Bullying is a serious issue today, and a criminal offense in some cases, yet it goes on, and both victim and bully go unnoticed. You find out that you are dating a bullied girl, and want to know what to do to stop it. There are several ways how you can help her.
Bullying can be anything that goes on consistently for a long time, against the physical or mental well-being of an individual, ranging from physical violence, verbal intimidation, threats, consistent teasing, avoidance, spreading rumors, ragging, humiliation, and mockery, in the real or virtual world, on the basis of apparent reasons like physical appearance, sexuality, race, disability, plain individualistic quirks, or no reasons at all.
Adult bullying is subtle and is an aggressive display or contention for power and to show the other person who’s in charge. It is hard to track the perpetrator, but the effect on the victim is the same. So, if you find that your girlfriend is being bullied by someone around her, or has been a victim in the past, what do you do?
Do not Panic or Desert Her
This shouldn’t even occur to you in the first place, because if you love her, you wouldn’t desert her in time of need. If you feel like you cannot help, you should probably leave her in hands good enough for her. On the other hand, if you feel like you cannot cope with it yourself enough to help her, seek advice before you lead her in the wrong direction.
Don’t Always Assume You Know What’s Best For Her
Even though you know you are trying to help, don’t expect her to blindly follow your advice or suggestions if she does not feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes, your solutions might seem too extreme or too lax. Do not take it personally or force her. However, if you feel that the course you suggested is the most prudent thing to do, talk to a third person whom she will listen to.
Tell Her it’s not Her Fault
The first thing you must tell your girlfriend and keep repeating until it is ingrained in her mind is: it’s not, and never was, her fault. She will believe what the wrongdoer tells her more than what you do. She will feel like she is the weaker individual. Whether she is being bullied for her weight or for her looks, for her wonky hair, or for the way she eats, a disability or is being sexually harassed, she needs to know it is not her fault. She needs to believe it, and so do you.
Whether it was in the past or is currently happening, do not be insensitive or unsympathetic to your girl’s plight. It’s okay to crack jokes, or make light of things, but don’t lightly dismiss issues close to her heart, or specifically, the issues that she was bullied about. Be sensitive to her needs and her comfort factor in talking about things, and follow her cue as to how much she wishes to talk. Never tell a bullied victim to”tough up” or “it’s not as bad as you think it is”.
Listen to Your Girl
Your girl may not always be ready to talk about why she has been suffering bruises all over her body, but sooner or later, she will tell you. And when she does, do not be disgusted, angry, or dismissive. Let her empty her heart and confide in you. Let that basic instinct to do something slide by as you listen to her cry. Hold her in your arms and tell her it’s alright. That’s all she wants when she wants to just “talk”: to unburden herself.
It Should Not be a Taboo Topic Between You
Whenever the topic comes up between the two of you, don’t avoid talking about it just because you have nothing to say. Instead, try and broach the topic, and ask her about how she is getting on, and whether things are any better. Your avoidance or discomfort in talking will only make her internalize things she wants to share. Don’t shut down communication from your end, though it is anticipated that she might try to, or become withdrawn.
Don’t lose Patience
It is a very slow process to recover from trauma, and your girl may never recover from it. Don’t lose your patience in the process. If you do (we all are human, we cannot expect to always be perfect), hopefully, you realize how painful it is for her, and apologize.
Understand She Still Loves You
After her experience, your partner will change. You might not recognize her under the sudden solitude. Or she might change so subtly that her laugh sounds hollow even though she does not show anything is wrong. She may be incapable of expressing her love for you like she used to, or she may never have in the past. Understand that what she is going or gone through is very distressing, so give her time to acknowledge the love and know she still does. Talk about it if this goes on for a long time.
Don’t Let Her Isolate Herself
If your girl is the kind of person to isolate herself during tough times, she will do it now. She will try to avoid you, or company in general, or she may not enjoy herself with people anymore. Don’t let her get into a spiral of self-loathing accompanied with loneliness. Do this so she does not lose touch with reality or people. If she wants space, at times, give it to her. But make sure she receives a healthy dose of Vitamin Company, for it will come handy in the long run.
Join Some Hobby Classes Together
This applies if your girl has spent months by herself just thinking and wallowing, and does not allow anyone to approach her. If she feels up to it, try to get her to join some hobbies that she has always wanted to pursue. Join her. It could be anything she enjoys doing, like pottery, tennis, or martial arts. Lead her to something new if she is open to it. Some distraction is always better than doing nothing. However, do not force her if she is currently undergoing trauma.
Look after Her Health
Your girlfriend will neglect herself, and so will others around her who may be unaware or unhelpful. It is a good idea to take care of her to make sure that health-wise she is alright. Adding physical problems along with mental harassment would just be adding fuel to the fire. Encourage her to look after herself as well, on days when she feels good enough to do so.
Help her Understand the Bullying
Help your girlfriend understand that the bully is doing/has done this to her because s/he has issues themselves. She needs to understand where such antagonistic behavior comes from. To understand the oppressor is to put yourself in their shoes and be compassionate. This does not mean in any way that you are encouraging her bully.
Tell Her it’s Okay to Stand up to her Bully
Standing up to a bully (especially as a kid) brings a change in the victim’s response that the bully had not anticipated. This change can be advantageous with support. The bully in all probability will leave your partner alone when confronted by her. But this is a delicate matter where results will vary depending on each individual case. In case of an adult, confrontation is best done with the help of deliberately recording the act being done, since that will hold court in legal suits.
Encourage Her to Take Action and Be There When She Does
Whenever your partner approaches you with her issues, the first thing you should do after the initial period of consolation and support is to encourage her to take proper action through authorities. Help her find approachable organizations or individuals who will help her in ways that you cannot. Be there for her and with her when she finally summons the courage to do so.
Encourage Her to Talk to a Counselor
If, for some reason, you find that you cannot help or support your girl as well as you would like to, seek professional help without stigmatizing it. It is advisable that in serious cases of bullying where effects may lead to suicide, she is handled by people trained to handle such situations, rather than amateurs who would not be able to help so well.
Just be There
No matter how helpless you feel, no matter if you cannot help even in the most tiny way possible, but just being there will be enough for your partner. At times, things will be super-difficult for both of you trying to cope with the stress that bullying brings to entire households. But just going through it together will make her stronger and give her the strength and support she needs when she sees she is not alone. It does not have to be anything constructive, but meaningful.
The way to dealing with a bullied partner is to be kind and sympathetic, understanding and encouraging, but yet firm. You will be relied on for support, and once you make it a routine, do not try to withdraw your support. The solutions offered are applicable not only to girlfriends or wives, but to anyone undergoing this, be it male or female, young or old, friend, family or stranger.
Today, bullying is not taken as lightly as it was taken a few years ago, though all cases of bullying have still to be declared illegal. There are serious psychological implications for both the bully as well as the victim, and efforts are being taken worldwide to counter it. Everyone, including celebrities and eminent personalities, is creating awareness about it. If you see someone you know being bullied, try whatever you can to stop it, and never become a part of the crowd that silently spectates injustice being done.