Bullying and Victim Blaming /Victim Shaming

fingers pointing at person

“People may not realize the damage that they are doing by placing the blame on the victim ~ but that doesn’t lessen the damage that they cause by doing it.” 
― Darlene Ouimet

There is one critical area of bullying that, in my humble opinion (IMHO), continues to be a major issue is victim blaming and/or victim shaming. This issue has been put in the spotlight lately in the Hollywood METOO movement. In that case, it is looked at from a sexual assault angle. But victim blaming and victim shaming may well be one of the most harmful aspects of both issues like rape and bullying to the individual who has it happen to them.

Here are some examples of how it happens in both scenarios:

  1. A sexual assault victim is asked, “What were you wearing when you were attacked. Was it a sexy outfit?”
  2. A bullying assault victim is asked, “What were you doing when you were bullied? Did you say something that the bully would have been offended by?”
  3. A sexual assault victim is asked, “Were you flirting with your attacker?”
  4. A bullying assault victim is asked, “Did you respond to the bully in a mean way. What did you say?”
  5. A sexual assault victim is asked, “Did something you say lead the other person on?”
  6. A bullying assault victim is asked, “Why don’t you just change the way you act, so the bullies don’t bully you?”
  7. A sexual assault victim is asked, “How much did you have to drink?”
  8. A bullying assault victim is asked, “What do you think you are doing to have bullies pick you to bully?”
  9. A sexual assault victim is asked, “Did you talk about sex with the person you say attacked you?”
  10. A bullying assault victim is asked, “I think if you talked to your bully and explained it hurt you, you might be friends. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding?”

I’m sure you have heard the statements about rape victims and rape blaming. There have been movies about it and plenty of lawyers and judges know that is part of legal proceedings. Is it any wonder why they don’t come forward.

But bullying, we really aren’t discussing it as much. I wrote about my incident of dealing with victim blaming/shaming quite a while ago. That incident happened in 1978, so it was and has been my hope that 40 years later, maybe we would have learned something. Then I saw this video from the movie, Bully, that came out in 2011.

I showed this video to someone who was telling me about a recent incident with their son. They were in total shock after watching the video. After seeing it, I always ask, “What might the victim who was blamed and shamed do when they got home after school that day?”

Would they consider suicide, because, at this point, they might realize that the school administration not only won’t support them, they will blame them?

Might they bring a weapon to school for protection or possible use, because they would feel they have no defense against the bullies?

How damaging was this scenario to the bully victim?

What bothers me the most is that this was part of a documentary. I can’t help but think that the school administrator in this video knew that cameras were on here and, I assume, knew that the film being made was about bullying. If this is true, then the administrator thought this was the utmost correct response to the situation. It truly makes me cry.

I don’t know what the answers are any more to stop it from happening. It seems to continue and we can only hope that eventually victim blaming and shaming will stop. The other week, I opened up this conversation on my podcast. I want to understand why we, as a society, do this to victims. But I need help to understand how this can happen and how we can’t see what it does to the victims.

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About bullyingrecovery

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach with a niche in bullying and abuse recovery, Bullying Recovery activist, and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance". and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe
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  1. Victim blaming is the largest obstacle in removing bullying.

  2. This Video. I use the story from this exact video to others so often. It is brilliant.
    It shows how sneaky the bullies are. What it shows me is, when we, the victims, are surrounded by an authority we want peace and distance. A few minutes of peace is brilliant.
    The bully should keep away. But the Mediator/Teacher is so ridiculous for not seeing the Bully is, as we call a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”. Bully looks like a placid sheep, but once the teacher is away, the costume comes off and the Wolf will pounce. Bullies do this in many ways. In Courts we all dress in suits. In front of a teacher, the bully is politely spoken and can be seen as outgoing and supportive. Especially because the Bully is surrounded by like minded fools. And the victim, with low self esteem, shoulders drooped, head down is by themself.
    Reality is once the Authority is away, the Costume is removed again and the Wolf pounces so hard because the authorities see the easy road and do not really see what is happening.

    All we can do is stand strong. Stand firm. As much as possible document what happens. If someone can film it good. Compile enough evidence. Even then, you have to be strong because bullies can justify their abhorrent behaviour.

    Stay Strong. Help each other. As hard as it is to take the rubbish, it is harder to physically fight back because they have support. Document, Document, Document what happens. I think you have more chance of success this way.

