervening in a situation where someone else was getting it. I regret that now, but at the same time I was a little relieved it was someone else getting it at that moment and not me.

    Conversely, there were a lot of bystanders who watched me get bullied relentlessly and did nothing about it, or worse, laughed at the situation. It does increase the feeling of helplessness and worthlessness that the victim has.

  2. Ali says:

    Yes, I’ve been a bystander. Like Josh, I was a frequent victim and was relieved to be taken out of that role for a short time, and didn’t want to remind the bullies of my existence too quickly. As an adult I feel ambivalent towards my actions.

    The bystanders with power are those who are rarely or never victims. They don’t have to weigh the good of helping someone else and the good of not being bullied themselves.

  3. Pingback: Bullied teen develops text-based anti-bullying program: Report and Support | End the Bullying

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