Reasons Why Victims of Bullying Do Not Tell

Learn why kids targeted by bullies often keep quiet


Being victimized by bullying can have significant consequences leaving victims feeling alone, isolated and humiliated. And yet many targets do not tell a single person what is happening to them.

The reasons are diverse and vary from person to person. But in general, bullying is scary and confusing when it first happens. This leaves most tweens and teens unsure how to handle the situation. As a result, they keep silent while they try to figure it out.

Here are a few other reasons why they may be hesitant to admit bullies are targeting them.

Feel ashamed and embarrassed. Bullying is about power and control. As a result, it makes the victim feel powerless or weak. For many kids, this causes intense shame and embarrassment. Likewise, if victims are being bullied because of something that the bullies perceive to be defective about them, they will often be too embarrassed to talk about it. To do so would require them to highlight their “defect.” For some, the thought of bringing their “defect” to light is worse than the bullying itself.

Afraid the bully will retaliate. Often kids feel like reporting a bully won’t do any good. Instead, they often worry that the bully will only make their lives worse. They would rather try to weather the storm alone than risk escalating the problem.

Feel pressure to be quiet. Many times, kids feel like they need to accept occasional bullying in order to belong.

As a result, they will succumb to peer pressure and accept the bullying as a way to maintain their social standing. This mixture of pressure and bullying often exists in cliques. The victims often yearn for acceptance from the very people who are bullying them.

Concerned no one will believe them. Many times bullies target kids who are loners, have special needs, are prone to storytelling or may already have disciplinary issues.

As a result, the victim is very aware of the fact that they are sometimes in trouble and when it comes to bullying they are afraid that others will assume they not being truthful. As a result, they keep quiet because they feel that opening up wouldn’t do any good.

Worried about being labeled a snitch. When it comes to bullying, there is often this unspoken code of secrecy about the bullying. They are often more afraid of being called a tattletale, a baby, a rat or a snitch for reporting the bullying than they are about enduring more abuse.

Feel like they deserve it. Kids are often very aware of their faults. As a result, if someone zeroes in on one of those faults and begins using that to taunt and tease them, they automatically assume that they deserve the treatment. Many times kids are so internally critical and lacking in self-esteem that they are in some ways in agreement with the treatment they are receiving.

Don’t recognize subtle forms of bullying. Many times, kids only report physical bullying because it is easy to recognize.

In turn, they fail to report more subtle forms of bullying like relational aggression. They don’t realize that spreading rumors, ostracizing others and sabotaging relationships also constitute bullying.

Assume adults expect them to deal with it. Despite all the progress with bullying prevention, there still is the underlying message that kids need to be tough during difficult situations. They fear that the adults in their lives will think poorly of them or be angry about the abuse they are experiencing. Additionally, many schools fail to distinguish the difference between tattling and reporting. Instead, because they are busy trying to meet academic goals, they would prefer not to be bothered by bullying and encourage kids to handle all problems on their own. This can be especially troublesome if kids try to deal with potentially violent situations on their own.

Fear adults will restrict digital access. When it comes to cyberbullying, most kids won’t admit they are being targeted because they are afraid their parents or teachers won’t allow them to use their electronic devices any longer. If adults do in fact take away their access to computers or cell phones because they were bullied, this sends two messages. First, it’s not worth telling an adult. And second, the victim is to blame because she is the one being punished. Instead, addressing cyberbullying should involve keeping copies of the correspondence, blocking the offender, changing passwords or telephone numbers and reporting the cyberbully.

Because kids rarely tell an adult what they are experiencing, be sure you know the warning signs of bullying. For instance, kids may allude to bullying by saying there is a lot of drama at school, kids are messing with them or that they have no friends. These are all signs that they are experiencing one of the six types of bullying.

If your child does confess to being a target, tell him you are proud of him for having the courage to talk about it. This reinforces that you value having an open dialogue about issues in his life. It’s also important that you believe what your child is telling you and that you make a commitment to work with him to find solutions.

Also, be sure you keep your emotions in check. Getting upset, angry or emotional will only stress out your child. Instead, remain calm and work together to make a plan. When kids feel like they have options, they will be less likely to be overcome by negative feelings and emotions. Help your child find ways to respond to and overcome bullying.

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