Bullying Stories: A History Of Bullying

By Sarah Fader |Updated July 12, 2022

This article discusses sensitive topics including suicide. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

Humans are creatures of tribalism and aggression. As such, bullying has been a problem since the beginning of time. We try to live in a civilized, peaceful society, but some individuals let out aggression on those weaker than them. Trying to prevent bullying has been a concern for a long time. In this article, we'll look into the prevalence of bullying, talk about a few real stories, and teach what you can do to prevent bullying.

What Constitutes Bullying?

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When we imagine bullying, we may think of the big kid pushing the little kid around on the playground. However, bullying can happen at any age and in any location. While bullying can differ depending on the situation, there are three factors that most bullying situations have in common.

  • Intent. Accidentally offending someone is probably not bullying. Those who bully know what they are doing, and harm is intended. There is no misunderstanding.
  • Power Imbalance. In most cases, the bully is more powerful than the bullied. This doesn't mean that the bully is necessarily bigger or stronger than the other person. The bully can be in a higher position of authority, such as a superior at work. They can be someone who comes from a wealthy family with the means to sue or take financial action if the victim fights back.
  • Repetition. Someone who is mean to you once is not a bully. A bully is someone who repeats their behavior over time. The severity of their bullying may increase over time to get under the skin of the victim.

Why Do People Bully?

Figuring out why people bully is an important question. The answer depends on the situation. Possible reasons for why people bully include:

  • Family Concerns. If someone's parents are mistreating them, they may develop bullying tactics. Picking on someone weaker than them can make a bully feel satisfied and helps them to cope with their troubles at home. This is not an excuse; it's merely the reason.
  • Power.  When a person has power over someone, some do not know how to control their power and use it for bad rather than good.
  • Some People Are Just Born That Way. A mental health reason could be behind the bullying.
  • Insecurity. They may bully to cover up an insecurity of their own.

Traditional Bullying

This is what most of us think of when we think of bullying. Traditional bullying involves children and adolescents. The bullying can be physical, such as pushing a kid around during recess, or verbal. Name-calling, excluding the child, and spreading rumors are just a few examples of bullying.

Childhood is an incredibly important period of our development, so someone who is bullied as a child could grow up to have self-esteem issues and other mental health concerns. Meanwhile, the bully may experience aggression if their behavior is not addressed.

At best, the bullied person learns to cope with their mistreatment, and perhaps the bullying goes away in time. However, bullying can be so intense that it can cause severe mental health disorders  and possibly lead to suicide.

Some believe bullying someone to take their own life is becoming a trend. However, suicide is not a new outcome of bullying. In 1877, William Arthur Gibbs hung himself after being physically bullied. The English child was only 12 years old.

Public outcries to bullying are not new, either. Gibbs's suicide caused an uproar, and there was an investigation.


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A growing problem in the digital age is cyberbullying. Before the internet, bullying required some strength and power to take effect. In the cyber world, anyone can bully. They can remain anonymous and they can say things they would never say to one's face. The effects can be as harmful as traditional bullying.

Cyberbullying has risen to the mainstream as the internet has. It's also even more complicated to define.

Trolling, which is saying something provocative to get a reaction, can be bullying, but depending on the context, it can also be harmless fun. Going into a forum dedicated to basketball and posting a comment that says "basketball sucks" is probably not cyberbullying, but instead harmless trolling. Constantly targeting one individual with harassing comments? That is cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can be difficult to stop. You can block someone's account, but they can make a new one. With internet mob culture, anyone can say libelous words about you and rile people up. Depending on where you live, there may be laws against cyberbullying, but it's hard to enforce at times.

Cyberbullying can have negative effects on those who have been on the receiving end. Those who are cyberbullied may have anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Let's look at the Megan Meier case.

In 2006, a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier hung herself after a cyberbullying incident on Myspace, a social media platform popular during that time. Meier had weight issues, depression, and ADHD, and she didn't have many friends. She was friended by someone named "Josh Evans" on Myspace, supposedly a 16-year-old boy who wanted to connect. They hit it off. They talked regularly, but not in person or on the phone. Evans talked about how pretty Meier was, and all seemed to be well.

Then, the messages became nastier. Evans said he didn't want to be friends anymore, and then he ended their correspondence by telling Meier that the world would be better without her. It was a bait and switch. Evans wasn’t looking for friendship, he wanted to make Meier even more depressed. what’s more, Evans wasn't even a real person. In truth, “Josh Evans” was three people: Meier's neighbor, Lori Drew, her teenage daughter, and another woman named Ashley Grills. All three used to be friends with the Meier family, and they took to extreme measures when things went sour.

There is nothing wrong with having an online friend, but if your child is talking to someone online who they've never met, you should make sure the person is real and who they claim to be. Luckily, video chats have made it easier for people to verify if the person they are talking to is real.

Workplace Bullying

Bullying does not end once school ends. The workplace is a breeding ground for bullying. There are many situations when one worker does not fit in with the rest, and they may be picked on as a result. The working world also has many power imbalances that make it more likely for people to bully. Your boss can bully you, another higher up can bully you, and someone who is trying to make it to the top may employ dirty tactics to keep you down.

Workplace bullying is not recognized by law in the U.S., despite many states wanting to introduce bills. Often, the person who is being bullied at work feels depressed and fears to go to work but may feel like they cannot switch jobs.

Workplace bullying can lead to suicide, as well. One such example was that of Kevin Morrissey. Morrissey was the managing editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, and he filed over a dozen complaints to HR about the treatment he received from his boss. Despite these complaints, nothing was done and after Morrissey’s suicide, no fault was found.

Kevin was 52, proving that bullying suicides are not just among teenagers or young adults. It can happen to anyone. Workplace bullying can be troublesome because our culture often turns a blind eye toward bosses who don't lead but instead dominate and target those who are weaker.

Seek Help!

If you're being bullied, it may be difficult to figure out what to do. Sometimes, telling the higher-ups do not work. Other times, you may be too weak to fight back. That's the problem with bullying; usually, the bullied has no way to protect themselves, and despite the public's outcry for support, support is sometimes ineffective or ignores the bullied altogether.

One way to resist bullies is to get training to help you be able to ignore their tactics and stay positive. If the bullying does not affect you, it can help to push the bullies away. Talking to a therapist or a counselor can help you learn the techniques needed to stop bullying in its tracks.

Online therapy is a convenient alternative to traditional in-person counseling, and research shows it is equally effective. For example, one study found that online therapy was even more effective than traditional in-person sessions, with 100 percent of participants in the online group showing continued symptom reduction three months after treatment. On the other hand, individuals in the face-to-face group showed “significantly worsened depressive symptoms” over the same period. This study explores how internet-based treatment compares to regular face-to-face therapy.

If you or someone you know has dealt with bullying, you may find that signing up for online therapy with one of the thousands of certified BetterHelp counselors can truly make a meaningful difference. Online therapy does not come with the hassle of traveling or disrupting your schedule by setting up appointments to meet at an office, making it a convenient option for nearly everyone. Consider these BetterHelp counselor reviews.

“Jennifer has been a wonderful help to me. I was sexually harassed, and I had a hard time coping. She has helped me develop a positive way of thinking, and I also know how to control my emotions much better. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.”

“I have greatly enjoyed working with Jason. We have met regularly via virtual video meetings over the past several months, and he has been incredible in helping me to address my stress at work, life, and everything in between, in the midst of a global pandemic. He is very adept at listening, identifying underlying thought processes, discussing issues, and working towards productive solutions. I always look forward to meeting with him, and I would highly recommend Jason to anyone and everyone!”

While there is always going to be a bully, together, we can resist them and stop bullying.

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