    This Video really shows why the victims battle so much to get the message through. It is no wonder we end up so isolated. Find a Rock. Find support. Mine is teh word in the bible. Yours can be whatever. Endure it together. Peace will come.

    • I just sit and wonder what the young man might have done when he got home. I think it is so hard to watch and realize how much we have still to learn.

    • Good points and while I agree with your suggestion about filming the bullying, there have been cases where the victim has recorded the bullying and either they or the parent was arrested and charged with violating wire tapping laws.

  3. I read the link.
    I will say, there is no excuse for the bullies. Today we speak up. I am not sure how you thought: yes maybe the victim…… annoying….

    “Blaming the victim for being bullied is wrong. Yes, maybe the victim may have been annoying but in most of those cases, it is the case of the bully having a low tolerance point and using any excuse to lash out on the victim.”

    How can anyone expect a lonely, isolated victim act normally. The bullies find us annoying because we endure. What are we meant to do? We are nit annoying.

    I think the only reason people find victims annoying is because the victims leave instead of fight and turn up each day because they have to. The victims are annoying because they call authorities.

    Be annoying. Be heard. The noisy wheel gets the oil.

    I agree with 80smetalman observation.
    Filming the bullies can have the victim charged.

    Us victims have to be so careful. We don’t usually have witnesses and if we do, we want to protect them

  4. Being annoying was the excuse bullies used to use to justify their bullying of me, to myself and to anyone in authority who could stop it. I even had one bully say to me, “If you didn’t act so retarded, people wouldn’t pick on you.” Like that justified it. Not!

  5. 80smetalman

    I actually enjoyed your link exactly as it was written.

    I intend buying your book soon.

  6. Thank you very much Michael on both counts.

  7. Alan, I love you and 80smetalman very much

    I hope other people on this site can see whether they are currently “just surviving” life right now whilst on the “bullying journey” on a daily basis right now, or are actually seen as survivors because the event is finished, it is important that us victims speak up comfort others.

    I do read Alan and 80smetalman are survivors.

    That is largely on the surface.

    We are all affected by the bullies. Mentally, financially etc.

    Helping others really helps us. We are still fragile.

    But what a power we have all gained to help and understand others.

    Look out for the people with low self esteem, droopy shoulders sitting by themselves etc.

    We can all help these people.

    I am still taking my bullies through the Justice system.

    It is not a system I wanted to get in, but I knew I cannot win physically.

    We are not alone!

    We can help each other!

    We do not discriminate!

    Glory to the Lord!

  8. Strong People Still Hurt!

    So if you are hurting, it does not mean you are not strong.

    It just means you are a caring person and with enough “mental strength” you will get through this horrible journey inflicted by others who just do not care.

    Find that strength. Be Strong mentally. Find a Rock (or 2) for support.

    This website, can be part of your rock.

  9. That is a great saying.

  10. Great Article! Very timely and needed.

    My Wife and I have started a charity here in Denver and I would like to speak with you and possibly obtain your services. We help parents advocate to get schools to STOP the bullying of their children and have started a Peer Support group for bullied children and upstanders.

    Thank you for all your work!

    • Tom: Congratulations on starting your charity. You can reach me direct by filling out the contact form on my website here and I will get right back to you. I would be honored to hear more about what you are doing.

  11. Hi Tom
    I often wonder why the responsibility is always on the schools.

    I think as advocates you may need to consider to focus on the family of the bullies.

    I was told more often than not, the parents of the bullies are also bullies.

    Surely a parent has more responsibility than the teacher. A parent may have one to three kids. The teacher may have 100 plus to look after as well as educate the good students.

    I am not sure why the focus is always on the schools who are meant to educate the children.

    Sadly the events happen at the school.

    Really, what can the schools do?

    A school is not a reform centre.

    I think it is better to Advocate for a better Justice system.

    Help get teachers more time to do their jobs. They cannot be accountable for bad behaviour and weapons etc that leave the home

    I am not a teacher.

    I am an adult victim/survivor still in the process. The whole family I deal with are feral.

    Fix the Justice system.

    Make it easier to prosecute the buliies. Penalise them. Send them to reform centres. If the parents have knowledge, reform them. Stop the problem before it gets to the school.

    Let the schools educate the youth.

    Reduce lawyers ridiculous fees so Justice is affordable and Justice can prevail.

    Fix the Justice system!

    Please don’t be another who blames the schools who are also victims. They are not parole officers.

  12. Speaking to students is great to let them know they are not alone and bullying is unacceptable.

    But the school is not the problem.

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