Bullies: From the Playground to the Boardroom — Strategies for Survival
By Jane Middelton-Moz and Mary Lee Zawadski
Emotionally disturbing yet cathartic, this groundbreaking book by two leading experts in the field of community intervention, anger and addiction, provides a compelling expose on all aspects of bullying. Using in-depth case studies of bullies and those they bullied, Middelton-Moz and Zawadski provide a true look at the problem and what can be done to stop it.
Focusing on environments where bullying occurs most frequently—in schools, homes, relationships, workplaces and cyberspace—the authors identify six bullying strategies that encourage bullying behavior and provide concrete ways to defuse tense or potentially hazardous situations. Equally important, Middleton-Moz and Zawadski explain how to reach out to bullies with the appropriate guidance and support, without which bullies will only continue to create fear and anxiety in others.
No matter how hard they try, it is virtually impossible for parents to keep up with all the apps and technological changes that enable bullying to remain anonymous. To help them, the authors have included a chapter just for parents on how to monitor their children's behavior and online interactions to keep them grounded. For both parents and educators, Middleton-Moz and Zawadski also explore innovative anti-bullying programs and offer advice about which ones are really working.
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Health Communications Inc
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Moving Out of Denial
The small Hitlers are around us every day, tormenting us with their promises, rejoicing in our weaknesses, demanding our trust, our votes, and our lives, while remaining totally indifferent to everything except their thirst for power.
Jay Carter from Nasty People
It was June Grittman's job to keep traffic moving at Portland International Airport. Just before 10:00 pm she approached the driver of a sleek Mercedes-Benz coupe parked in a no-parking zone. She asked the operator of the vehicle to move his car. According to June, he ignored her for a time, then cursed her for telling him to move, calling her every dirty name in the book, explaining that he could 'buy and sell' people like her. According to the March 12, 1997, Oregonian, the incident escalated when June stepped in front of his car to write him a ticket. 'Witnesses said that the driver bragged that he made $3 million a year and that if Grittman didn't get out of the way, he would run over her.' In a later court hearing, Grittman testified that the driver moved forward with his car and hit her knees. He then backed up a few inches and hit her harder, throwing her onto the car's hood and drove away. June said she suffered knee and lower-back injuries as well as emotional trauma from the incident (Smith, 1997, p. 1A).
Although the driver of the car, Darrell Brett, a millionaire neurosurgeon from a lucrative Portland practice, claimed that June was belligerent and that he hit her by accident, a Portland jury didn't see it that way. After three hours of deliberation the jury found that he had committed civil battery and awarded June $1 million in damages. This, however, wasn't the end of the surgeon's days in court. He faced still another lawsuit brought by a Portland area pharmacist who contended that the surgeon made ethnic slurs against him when he called for confirmation of a prescription. This case was settled out of court.
Brett's behavior seems outrageous, yet it is all too familiar to people who have been the targets of bullies in relationships, in the workplace, in sporting arenas or in stores, at airports, on our nation's highways, in neighborhoods, and to parents whose children are continually harassed in schools. Bullies frequently begin their cruel targeting of others as early as elementary school, leaving considerable emotional pain in their wake.
Rita and Bill Head of Marietta, Georgia, know that pain. Their son, Brian, endured bloody noses, broken eyeglasses and name-calling for years. When he was fifteen, Brian walked into a classroom and yelled, 'I just can't take it anymore,' and shot himself to death in front of his peers. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Brian's mother tearfully read a poem Brian left: 'For all my life I have lived with the words that haunt me, the words of America's children' (Nissen et al., 1999).
Like thousands of parents across the nation, Bill Head was concerned for his son and told him to tell his teachers about the taunting behavior of his classmates, but 'figured it was normal kids' stuff' (Mulrine, May 3, 1999).
The emotional pain is also known by Leah Parsons and Glen Canning, the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons, a teen who was sexually assaulted and then became the target of cyberbullying and harassment by her peers and took her own life in April of 2013. They, like many parents who have lost their children to bullycide, are fighting for prevention and for the rights of victims.
Bullying is not merely, as many minimize, an occasional stinging comment made by significant others at the breakfast table, a passing bad day with the boss, children wrestling with others on the playground, or learning the hard-won lessons of sibling rivalry or conflict resolution with one's peers. Bullying is frequent and systematic cruelty deliberately aimed at a person by a person or persons with the intent of gaining power over another by regularly inflicting psychological and/or physical pain. As stated by Peter Randal, 'The bully wins something that he or she wants. Sometimes this is just the pleasure of watching someone else in pain or seeing their fear; often it is the extortion of something valued like their property or giving up their rights to holiday leave or even parking slots' (Randall, 1997, p. 15).
Despite the catchphrase that many of us grew up hearing, 'Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you,' being the target of bullying definitely hurts and is sometimes lethal. Unfortunately, Brian Head is one of hundreds of youths who commit suicide after repeated bullying by classmates.
