At my place of work, well-identified and intentional safe spaces have become vehicles through which students can share personal feelings and experiences; they empower people to speak out if someone is breaking a community standard. Find out if your school or place of work has a venue where people can report bullying, harassment and other forms of intimidation. Informally, it means standing up for someone who cannot stand up for him — or herself, and not letting hurtful jokes slide.
Simply put, if you see something, say something. I know that this is easier said than done, but put yourself in the place of the bullied one and think about how hard it might be for him or her. Another step you can take is to learn more about why bullying occurs in the first place. I believe that the simple act of understanding allows one to develop informed ideas about how to participate effectively in anti-bullying work. In reading other opinion pieces, I am always disturbed to read others express the feeling that bullying is a part of life and can never be stopped.
I prefer to live by the mantra that, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” Bullying can be prevented, and I will continue to push and advocate for those who need my help most. I — and those who are suffering somewhere in silence — would be delighted to count on your standing up to be counted, as well.
Returning to the old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” I’d like to suggest a slight modification. Today’s truth is that sticks and stones may break your bones, and words and silence and violence can — and often will — hurt you.
Shawn A. Newton is assistant dean of students at Salem State University, and an adjunct faculty member in its graduate school of social work. He recently served as a panelist for a university symposium moderated by veteran Boston journalist R. D. Sahl on taking action against intimidation.