In The Know Zone

Stop your bully

What to Do If You Become a Target

Let’s start with the two things you absolutely should NOT do if you are singled out by a bully:

  • Confront or fight the bully. Bullies are generally cunning cowards. They don’t allow themselves to be confronted unless they have all the advantages. You are virtually certain to be beaten, humiliated or both. Bullies are usually accomplished liars, too, so even if you should win the fight, you’ll probably be the one who gets into trouble.
  • Carry a weapon. This is absolutely the WORST thing you can do. You are far more likely to be caught with it than you are to use it, with expulsion or arrest the probable result. Worse still, there is almost no conceivable schoolyard situation in which deadly force would be legally permissible, so just threatening to use the weapon will land you in jail. And, worst of all, you could actually use the weapon, with you or someone else ending up in the hospital, dead or in prison. If you think the bullies you encounter in school are bad, just imagine how much worse the bullies in jail would be!

Don’t waste time and energy thinking of ways to defeat a bully. The potential risks outweigh any potential benefits. Concentrate instead on:

· Avoiding the bully

· Depriving him of the reaction he wants

· If necessary, bringing adults in to resolve the situation

If you find yourself confronted by a bully, the best thing to do is simply walk away, preferably without reacting, as though the bully were invisible and inaudible. That’s one response he or she is probably not prepared for.

If circumstances demand a reaction, dismiss the encounter with a comment like “Yeah, whatever.” or “Talk to me later. I haven’t got time right now.” And keep walking.

If your way is blocked, stay calm. The bully is looking for an emotional response—fear, anger, frustration, tears—to prove he is dominating the situation. If you respond calmly and unemotionally, you are denying him what he wants.

Some sources suggest humor as a response. But that approach is of limited practical value. If the humor is directed at the bully, and elicits a laugh at his expense from onlookers, he may react physically. Self-deprecatory humor on the part of the victim may come off as cringing. It would take a truly witty victim to walk the fine psychological line required to defuse a bullying situation with humor.

If you are bullied, make a written record of the event(s).

  • Identify the bully and any witnesses
  • Record the time date and location of the encounter
  • Describe what form the bullying took and what you did in response
  • Note where it happened and how often it happened
  • Report the bullying to someone in authority. It’s part of a teacher or counselor’s job to prevent bullying
    • If you’re uncomfortable reporting the events, take someone along with you.
    • If you are being physically bullied, ask that your name be kept confidential
    • You can report the bullying when the bully isn’t around
    • If you can’t tell them in person, write a note.
  • If the bully is hurting you physically, see your doctor or school nurse. Ask them to write down your experience and injury so there is an official record.
  • Know your legal rights. Consider filing a police complaint or going to the courts to force the bullying to stop.

Be careful who gets your phone number and email address. If someone starts harassing you over the phone or by email, they may be committing a crime. Report it to police.

Make friends. Bullies often single out kids who don’t seem to have friends

Join clubs, social groups, sports teams, after-school programs, church or community groups

Project confidence

· Check out your body language. Walking with your head down, avoiding eye contact, fidgeting and other behavior that suggests uncertainty might cause a bully to single you out.

  • Look self-confident. Hold your head up, look people in the eye. Walk proudly and a bully will be less likely to choose you as a victim
  • If you’re confronted by a bully, talk to him

· Speak firmly and confidently, so you don’t seem intimidated. Prepare something to say in advance

In an extreme situation, you might want to consider assertiveness training, which will equip you to respond to verbal harassment.[25]

[25] Adapted in part from Stamp Out Bullying: Colorado Anti-Bullying Project; available at; accessed 26 August 2004

In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
"In The Know: At Risk-Bullying, It's Not Just Kids Being Kids" Pamphlet
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package