5 Myths About Victims of Bullying

Dispelling common myths about victims of bullying

upset teen girl with her hands on her face

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As a society, we have come to believe certain things about kids who are targeted by bullies. But when it comes to understanding victims of bullying, it is important to dispel these myths. Victims are not weak and they do not deserve to be bullied.

Bullying has more to do with the bully than it has to do with some defect in the target.

Here are five common myths that people believe about victims of bullying.

Myth 1: All Victims of Bullying Are Vulnerable, Weak and Nonassertive

While it is true some victims of bullying are vulnerable and nonassertive, this assumption is not always factual. All kids are at risk for being bullied regardless of who they are. Even kids who are popular and well-liked can be bullied. What’s more, kids can be bullied because they are gifted students, have special needs, struggle with food allergies and even because they excel at athletics.

In fact, bullying in sports is relatively common. When people assume all victims of bullying are weak this exacerbates the shame and embarrassment kids feel when they are bullied. It also increases the likelihood that they won’t tell an adult when they are being bullied.

Myth 2: Victims of Bullying Do Something to Deserve the Bullying

Bullying is always a choice made by bullies. And early intervention into their bullying behavior is the only way to address the issue. While helping victims of bullying build self-esteem, become assertive and make friends will help deter bullying, adults must be careful not to blame the victim for the bullying.

Never imply that if the victim was different somehow the bullying would not occur. Keep the focus on the choices the bully made and not on something the victim needs to do differently.

Myth 3: Victims of Bullying Tend to Overreact and Need to Get Tougher

Most adults have a hard time understanding just how painful bullying can be. This phenomenon is often referred to as an empathy gap. Many adults believe that bullying is a rite of passage and that it will build character in kids. But research has shown that bullying can have serious consequences.

In fact, a number of issues have been linked to bullying including depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If your teen is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

The best thing adults can do to help a victim of bullying is to put an end to the bullying. They also should take steps to help the target overcome bullying and move on with their lives.

Myth 4: Victims of Bullying Always Report Bullying

Parents often believe that if their children were being bullied they would know it. But research has shown that kids rarely disclose what is happening to them even when they have excellent relationships with their parents.

Parents and educators need to be aware of the signs of bullying and be prepared to step in at the first indication that something is not right. Allowing bullying to go on for too long can have lasting long-term effects.

Myth 5: Victims of Bullying Should Retaliate Against the Bullies

One popular thought among parents is to teach their kids how to fight back. While it is important for children to defend themselves against bullying, it is not a good idea to encourage them to retaliate or get revenge.

Aside from the fact that fighting back usually only escalates the problem, research has shown that bully-victims, or kids that are both bullies and victims, suffer the steepest consequences of all victims of bullying. What’s more, they tend to be shunned by their peers more than pure bullies or pure targets. Encouraging your child to get even with a bully never helps the situation.

Teach your child how to be assertive and how to avoid bullies at school. Additionally, work with the school to put an end to the bullying.

A Word from Verywell Family

Discovering that your child is being bullied at school can be both heartbreaking and overwhelming. But addressing the issue with some knowledge about what it is like to be a victim of bullying, will make you better equipped to deal with the issue in a knowledgeable and compassionate way. After all, there are some truths about bullying that only victims understand. The more you can learn about victims of bullying, the better you will be at confronting the issue and helping your child heal from his experience. 

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