Several research studies report that 75 percent of our nation's youth had been bullied during their teen years. According to a report from the National Association of School Psychologists, every day in America over 160,000 children miss school because of fears of bullying, and, in a study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 81 percent of the students surveyed admitted to bullying their classmates in one form or another.
According to a study conducted by the American Association of Suicidology, more than 20 percent of the high school students surveyed said that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding twelve months. Teasing, bullying and social rejection top the list of triggers in completed suicides.
Our lack of awareness often causes us to be both deaf and blind to the pain experienced by our nation's youth and, as a result, our young people too often become the prisoners of their sadness and depression, seeing little possibility for change and no way out. Those who have attempted suicide frequently let us know that they didn't try to kill themselves because they wanted to be dead, but rather because they didn't want to continue living the way they were living.
A fourteen-year-old boy who had been bullied for some time and committed suicide to escape the hurt left these words in a suicide note to his mother: 'I could take a gun and shoot all the boys, but I'm not a bad person. I'm not going to name the bullies either. You know who you are. I was laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. Mom, after my death, go to the schools and talk with the kids. Tell them to stop bullying each other because it hurts deeply. I'm taking my life to show how much' (Moharib, 2000).
It is not surprising that the perpetrators of this hurtful behavior regularly deny their actions or minimize the effect their systematic cruelty has on others. What is surprising to us is that millions of people in the United States today seem to lack awareness that bullying is a serious and costly problem worthy of attention. In fact, many friends and acquaintances that have been consistently supportive of our past work in areas of psychological trauma and its effects laughed when told that we were working on a book on bullies. 'Really? Bullies? That surprises me. You usually write about important issues.' 'Why are you wasting your talent and energy on that?' 'Oh come on. That's silly. Bullying isn't serious. It's just part of life, it doesn't really damage anyone. People just need to toughen up!'
Being the target of bullying causes strong feelings of fear and shame, increases vulnerability, lowers self-esteem, and leads to anxiety, depression and feelings of powerlessness that often increase victimization. Sadly, victims blame themselves for the bully's behavior and frequently others blame the victim as well: 'If he'd just stop being such a wimp . . .' 'If he can't take the heat, he should get out of the kitchen.' 'He just needs to smarten up.' 'If he'd lose weight, he wouldn't be such a target.' 'She's attractive, she should expect guys will focus on her.' 'She made her bed, she'll just have to lie in it.' 'If she'd just ignore it, they would stop.' 'Those people should learn to expect to be a target once in a while. It comes with the territory.' 'Just focus on your work. Don't let them get to you.'
Others dismiss the entire problem with the statement, 'Well, she didn't mean to hurt you, did she? I mean, what she did was mean, but it wasn't intentional.' It is true that some individuals bully as a way of defending themselves from perceived attack, have poor empathy skills or are just trying to become 'one of the guys,' but these explanations don't go very far in alleviating a victim's pain. A schoolmate, boss, coworker, friend, significant other or fellow citizen is still responsible and accountable for the pain they cause others. Explaining away bad behavior has become a justification for 'looking the other way,' and supporting a code of silence that has reached epidemic proportions in our society.
Unfortunately, being the target of bullying has become part of the fabric of many of our lives and we have become numb to its devastating effects. Perhaps because it has become so much a part of our daily lives, the U.S. has been years behind other countries such as Sweden, England, and Australia in focusing on the problem.
For many in the United States, the seriousness of the issue first came into focus with increasing schoolyard violence culminating when two youths in Littleton, Colorado, taking revenge on classmates who had been taunting, teasing and shunning them, shot and killed thirteen students before turning the guns on themselves. A study conducted by the National Threat Assessment Center of the Secret Service concluded that two-thirds of the attackers in thirty-seven school shootings felt persecuted, bullied, threatened and attacked. The bullying was often severe and had occurred over a long period of time.
And now, bullying has caught up with the twenty-first century. A popular Internet site, www.schoolrumors.com, recently closed down briefly for technical reasons after having received seventy thousand visits in a few weeks. 'Kids said horrible things,' says Allan Weiner, principal of Cleveland High School in Reseda, California. 'Bullying used to be confined to a school setting. Now it's worldwide.' Weiner said one student was suicidal after untrue tales of her alleged sexual skills were posted. Another student received harassing phone calls after she was cited as a slut complete with name, address and phone number' (Peterson, USA Today, April 10, 2001 p. O6D).
'Toughening up' isn't the answer. Gaining awareness and taking action is. Lack of awareness and consequences for cruel behavior, consistent minimizing and silence are the bully's most valuable weapons.
© 2014 Jane Middelton-Moz and Mary Lee Zawadski. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Bullies: From the Playground to the Boardroom (Revised Edition). No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.