Understanding and preventing bullying

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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s also National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, which makes sense because these two issues are often linked and share some characteristics.

A 2013 study showed children exposed to domestic violence as toddlers, but not after, are more likely to bully other children. Studies also show that many children who are bullies continue being aggressive as adults.

A 2010 study of 1,400 men, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, concluded men who were bullies at school are four times more likely to physically assault their wives or girlfriends than men who never bullied.

According to StopBullying.gov to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and involve: One, an imbalance of power – bullies use power like physical strength, knowledge about embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others; second, repetition – bullying behaviors happen more than once.

Aggressive acts can be verbal, social, or physical.

Verbal bullying – the most common form students report – includes teasing, name-calling, sexual comments, taunting, or threats.

Social bullying, the second most common, includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling others not to be friends with them, spreading rumors, or publicly embarrassing them.

Physical bullying can be hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, pushing, spitting, breaking possessions, or making mean or rude hand gestures. Physical bullying also includes inappropriate touching and sexual assault.

Bullying affects all children: victims, bullies and witnesses. Victims are more likely to develop depression and anxiety; health issues; have lower grades and standardized scores; participate less in school; and are more likely to drop out.

Children who are bullies are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs; fight; carry a weapon; vandalize property; drop out of school; engage in early sexual activity; and become perpetrators of domestic violence and child abuse. Bullies are five times more likely to become criminal defendants than non-bullies. Children who witness bullying have increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs; increased depression and anxiety; and are more likely to skip school.

The best way to deal with bullying is to prevent it. Teachers, parents, and school staff can take action to make schools safer. Help children understand bullying. Talk to them about what it is and how to intervene or report it safely. All classes should have regular discussions and role playing to help children understand bullying and how to respond.

Parents should check in with children often about school and what is going on with other kids at school and on the playground. Children can be taught bullying is everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility to stop it. 

One of the most important things we can do as adults is to show children in the community how others should be treated. Children learn how to behave by watching us. So if we always treat everyone with kindness and respect, our children will do the same – at school and as adults.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc.,which offers FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV’s 24-hour crisis line at 575-758- 9888, TaosCAV.org.

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