The most obvious and apparent form of bullying, physical bullying is what most people think of when they consider this concept. This occurs when people use their physical force and actions to take control of someone else. Though it isn’t always the case, physical bullies are often bigger, stronger and fit than their peers. Knowing this, they use their strength and power to their advantage, using their body to weaken their target. Some of the physical attacks inflicted during physical bullying include:
While some forms of bullying can be more difficult to discern or identify, physical bullying tends to manifest itself in visible wounds and abrasions. However, teachers should keep in mind that many wounds can be strategically inflicted to be covered up my clothing or makeup. As such, it’s important to look for other signs that a schoolchild is being bullied, such as emotional trauma.
Name-calling might be a centuries-old way to hurt and embarrass someone, but it doesn’t mean it’s gotten any less painful over the years. From children who get picked on at recess to spouses who are repeatedly lashed out at by their partner, verbal bullying can take many forms. Unlike physical bullies who use their bodies to inflict harm, verbal bullies use words, language, and painful statements to bring a similar level of shame. Most of these perpetrators will choose targets who are weaker or impaired and hurl insults at them to belittle them. For instance, it’s not uncommon for verbal bullies to pick on students with special needs who cannot defend themselves or share a biting comment back. This kind of bullying can be difficult to identify, especially for teachers. This is because most verbal assaults take place in private, when adults aren’t around. This often leads to a case of he-said, shesaid where it’s one person’s word against another. In addition, because there is no physical harm inflicted, some adults might tell kids to “get over it” or “ignore it.” However, this is an unhealthy way to deal with a very real and very troubling issue. Verbal bullying can leave permanent internal wounds that impair a target for life. In addition, many bullies who use their words to harm others also use their bodies, so physical and verbal bullying often go hand-in-hand.
Also called relational aggression, emotional bullying often goes unnoticed by unassuming parents and teachers alike. That’s because it can be difficult to identify, but it’s present everywhere you look. In short, emotional bullying occurs when students try to ostracize one of their peers by changing their social standing, putting themselves in a more powerful and popular position in the process. Any parent whose child has ever come home from school upset and feeling left out, claiming that they’re no longer a part of their former social circle, has felt the brunt of this kind of attack. This is a very calculated type of social manipulation that can leave targets feeling isolated and alone. The ways that an emotional bully might achieve his or her aim include:
• Spreading lies about the target
• Sharing secrets told in confindence
• Exposing embarrassing aspects of the target’s life
• Manipulating social situations
• Breaking trust
As a result of these actions, a child on the receiving end of this situation will often feel insulted, teased, ganged up against, excluded or ignored. In some cases, this isolation can trigger a retaliation that leads to a vicious cycle of ongoing bullying. For the most part, this kind of bullying is more present in female social groups than male ones, although this doesn’t apply to every situation. However, it helps shed light on some of the most popular terms in this age group’s vernacular: mean girls and frenemies.
Any time that someone is bullied because of his or her race, religion, or sexual orientation, this is prejudicial bullying or racism bullying. It’s called this because the root of the attack is the bully’s preconceived prejudices against the other person or persons. While this might be where it all begins, prejudicial bullying is rarely an isolated event. Usually, it escalates into physical bullying, verbal bullying, or cyberbullying. Anyone who targets someone who looks or acts differently than they do is a prejudicial bully. Though it seem to be insignificant at first, this is arguably the most serious form of bullying, as it can open the door to much more serious events, such as hate crimes. That’s why it’s critical to take every instance seriously.
There are many different forms that sexual bullying could take. In addition to physically harming someone in a sexual manner, it can also include any verbal or emotional attacks that seek to humiliate or shame them sexually. From name-calling and crude remarks to obscene gestures and uninvited exposure or touching, there are myriad actions categorized under this umbrella. When such comments about a target’s appearance or sexual development turn physical, the issue turns from sexual bullying into sexual assault. This kind of bullying most often targets girls, though boys can be targets, too. And, it’s important to keep in mind that the attacks don’t only happen between people of opposing genders. It’s common for girls to sexually bully other girls, shaming them with hurtful labels that expose or insinuate their promiscuity. Sometimes, cyberbullying and sexual bullying occur at the same time. For instance, two parties could engage in sexting while in a relationship. Then, when they break up, one party shares the personal and humiliating messages with a larger crowd. In response, peers begin sexually bullying that person, calling them names and hurling insults in their direction.
• Okusaga Raphael works with St. Patrick’s Missionary society as Child safeguarding officer, District of West Africa, Maryland, Lagos