National Bullying Awareness Month is held each October. Icia Ragsdale, a trauma specialist and licensed clinical social worker, provides direct therapy to individuals and families. Ragsdale provided insight into who may experience the age-old problem of being bullied. Electronics and social media have intensified the issue regardless of the victim’s age.
Q: How is bullying defined?
A: Bullying is the desire to harm, intimidate, or push someone who is perceived to be weaker than someone else into doing something they may not want to do. Cyber-bullying [which involves the use of electronic communication to bully someone] is done the same way except using various Internet platforms.
Q: Do you regard bullying as a public health issue?
A: Bullying is definitely a public health issue because it affects everyone around who experiences the bullying. Unfortunately, we live in a “me-focused” society, especially due to the uptick of social media. However, the core of human experience is connection with others. When we see or experience the connection being unsafe, both the person directly involved, and the other people witnessing the event, can feel fear around the connection. No matter how much we attempt to ignore or pretend it doesn’t affect us, we are all affected when people around us are bullied.
Additionally, it creates unsafe internal atmospheres which poses a threat to one’s internal and external ability to feel safe within their body and within the atmospheres around them. When people feel unsafe, they move from a threatened space and further perpetuate threatened atmospheres.
Q: What are common age groups of people who are impacted by this issue?
A: Anyone can be bullied. However, the most common age group to be bullied happens around middle school ages 11-13 years old. At those ages, children are trying to figure out their own level of competence within their environment. When they are unsure, or if they feel inferior, it can be a natural defensive response to try to make themselves feel more competent by exploiting what they perceive to be a level of incompetence within someone else. Honestly, what they exploit doesn’t truly have to be a level of incompetence, but their goal is to use their influence to distract others from noticing what they perceive to be as a flaw within themselves.
Q: Who are high-risk populations who may experience bullying?
A: The highest risk populations are those whose identities are expressed against mainstream norms. Populations connected to the LGBTQIA community, certain religious groups, minorities (especially those with a lower socioeconomic status), over or underweight children, those with low self-esteem, people who are socially awkward, those with special needs or even people with disabilities are among the populations at highest risk.
Q: Can adults be bullied?
A: There is a rise in adult bullying that is very disheartening. Women exploit and abase other women on the premise of looks, weight, financial status, men, or other areas. Men do it, too. We can also see bullying in adults when someone expresses a level of vulnerability that makes someone feel uncomfortable. They usually deflect their own discomfort by shaming the person who has expressed their vulnerability.
Another big form of bullying that can be seen is sexual exploitation that is used among adults and older teenagers who use pornographic pictures that one has and threaten to share them without permission. In essence, you can see bullying among adults anywhere there is a person in power in connection with someone who is a subordinate. Bullying is usually mismanagement of power to get what one wants.
Q: Are any resources available for adults who may experience bullying?
A: One of my favorite resources that I have referred others to is the Stop Bullying campaign. It can be accessed at www.stopbullying.gov. They have resources on their website, including access to 24-hour counselors or suicide assistance.
You can also call the police and ask them for help. Bullying is a crime that is punishable by law. Also, if you live in Baltimore, specifically, there is a resource for older adults called CURE Operation Pulse. They provide assistance as well. Also, in 2017, the state of Maryland put out a new policy specifically for those who struggled with bullying in the workplace that creates space for one to file an official complaint with provisions for the victim. However, it strictly prohibits retaliation of any type.
If any of these resources don’t work for a person, one can always use Google. In recent years, bullying has become a federal issue. There is a plethora of resources available and specific to the type of bullying one is experiencing.
Visit https://iamdesigned4purpose.com/ to learn more about Ragsdale.