Do Not Stand By, Bystanders
By: Andrea Karkafi ’19 and Masha Krichevsky ’19 (Guest Writers)
It could be a commotion across the hall or the expression on someone’s face. Bullying happens all around us, whether we simply watch it happen, or walk away from it.
You can still be a part of bullying even if you are not the bully. A bystander is someone who watches the act of bullying occur and does nothing to stop it. Bystanders make a situation worse by instigating, encouraging, joining in, or passively accepting the actions of the bully. Their motives aren’t always negative; sometimes they can just be shy or afraid of intervening or are unsure of what to do within the situation.
The silence of a bystander can do more harm than good as it can validate the actions to the bully as well as the victim. According to American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools, and 41% of school staff have witnessed bullying once a week or more.When bullies feel their behavior is accepted by their peers, the bullying is likely to continue-or get worse.
According to NDHS Counselor Bill Kearns, “the victim feels abandoned, as they aren’t being supported, and the bystander’s actions are validating what the bully is doing.”
Although a bystander is not involved in the confrontation between the bullying and the victim, there are still consequences to being a bystander. According to StopBullying.gov some bystanders who have witnessed bullying and do not intervene, can suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of guilt from their actions.
An anonymous sophomore recalled her bystander experience by saying she “ felt really guilty, and could have aided the situation but didn’t.” According to the Family Resource Facilitation Program, less than 20% of bystanders try to stop bullying. Yet, 90% of the students reported that they do not like to see someone bullied.
No matter the amount of anxiety that arises in these kinds of situations, you must always think of the victim who needs your support. Notre Dame Dean of Men, Tom Dill, says that “Bystanders are our biggest ally, to let us have the information and it doesn’t put the target in an uncomfortable position. We count on the bystander to recognize that something isn’t right and to go to an adult.”
There are a variety of ways to be an effective upstander, a person who intervenes or gets help. You do not always have to confront the bully and discourage his or her behavior; you can walk away and get help, tell an adult, or request other bystanders to stand up to the bully in unison.
Mr. Kearns states that “we have a moral responsibility to do something or say something. […] You can be supportive of the victim, or you can go to an adult and report the bullying. You can also comfort the victim and say ‘that wasn’t okay’, or ‘I’m sorry that happened to you’.” According to StopBullying.org, when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.
Don’t let your fears prevent you from doing the right thing!