To what extent can bullies be seen as the victims of bystanders?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Cora Sargeant
Submitted: May 2011

Bullying is defined as any repeated behaviour designed to cause harm to someone not readily able to defend themselves. Due to the severe consequences of bullying for the victim, it is understandable that bullies have been cast as sole antagonists in the bullying dynamic, victimising the vulnerable and intimidating bystanders into complicit inaction. This essay challenges this view, arguing that bullying behaviour can be viewed as the misguided effort of a rejected group to be more accepted by their peers through the public derogation of other rejected groups. The essay goes on to argue that this reinterpretation of the role of the bully necessitates a reinterpretation of the role of the bystander. Bystanders have been viewed as intimidated into frequent inaction during bullying episodes. This essay argues that bystander inaction can be equally viewed as a form of social rejection of the bully, with bystanders distancing themselves from their counter-normative behaviour. Thus bullies can be seen as the victims of bystander inaction, caught in a vicious cycle where bullying becomes both the cause of and the only perceived solution to social exclusion and rejection. Implications of this reinterpretation of the roles of bullies and bystanders for anti-bullying interventions are discussed.

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