Bullying Types: Physical - Bullying Series, post #2

(This blog post is part of a special series addressing the topic of bullying)

In the previous post of this series, we introduced bullying and talked through a particular definition – “The deliberate choice to hurt, threaten, or torment a vulnerable person.” But even though that is a pretty complete definition, bullying doesn’t fit into one, neat little package. Bullying comes in different forms and types and can morph and change over time even in specific cases.

If there is a way for human beings to communicate, then that method of communication can be used to bully. Bullying has been around since the beginning of the human race, but how it occurs changes as humans develop new ways to interact and share information. Cyber bullying, for example, did not exist prior to the internet.

Not only does bullying change as civilization advances, but also as individuals grow and mature. Physical bullying is more prevalent among the young and immature, although it is not limited to any one age group. As individuals mature and become more creative, bullying can become more verbal and social.

It is important to know the different types of bullying so we can recognize it when it occurs, avoid becoming a victim, prevent it when possible, deal with it appropriately, and not become a bully, ourselves.

Physical bullying is most common among younger children and the less mature. It can involve any type of inappropriate touching that causes harm – actual physical harm, harm to property, or emotional distress.

Common actions that constitute physical bullying include hitting, kicking, pinching, tripping, spitting, poking, pushing, hand gestures, inappropriate touching, taking things, or breaking things. Keep in mind that bullying is deliberate – and is intended to hurt. If a student accidentally leaves a notebook too close to the classroom aisle and someone trips over it, this is not bullying. If, however, a student intentionally slides a notebook into the aisle with his foot in order to trip someone, this is bullying because it purposely causes physical harm or embarrassment.

Physical bullying, although more common in children, is also used by older students and adults. Even societies and different people groups have acted together to physically abuse vulnerable individuals and groups.

An extreme example of one society or people group abusing another happened during World War II. The Nazis rounded up Jews, the handicapped, and other individuals and groups they labeled as “undesirable.” They separated families, put them in camps, and forced them to work in deplorable conditions – sometimes using them as “human guinea pigs” in medical experiments. Around 6 million Jews, 17 million victims overall died as a result of this atrocity. A more recent example is the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Hutus eliminated 20% of the Rwandan population – specifically Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus – over an intense 100-day period.

History is replete with examples of physical abuse by power groups, including slavery, forced migration, ethnic cleansing, and internment in many countries. The bullying you witness or a part of may not exist on a national scale, but as philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It is when we learn to recognize bullying we take the first step toward dealing with, and eliminating it.

In the next post of this bullying series, we will explore verbal and social bullying – two types that emerge as the bullies grow and mature.


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