Bully Barn Bystanders

“The barn will not be destroyed by those who bully, but by those who watch them without doing anything,” Owen stated harshly.  His tone then changed to that of embarrassment. “Sadly,” he went on, “these bullies are not the meanest animals in the barn.  We who stood by and watched without doing anything are no better than they.  As bystanders we are every bit part of the problem and made things worse by doing nothing or by encouraging their behavior”.


Sometimes it is difficult to understand why a particular student is targeted by a bully as there are no rules of engagement per say when it comes to bullying. However, as with the lion analogy, it can sometimes be quite clear why a particular student is being preyed upon.  In addition, a study from Melbourne, Australia showed that two distinct groups or types of youths were more inclined to being bullied.  These were mild-mannered students and “hot-headed” students that reacted strongly to being teased.  There are also studies that suggest that these “hot-headed” youths are more than twice as likely to be bullied as their mild-mannered counterparts.  However, the bottom line when it comes to victims is that anyone can be a victim!  Often, children will acknowledge that a bully victim is somehow “different” and it is this peculiarity that makes one a viable target for bullies.  However, it is important to remind children that EVERYONE is different and unique (everyone is in the same “boat” so to speak)!  These differences need to be celebrated rather than shunned. ANYONE CAN THEREFOR BE A VICTIM (boys and girls are equally likely to be bullied).


If you’re not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!  Bystanders exasperate the situation because by doing nothing, they in essence condone the bullying behavior.  This is of particular note on the internet when numerous kids are logged in to a chat line or blog site.  Of course, the refusal to get involved can be due to several reasons.  Foremost is fear, since involvement may make them a newly acquired target for the bully.  Bystanders and victims need to be told that it is ok to be afraid.  This is a normal human reaction/defense mechanism that has kept our species alive since the dawn of man.  They must be made aware that bravery is not the absence of fear but the ability to do what must be done even though they’re scared.  Anyone who states that they are not afraid is either lying or simply not human.

Sometimes bystanders refuse to intervene because they don’t wish to be labeled as a “rat” or a “tattle tale”.  Typically, the person that is doing the labeling is the same one who has done something wrong and is afraid of getting into trouble.  Thus, this term is used as a method of control by the bully so that he/she escapes detection and/or punishment for his/her behavior.  Is a police officer a rat every time he/she takes the stand to give evidence?  We call that a witness and without witnesses it would be very difficult if not impossible to solve most crimes.

Bystanders should “stick together” and speak up for the victim.  They should also report this to a teacher, their parents, or even the police if necessary.  Remember that enough bystanders can constitute a group that is less likely to be preyed upon by a bully.

The right thing to do is seldom the easiest path to take!



Spectators and agitators are those who enjoy watching conflict and are entertained by it.  Whereby bystanders are usually unwilling participants, spectators and agitators are not.  These people tend to be like the spectators in the coliseum of ancient Rome or spectators at a boxing or U.F.C. event.  They attend the events to be entertained by violence and often shout from the stands to encourage the fighters and get their money’s worth.  Yet, as much as they are entertained by this, they would not like to be actual participants in the ring.  Bullying is sometimes very similar in this regards.  As the name denotes, agitators actively encourage bullying behavior.  Criminally speaking, agitators are referred to as being a “party to the offence”.  Although not directly responsible, they are non-the-less just as guilty.  For example, a person who is watching someone being assaulted by another party encourages that person/act by saying, “hit him again, kick him in the face, punch him in the stomach etc.” can also be charged for assault.  As well, the “wheel man” in an armed bank robbery is charged for armed robbery even though he is not in the bank with the gun men.  These people are guilty because they “aid” (to help) are “abet” (encourage or support) a person who is engaged in a criminal act.  Whether or not a particular bullying behavior is criminal in nature, agitators and spectators can certainly exasperate if not escalate situations.  Consider this…sometimes without spectators there can be no event.
 “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Website Builder