Does a Victim Substantiate a Bully?

19 Nov

The whole issue of bullying still resonates with me since the tragedies of a few weeks ago… and the posting I made around that same time.

Statements by someone I once loved still haunt me.  After a verbal tirade, the person said

“A victim substantiates a bully.  You know there wouldn’t be bullies in the world without willing victims.”

I was stunned to hear that an educated person would say this, and I wish I had asked him the rationale behind his statements.  One of the Four Agreements (that I have previously referenced in various posts) is Agreement #3: Never Assume.  This means that when someone says something we do not understand/accept/make sense of, we should ask for clarification before we assume we know what it means.

Today I better understand my role in that co-dependent relationship and realize that my inability to stand up to the other person was part of why the relationship soured.  However, even now I wonder whether the statements were the words of an irrational person or whether society holds the same views.

Do you agree with the statement that a victim substantiates a bully?

Certainly, there would be less abuse in the world if those who are victimized could stand up for themselves strongly and steadfastly immediately.  Do you think it would make a difference if the victims could distance themselves from the situation, and become empowered enough to report bullies or disable them through strong words and actions?

I remember being told “I wish you’d stand up for yourself instead of withdrawing from the disagreement”, and on the occasions when I did stand up for myself and yelled louder than him, I quickly learned that so doing encouraged escalation that didn’t stop until I relented.  In such situations, I wondered why I’d even bothered because it was easier (and quicker) to ending things by not engaging in battle.

I wonder how many victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse have experienced a similar situation.  In retrospect, I do not know if I was actually a “victim” (it does not matter because the relationship ended years ago) — but I do know that the experience of being dismissed summarily was intimidating to say the least.

I have empathy and respect for anyone who finds him/herself a victim of abuse, and frankly, it is NOT your fault.  Victims happen – they are not born – and become so at the hands of people who for whatever reason feel justified to overpower another.

stop bullyingI found a great article online today called How NOT to Raise a Bully: The Early Roots of Empathy where the author states that early parental guidance to teach empathy to children can prevent bullying behavior in later life.  I tend to agree.  It is said that we live what we learn – or is it we learn what we live?  Either way, if a child is brought up in a home devoid of respect for others, it is likely that they will continue to disrespect others.  Parents who do not teach their children to be empathetic  are (in my humble opinion) negligent parents.  And those who are bullies themselves teach their children that such behavior is okay.

What do you think?  Do you think that bullies would exist if there weren’t potential victims?  What has been YOUR experience with this topic?

Have a happy, productive week!



7 Responses to “Does a Victim Substantiate a Bully?”

  1. Steve Chizar Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    In one way or another, everybody has been bullied at one time. My tact was to just ignore the person because I always knew there was a new stage of life coming and that person wouldn’t be around. Even if we would be in the same room, I would not acknowledge their existenece, and they finally tired of looking like the idiots they were. My overall solution to the problem would be to somehow totally bring them to their knees so they would feel that a bully is absolutely worthless. Maybe it isn’t the victim, but society that enables bullies since if a person bullies another, society deems they must be superior. What would happen if instead of putting up with bullies, they were just thrown to the side as totally useless??


    • Carol Dekkers Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 10:12 am #

      Steve, What a great idea to deal with bullies – throw them to the side as totally useless! Unfortunately, society seems to (in some cases) take a strange pleasure in watching the downtrodden (think “American Idol”) – and this needs to be changed in society overall.


  2. Ann-Louise Friday, November 19, 2010 at 10:50 am #

    “You know there wouldn’t be bullies in the world without willing victims…”

    Sounds absolutely insane. Like there weren’t any rapists or murderers without “willing victims”. Okay, I exaggerate a lot.

    Very, very long time ago I was doing final editing on a 300 page report and combined all the chapters together in one document. After doing this, my boss told me that I shouldn’t have done it, yet. He didn’t have any idea of my work or what was my intention. I simply freaked out and smashed those 300 pages to a shelf, nearly hitting his face. I left the room and cried in the ladies room for a while. But, after that, he finally started to appreciate my work instead of bullying.

    Being kind and considerate seems not to pay off very much these days. And this is a very sad observation. But when needed, we absolutely should stand up or put aside those bullies or otherwise mean persons.


    • Carol Dekkers Friday, November 19, 2010 at 11:06 am #


      I’m sorry that this happened to you. No one deserves to be intimidated or bullied when they are doing their best at their job. But it happens…

      I agree with you that being kind and considerate does not seem to pay off these days – especially in our economy where people are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, the wall-street actions that caused the mess in the first place was a greedy, grab-all by the banks who actually in some cases “bet” and manipulated their service offerings against their own loans. In some ways opportunism at the expense of others could be taken as a form of bullying.

      To take it one step further, if victims substantiate a bully, then the Bernie Madoff case (investor rips off investment clients for millions) would never be criminal. After all, wasn’t he simply taking advantage of those who wanted to make a buck and were waiting to be ripped off? The whole attitude of you deserve what you get (even if you are knowledgeable and someone else is a swindler liar) makes me sick. I’ve got to go out and smell some roses now.

      Happy weekend! Carol


    • Diane Lussier Monday, November 22, 2010 at 9:46 am #

      This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Having been a victim of bullying for a very large part of my life, I understand all too well the damage it causes.

      I have found the concepts Aikido (defined as “an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury”) used against a bully result in quite an amusing response. There is nothing quite like a bully who has been gently lain “flat on his back” by a calm but effective response to his/her tactics.

      Carol, thank you for having this discussion on your blog. We need to all be talking about this and working towards a kinder, gentler way of dealing with each other and making bullying just NOT PAY.


  3. aeisenbe Friday, November 19, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Blaming the victim for being the victim is never right. There was one article last year that claimed a victim could change behavior to avoid being bullied and put the blame on the victim. To me that never makes sense. It’s akin to saying a woman dressed provocatively and deserved to be raped.

    It’s the bully that needs to learn behavior modification so that we can all exist in our world with our beliefs and feelings in tact. I have discussed this many times on my site as well ( Thank you for sharing this and the TIME article.


    • Carol Dekkers Friday, November 19, 2010 at 10:13 am #

      Thanks for the comment and I note that you added the Time article as the main story in your blog post today – guess you discovered it when you read my post!

      Keep up the good work – hopefully someday society will uniformly view bullies as unwelcome and force them to change. In the meantime, the tantrums and bullying will continue in our congress, our schools, and our homes. It’s time for everyone to stand up and tell bullies of all stripes – grow up and treat people right or else (else meaning jail time, forced classes, sanctions, etc).



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