How Can I Protect Myself at School?
Mark the following statements true or false:
1. Bullying involves only incidents of physical harm.
2. Sexual harassment always includes physical contact.
3. Girls can bully and harass too.
4. If you’re being bullied or sexually harassed, there’s nothing you can do about it.
TERROR is a daily experience for millions of youths who are bullied at school. “The 15-minute bus ride became a torture that seemed to last for hours as my tormentors progressed from verbal abuse to physical mistreatment,” says a youth named Ryan. Other youths are sexually harassed. “A very popular boy cornered me in the hallway and started touching me inappropriately,” says young Anita. “Asking him in a nice way to keep his hands to himself didn’t work. He didn’t think I really meant it.”
Some teens are even hounded online by their classmates. Are you a victim of mistreatment? If so, what can you do about your plight? Plenty! But first, let’s separate the myths from the facts by examining the statements made at the outset of this chapter.
1. False. Most bullies use their mouths, not their fists. Threats, insults, sarcasm, and ridicule can be forms of bullying.
2. False. Even a “compliment” with sexual overtones, an obscene joke, or ogling can constitute sexual harassment.
3. True. Those who bully and harass can be of either gender.
4. False. You can take measures to stop the mistreatment. Let’s see how.
How to Beat a Bully—Without Using Your Fists
Some bullies want to provoke you just to see how you’ll react. But the Bible gives this wise advice: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) The fact is, ‘returning evil for evil’ could add fuel to the fire and lead to further problems. (Romans 12:17) How, then, can you beat a bully without using your fists?
Take a lighthearted approach. If a taunt is simply an attempt at humor, try to laugh it off instead of getting offended. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of not taking aggressive statements so seriously,” says a boy named Eliu. If a bully sees that his words have little effect, he may stop the harassment.
Use mildness. The Bible says: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Proverbs 15:1) A kind reply is what the bully least expects, and it can defuse a tense situation. True, keeping coolheaded when under attack takes self-control. But it’s always the better course. Proverbs 29:11 says: “All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” Mildness is a sign of strength. The mild person isn’t easily thrown off balance, while the bully is often insecure, frustrated, or even desperate. For good reason, the Bible states: “He that is slow to anger is better than a mighty man.”—Proverbs 16:32.
Protect yourself. If a situation seems out of control, you may need to find an ‘escape route.’ Proverbs 17:14 says: “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.” So if violence appears imminent, walk or run away. If escape is impossible, you may need to ward off violence the best way you can.
Report it. Your parents have a right to know about what’s happening. They can also give you practical advice. For example, they might suggest that you speak to a school official, such as a guidance counselor, about the matter. Be assured that parents and school officials can handle the matter discreetly, so as not to get you into further trouble.
The bottom line? A bully can’t win if you refuse to play his game. So don’t get sucked into the flames of his anger. Instead, take control of the situation by employing the foregoing suggestions.
Coping With Sexual Harassment
If you’re being sexually harassed, you have every right to feel angry! The question is, What can you do about it? Plenty! Here are a few suggestions.
Firmly refuse sexual advances. Aggressors may assume that a halfhearted no really means yes—or at least maybe—unless you convince them otherwise. So let your no mean no. (Matthew 5:37) If you giggle or act coy, even out of initial embarrassment, it could send the wrong message to the harasser. Be firm and direct. That is your best defense!
Make a scene. Young Anita says of her harasser: “I had to embarrass him in front of his friends by loudly telling him NOT to touch me that way!” The result? “All his friends laughed at him. He was very cold for a while, but a few days later, he apologized for his behavior and later even defended me when someone else tried to bother me.”
If words don’t work, walk away. Better yet, run. And if escape isn’t possible, you have the right to fend off molestation. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27) Says one Christian girl, “When a boy tried to grab me, I punched him just as hard as I could, and I ran!”
Tell someone. “That’s what I finally had to do,” admits 16-year-old Adrienne. “I asked my parents for advice on the situation when a boy I thought of as a good friend just wouldn’t leave me alone. The more I protested, the more persistent he became, almost as if it were a game.” Adrienne’s parents had practical advice that helped her cope with the problem. No doubt your parents can help you too.
Having to deal with bullying or sexual harassment is no fun. But always remember this: Christian youths need not be helpless victims of bullies; neither should they tolerate or be allured by the advances of a harasser. By taking the steps mentioned, you can deal with these challenges.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 1, CHAPTER 18
Peer pressure is one of the most powerful forces you must deal with. Learn how to face up to it with confidence.
“If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”—Romans 12:18.
If you’re the target of bullying, be assertive, but not aggressive. Firmly tell the bully to stop. Calmly leave. If the bullying continues, report it.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Wearing certain gang colors or trademarks can single you out for attack. A former gang member says: “If someone dressed like one of us and he was not one of us, most likely he would be a target. Either he would have to join our gang or get himself hurt.”
If someone tries to insult or provoke me, I will ․․․․․
To avoid attracting trouble, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● How can you project more confidence and poise in your demeanor and thus reduce the likelihood of being bullied?
● What can you do if you’re sexually harassed? (Think of some typical scenarios and possible responses.)
● Why should sexual harassment be of serious concern to you?
[Blurb on page 123]
“If you know there’s going to be a fight, you have to mind your own business and go home. Some hang around, and that’s when they get into trouble.”—Jairo
[Box on page 125]
How to Prevent Sexual Harassment
Don’t flirt. It’s an open invitation to harassment. The Bible asks: “Can you carry fire against your chest without burning your clothes?” (Proverbs 6:27, Today’s English Version) The fact is, flirting is playing with fire.
Watch your association. It will be assumed that your values match those of your friends. A young girl named Carla says, “If you hang around with ones who give in to the remarks or who enjoy the attention, then you will get harassed too.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Be careful how you dress. Immodest clothing sends out a clear signal that you crave the interest of the opposite sex—and you’ll get it.—Galatians 6:7.
Don’t hide your Christian identity. If you do, no one will have reason to expect you to live up to Christian standards.—Matthew 5:15, 16.
[Picture on page 124]
Responding in anger to a bully’s taunts is like throwing fuel on a fire
[Picture on page 127]
Tell a sexual harasser to back off!