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Bullying… a term we hear often, and mostly associate it with young children or unruly teenagers. What is bullying and why does it happen? Bullying can be defined as unwanted, repeated behaviour which can have long lasting problems for both the bully and the person being bullied. Bullying includes actions such as threatening, embarrassing someone continuously, calling someone names with the intention of provoking or causing harm, spreading rumours, excluding people and being physically or mentally abusive.

Specifically, bullying can be both overt and covert. Verbal bullying includes teasing and name calling, threatening to cause harm or inappropriate sexual comments. Social bullying refers to excluding someone out intentionally, spreading rumours or embarrassing someone with the sole intention of hurting them. Then we have physical bullying which refers to any form of physical abuse on one’s person and also causing damage to someone’s possessions.

However, a bully is not always an aggressive juvenile. On the contrary it could be an intimidating colleague, controlling partner or a condescending member of the family. As we can see, bullying manifests itself in different forms and can be exhibited by all people. Rape is a form of bullying and so is domestic violence. Ganging up on someone to intimidate them is also a form of bullying and so is sexual harassment. In the adult world, power such as a title or position can also be used as a form of intimidation or threat to control others. Furthermore, racist, sexist or homophobic remarks and language together with insults and shaming also contribute to bullying. Nowadays we also come in contact with cyberbullying, which happens online through various means of digital formats. This form of bullying is persistent and indeed permanent, as the online world never sleeps.

We tend to think that the reason why bulling happens in the first place usually boils down to a negative upbringing from the bully’s side and an unusual feature or features on the person being bullied. These two characteristics are thought to create the perfect environment for bullying to thrive and prosper. However, studies on this same topic have deducted that bullying is usually not about the individual person but more about the culture and ideation that exist with the school, work setting, peers and family. Society moulds us and defines our identity. We also know that we are social creatures and being separated from a group can lead to devastating effects. Bullying often results from a fear of being the person left standing out. Bullying is a way to secure the person from being bullied themselves and although people may recognize its unfairness, they may resort to being passive bystanders. This is mostly the situation with children and also adults.

The long-lasting effects of bullying include depression and anxiety, feelings of sadness and loneliness and lack of interest in activities which in the past brought pleasure. However, it is not only the person who is bullied who suffers long term because of the bullying they endured but also the person who is bullying. Alcohol and drug abuse often make their way into the scene, fights and criminal convictions also can come into play, together with a continuation of bullying towards partners, family, friends or colleagues.