What is Bullying?
April is National Crime Victims’ Awareness Month. In March of 2018, Bullying officially became a crime in the State of Michigan. Bullying is defined by an imbalance of power, with an intent to cause harm, and tends to be repetitious. Types of bullying include verbal, physical, property, sexual, and cyberbullying.
Whether you’re a youth or an adult, attending school or in the workplace, bullying can happen to anyone at any point in life. It’s a serious issue that can play a large role in the development of a person, whether it be mental, emotional or physical. Recognizing warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying.
Signs that someone is being bullied
The warning signs for someone who is being bullied are:
· coming home with damaged or missing belongings
· trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams
· appears moody, angry anxious, or depressed
· talks about suicide
Signs that someone is being a bully
It is also important to recognize the warning signs of people who bully others. They are:
· Violent with others
· Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
· Will not accept responsibility for their actions
· Has friends who bully others
Bullying as a Crime
As of March 2019 a law went into effect that states cyberbullying is a crime punishable by 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. A ”pattern of repeated harassment” is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Meanwhile, cyberbullying that is found to cause a victim’s death is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Common Ground’s Victim Assistance Program is available to help those who are victims of bullying or cyber bullying. Call or text the Resource and Crisis Helpline at 1.800.231.1127 for further assistance.
Tips and Prevention
Everyone has the right to be supported with the power of listening and being open with one another. People can have a difficult time admitting they are being bullied and the thoughts and feeling associated with these experiences. Asking open-ended questions will help facilitate discussion.
Additionally, it is common for the helper or supporter to get angry about the situation. However, try not to respond to the survivor with anger. Anger can make the survivor feel like they need to support the helper, instead of themselves.
Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior – they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can help stop bullying behavior over time. It’s also important to teach kids how to identify bullying and how to stand up to it safely. Visit stopbullying.gov for more resources on how to prevent bullying and how to safely stand up to it.
Author: Erin Spankowski, Victim Advocate of Common Ground’s Victim Assistance Program