Should I Intervene When I Witness Bullying?
While waiting for a bus recently, I encountered a group of kids, no older than 12 or 13. Three of them were ganging up on the fourth one and bullying her terribly – calling her names and teasing her until she was clearly fighting back tears. I ended up not saying anything to them, but later felt that I should have. When is it right as an adult to intervene with kids you don’t know when there is clearly a problem?
It can be uncomfortable to witness an act of bullying, and it may seem easier as a bystander to ignore that type of behavior. But we must always remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel. (10:29-37) Jesus told this parable in response to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” In order to be a good neighbor, as we are instructed, here are a few suggestions:
- Create a distraction that breaks up the bullying situation.
- Show verbal disapproval: Let them know you’re aware of the bullying and that it's not OK.
- Provide an escape for the person being bullied.
- If you feel safe, talk to the person who is bullying, privately, and ask them what's going on. Support the person being bullied after the situation is over.
- If you feel threatened or think the victim is in physical danger, call the police.
Dr. Gelasia Marquez is a psychologist and family counselor.