Inaction against bullying behavior not always best
I am responding to the article in the April 2013 issue about dealing with bullying behavior.
In several places the article says that one of the best responses to bullying is, “ … to do nothing at all.” This response is based on the practice of not providing reinforcement to the bully’s behavior, including not allowing them to see your emotional reaction, which further encourages their behavior.
While I know and support the general principal and wisdom in this, I believe it overemphasizes the tolerance of violent behavior. Would we say the same to a woman who is being stalked and threatened by her abuser, just ignore him because if you respond you will only encourage him? No, we would not.
I realize that inaction is often a strategic and effective action, but there is also a need to encourage action against the bullying behaviors of others that violate the rights and safety of fellow human beings. Domestic violence theory and intervention has contributed significantly to this by emphasizing how such issues are a community problem that require a coordinated community response, which takes the pressure and responsibility off the victim.
Each priority and statement is true: those who bully have their own issues and needs and hurt not only others but themselves by their actions and deserve help; we should encourage forgiveness and promote nonviolent responses; and we should not ask those who are being violated to “just ignore it.”
As social workers we need to develop assertive response strategies and resources for our clients, but also systemic responses for families, schools and communities.
John Paulson, ACSW, LCSW, LCAC