Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Help My Bullied Friend?
Imagine it's last year, in October, just around the time school starts off. Here's me with my nerdy looking glasses, starting off at a new school as a first-time new kid. Being the shy, awkward teenager that I am, I don't make friends easily. This one kid did come up to me first, though, and asked me about my Pokemon binder. We got to talking and said person has been my best friend ever since.
But I have noticed something off about them lately and it's kind of got me a bit worried. A lot of the kids at school have been messing with my friend and giving said friend a hard time. Said friend has gone to the teachers multiple times but they just brush it off and pretend like it's nothing, claiming that it's just a little friendly teasing. Call me crazy, but I don't see how cussing and pushing someone around (although not literally, thank goodness) counts as friendly teasing. To me, that's just plain bullying. And it almost seems like the teachers are encouraging everyone to mess with my friend: they ignore this so-called friendly teasing when it's happening right in front of them, but they punish my friend when they tell them to stop.
I know I can't try to interfere with my friend's life and I have to let them solve their own problems, but I feel so bad that I can't help. I'm not all that smart when it comes to giving advice, and the only intelligent thing that I can come up with is "Just ignore them" and "You deserve better." But that only makes things worse, and I know that it is extremely hard to just try and ignore them. Is there any advice you can give to my friend if they happen to see this one day, or perhaps there is some advice that you can give to me so that I can help said friend feel better and get their mind off it?
Well, hey, here’s an idea! How about the next time you see someone bullying your friend, instead of being a silent party to her misery, you stand up, walk over, and say, “Hey, douche canoe. He asked you to stop, right? So stop.”
Or if not that, exactly, then... something? Anything! Because while I understand being shy, awkward, and unwilling to fight battles that aren’t necessarily yours—especially when getting involved might mean becoming a target yourself—there’s a point at which decent human beings just don’t keep on playing Switzerland when someone's being treated like crap. Encouraging your friend to solve his own problems is fine, but a policy of non-interference that translates to standing there like a lawn ornament while a bunch of jerks torment someone you care about? That policy sucks.
And while you say that you know you can’t help, guess what: I think you can. I think you can do something when this happens right in front of you, even if the something you do isn’t epic. Maybe you’re not brave enough to tell a bully to stick it where the sun don’t shine, but you can still intervene by calling your friend’s name and asking him to come sit with you, or staying close when jerks are present so that he gets some safety in numbers, or telling one of your clueless losers teachers that what they call friendly teasing, you call mean-spirited and disruptive. And after the fact, forget telling him, "Just ignore it," or "You deserve better." Tell him the truth! Which, for the record, is that the kids who torment people just for the fun of it are lint-covered turds on the carpet of humanity who deserve to be punched in the gonads.
Because where trite and useless advice about ignoring your tormentors is... well, trite and useless, showing just a little solidarity with your friend when the shizz goes down says “I’m on your side” in a way that standing on the sidelines doesn't. And it shows everyone—your friend, your teachers, and the bullies themselves—that at least one person sees what’s happening and thinks it's wrong. And at the end of the day, it makes a bullied kid feel less alone in a way that after-the-fact assurances never will.
Have you ever stood up for someone you saw being bullied? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.