I read an interesting concept in an editorial titled “Outnumber the bullies.” The proposed idea was: “In short, there is power in numbers: If the victims and non-victims of bullying work together to stand up against the bullies, then the bullies would be tremendously outnumbered and would stop their antics like the cowards they are.” I can see how that might work if onlookers courageously stand with victims, but please allow me to offer an option that may work if onlookers become spectators, unwilling to risk injury.
I was in the ninth grade the year that one of my school’s bullies (of all students, a preacher’s son) chose me as his next show of strength and power. He followed me around the school grounds during free periods daily, challenging me to pass the first lick. By the third day much of the student body followed us, not to support me, but to see me beaten to smithereens; even my best friends hung around the fringes, a safe distance from the bully and his followers (gang?).
When, at the crowd’s urging, the bully finally painlessly brushed rather than struck my chin, a feeling I have never felt before nor since came over me. With strength and power I have never felt before nor since, I hit him under his chin so hard that he rolled several feet into the gymnasium wall, and the fight was over. Expanded, sensationalized accounts of the one lick (only fight of my entire life) followed me throughout high school and into the workplace, where I overheard one worker warn another to never challenge me.
My personal experience proved at least to me that bullies want the attention of the crowd; they do not want to risk being injured themselves. Whether it was the pain of the blow, or the shock that I finally stopped backing down, one or the other “adjusted his attitude;” to my knowledge he never bullied anyone again, and today we greet each other cordially, although we still are not the best of friends.
I am by no means encouraging physical reaction to bullying if that can be avoided, but being the victim puts you in the right, and the bully in the wrong. Being in the right produces physical power and strength beyond comprehension. If the potential and non-victims looking on will not stand with you, or defend you, stand your ground anyway. The bully does not really want to harm you, he or she wants to enhance his or her notorious reputation with your fear. The last thing such cowards want, the one thing they will avoid, is facing what they are threatening you with.
Robert C. Currie Jr.