Grab the “Bull” in Bullying by the Horns
Bullying: The Prevalence of Bullying in Middle & High Schools
Bullying – are you visualizing a big, aggressive, and boisterous individual picking on the smaller, shy, and quiet individual? Bullying is the direct or indirect aggressive behavior of power over another (Olweus, 1999) and because of this it makes sense to think of the most general depiction, big guy/ gal picking on the smaller guy/ gal. But, bullying isn’t as simple to define as you think.
There are additional layers of bully behavior that are overlooked, such as sexual harassment which is sometimes called sexual bullying. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) conducted a study in 2001 and found that 80% of middle school and high school students experience sexual harassment. This study was groundbreaking because schools had not yet analyzed sexual behavior in students like this and this study highlighted the serious problem related to sexual violence that goes undetected because it is masked under bullying. Espelage, Basile, and Hamburger (2012) further analyzed students in 5th to 8th grade and found overlapping traits between bullying and sexual violence, where bullying in middle school showed a direct pathway to sexual harassment and aggressive behaviors in high school.
Bully behavior is a problem, but it is an even larger problem when we are not educating children on the respect they need to give to others based on sexuality, sexual orientation, gender, and size. If we only address the general thought of bullying (i.e., size), the big 5th grade kid taking lunch money from the timid 4th grader, then we have missed the point. We need to also consider the 7th grader who repeatedly brushes up against an uninterested 8th grader in a sexual nature, or a group of 6th grade boys who may be slurring sexual comments to a gay 6th grade boy or a shy 6th grade girl.
Why, because these behaviors can lead to dangerous victim retaliation, increased sexualized aggressive behaviors, and/ or long-term traumatic victimization. “Bullying” is complex and therefore, should not be taken lightly. We need to empower boys and girls against “bullying” because it can lead to sexual violence aggressions, such as sexual harassment.
So grab the “bull” in bullying by the horns because bullying is a pathway to other forms of unwanted aggression and violence.
—Stay tuned. Upcoming articles will go over more in depth detail of the multiple layers of bullying. In addition future articles will also address how we can fix this national epidemic some call bullying and others call sexual violence.
About Sandra Elena Hodgin
Sandra Elena Hodgin is a Bullying and Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist and long time friend (over 15+ years) of T.A.G. Muy Thai from California. Sandra is a PhD candidate at Claremont Graduate University in the departments of Public Policy and Education where her research and specialization are focused on child and adult safety, prevention, and policies. Sandra holds a Master’s in Education, a Bachelor’s in Political Science, and is an SART certified advocate and counselor. Sandra is currently working on publications, a children’s book, and working on bullying and sexual violence matters in California.