Witnesses to Bullying, Please Stand Up

My friend posted this video on her Facebook page and I had to share it with you. Two actors play out scenes of bullying in public areas to see how people would react. Please take five minutes and watch this video.

As someone who faced significant bullying during my grade school education, this video nearly brings tears to my eyes. People didn’t seem to react at all until they escalated the bullying to threats of physical assault. Even then, only a few people tried to help out. I’m very proud of the woman who stood up in this video. She was alone when she witnessed bullying perpetrated by someone who is bigger and possible stronger than she is. What if this was a real situation? What if he turned on her? Would anyone help then?

What disturbs me most about this video is the fact that it had to get physical before someone bothered to stand up. What about the bullying that isn’t physical? It could just be name calling or talking behind someones back. If you see emotional anguish on someone’s face as someone bullies them with nothing but words, how many would step in? If someone post “go kill yourself” on someone’s Facebook page, would anyone protest?

When I was bullied in school, social media wasn’t huge. Home was a sanctuary for me. All of my experiences involve being at school and only rarely was there a physical assault. There was a lot of pointing, laughing and name calling. My friends were always there for me, but I didn’t always have a lot of friends (especially in grade school and middle school). My bullies were too smart, anyway. Their harshest comments came when I was alone and there were no authority figures around.

I remember the one and only time someone who was not my friend stood up for me. I was walking through the hallways of my high school cradling a stack of textbooks in my arms. Someone ran into me hard and all the books scattered across the floor. There were a lot of students in the hallway and my only reaction was to salvage the books before they were kicked too far away. I was far too numb by that point to feel any anger or despair.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much. Compared to other things I experienced, it’s nothing. Nonetheless, the guy who ran into me laughed and started to walk away when another guy approached. I was particularly surprised that this person came forward because I had known him in Catholic school (aka, the middle school where I had few friends). He said something along the lines of, “Hey, can you at least say you’re sorry?”

I was floored. No one had ever tried to stand up for me before. They all just turned the other way. Nothing much came of it. I think the guy who ran into me said something like “What? Do you like her or something?” I don’t remember because I was trying to pick up my books and the guy who stood up for me helped. We didn’t know each other well and I can’t say that we ever spoke again after that. Even so, I can’t forget that feeling of shock. People who associated with me got picked on and here was this guy, who hardly knew me, sticking his neck out there for me. I’m thankful for that moment. It gave me hope in what was a very dark time in my life. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to consider the possibility there might be some good in the world.

If you stop someone from being bullied, whether they are being verbally or physically bullied, you might not do anything. When you turn your back, that bully might continue their behavior. Even worse, your involvement might cause the bully to target you, as well. Regardless, that person that was getting picked on, the one you stood up for, will never forget you. Standing up for someone once has the potential to give them enough strength to persevere through all the rest.

If you see anyone being harassed, please stand up. Do something, even if all you can think to do is call for help.



6 thoughts on “Witnesses to Bullying, Please Stand Up”

  1. That’s a really powerful video. It brought tears to my eyes, too.

    I suspected that many didn’t intervene because they were afraid of being hurt themselves, so it’s interesting that some who did successfully intervene were clearly smaller and less muscly than the big bully.

    I’ll have to say that I have done work to stop bullying but more behind the scenes. Maybe because of fear in the moment and not knowing that my own intervention in the moment could help.

    Instead, I talked with the bullies later and asked them why they were doing what they were doing. Since these were elementary school kids they didn’t really know why they were being bullies. When they couldn’t think of a good reason why, They all stopped. When I got into psychology later, I learned that when you ask people why they do something, they often don’t know the real reason, and will start to think that whatever they were doing was kind of stupid. Maybe that’s why it worked.

    1. That’s one way. Perhaps it’s even more effective because they stopped their bullying.

      What I find interesting about that video was that the witnesses were allowing themselves to be bullied, though they may not have thought that way at the time.

      Clearly there is a bully who is harassing a specific person. His actions also harass the witnesses who leave out of fear of becoming involved. The difference between the witness and the victim is that the witness can choose to stand up and stop it (again, even if all they can do is go get help).

  2. i saw this too. it’s a tricky thing because bullying is UNACCEPTABLE yet we as a society (and growing up) are conditioned to “mind your business”. however, i will NOT stand for this if i see bullying. i have stopped this before when i was in school. maybe because i was bullied as a kid and couldn’t stand to see someone go through that as well. bullying needs to stop.

    1. I’d be the same way for the same reason. Sometimes I catch D’s nieces saying something about a peer’s hair or clothes. Even though their peer is not present, I feel compelled to explain how hurtful they are being.

      Maybe it’s impossible for people who were never severely bullied to understand the torture a bully victim endures. When I was a child, I would have given anything for a peer or an adult to put a stop to it. Now that I am an adult, I intend to be that person I hoped for.

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