I have been working in the field of abuse for years. When I get discouraged because of the stories of injustice I hear, it helps me remember the history of the laws and abuse.
I assess bullying as a form of abuse. Our first child abuse laws had many starts and stops; they did not really gain traction until the 1970’s. These laws addressed physical and sexual abuse, not emotional abuse. Church and State enabled abuse and the paradigm that women and children were property of man and he could do as he wanted with his property.
In the 1980’s, we acquired sexual harassment laws for the workplace. We have had laws for these abuses for 30 plus years and we still hear horrific stories of child abuse, domestic abuse and sexual harassment/abuse in the workplace.
Unfortunately, we have no federal laws directly addressing emotional bullying/abuse in the family.
We do know female bullying in the workplace is on the rise. It is highly likely these same women are using their bullying tactics in other areas such as in their social situations and families.
“Some people need to open their small minds instead of their big mouths. “
Healing From Emotional Bullying
What can we do? We need to educate ourselves about all aspects of emotional bullying, stop enabling, and stop pretending it isn’t happening. Victims need to speak up, unite and stand up for our dignity.
A very powerful example of how this will work is the story of taking down Larry Nassar, an osteopathic physician at Michigan State University and the USA Gymnastics national team doctor. The story also illustrates how staying silent enables perpetrators. The victims tried to speak up year after year, and the adults did nothing. Kudos to the victims for not giving up, and there are no words for the adults who did nothing.
A very powerful moment at the end of the 2018 Espy awards was 140 victims standing together, holding hands and taking a stand for the truth, their voice, freedom and dignity. What the victims experienced emotionally while trying to speak up into a world of silence is probably similar to what victims of emotional abuse in the family experience now in terms of denial only. We don’t have laws, the consciousness is new, the denial and enabling are strong, so victims can feel alone.
The victims of Larry Nassar had laws against the sexual abuse, but other factors including denial/money overrode the laws. If you are saying to yourself that emotional abuse in the family isn’t real, you probably would have been one of the adults who did nothing to save the girls from Larry Nassar. We know abuse cannot thrive if people unite and speak up!
We are speaking about emotional abuse in the family, and the principles of healing are the same. Alone you will suffer; together we will survive.
Is the family organized around love, kindness, inclusion, respect, acceptance of differences and the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12).
If the answer is yes and people feel positive about their family gatherings, there may be no bullying. Remember, one report believes over 50% of us are being bullied. Family gatherings can be challenging because of different political, religious, philosophical beliefs, but we are not speaking about heated discussions regarding different beliefs.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Bullies seek out a family member to isolate, exclude, disrespect, organize anger toward, and ostracize for openers. If you are the person who feels badly at a family gathering, look for the person who is organizing the bullying behavior.
The female bully may have an accomplice who will do her dirty work. This person may be someone with whom you thought you had a good relationship, and he/she is a totally different person in the presence of the bully. The “henchman” enables the bully by carrying out the bullies wishes.
Remember, none of these actions are discussed openly. An event may be planned, and the bully will get her henchman to organize it – purposely excluding the victim. Review our examples in previous articles to refresh your memory.
The best solution when dealing with a bully – understanding that most will deny and attack – is to move away from contact with the bully. Some victims of abuse refuse to attend family gatherings, which may be a viable option. However, declining to attend family gatherings is not an option for everyone.
If you must attend family gatherings, it is best to select plan B – keep away from the bully as best you can. One important reminder: do not give the bully any information about your life. You will become an expert on being vague, “I don’t remember,” “Life is the same, thanks,” “same old same old,” “boring”, “no new news”, etc. The more information the bully has about you, the more at risk you are for being bullied.
Remember that bullies love to rework information so it has no integrity and lots of judgments. Bullies are insecure and threatened by someone they perceive to be succeeding in life. Jealousy can often trigger a bully to bully. Common bullying statements include: “exercise is stupid”, “eating healthy is wasteful””, “attending courses/school is lazy,” “get in the real world”, etc. With normal people you can discuss your preferences in life and it will be a healthy conversation. With a bully, think food for the shark.
Another interesting phenomenon that often happens when you start to fire yourself as the bully’s next victim? The bully may attack. “What’s wrong with Jane/you? Has everyone else noticed she is acting strange?” The bully believes it is your job to be her victim and you must comply. Watch out for her aggressiveness when you disengage. She may resort to aggressive behavior to get together and/or get information about you. Trust yourself and keep quietly moving away from the bully regardless of her actions.
When you take away the power of the bully, she will be on to the next victim. She has power when she has information about you, she knows she is hurting you, and she knows she is upsetting you. Don’t let any of these happen anymore.
“When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sandpaper. They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up useless. “
This article originally appeared at Recovery.