It’s Time to Stop Ignoring the Bully in the Room

It’s Time to Stop Ignoring the Bully in the Room

By Dru Ahlborg, Bullying Recovery Resource Center

Bullying Recovery Resource Center focuses on the bullying of school-aged children.  That is where our expertise lies and that is where we can make the biggest impact and changes.

The fact of the matter is that bullies are everywhere.  They reside in companies, families, colleges, board rooms, and in our political system.  No matter where they do their dirty work, their mission is the same.  Barbara Coloroso, internationally recognized speaker, author, and bullying expert informs us that “bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate activity intended to harm, induce fear through threat of further aggression, and also to create terror in the target.”  Bullying always includes an imbalance of power, the intent to harm, and a threat of further aggression.  An additional element occurs when it is unabated and that is terror.  A bully that reaps no consequences and can reach the point of inducing terror on his or her target(s) comes to a point where they can act without fear of recrimination or retaliation.  This should send chills down our spine.

Bullying is not about disagreements, anger or conflict.  Bullying is about contempt where the perpetrator has intense feelings of dislike toward somebody or a group whom they consider to be worthless, inferior, or undeserving of respect.  Bullying is not innate, but rather a learned behavior. Barbara Coloroso explains in her book, Extra Ordinary Evil, a Brief History of Genocide, that “once human beings feel the cold hate of contempt for other human beings, they can do anything to them and feel no compassion, guilt, or shame; in fact, they often get pleasure from the targeted person’s pain.” We unfortunately are hearing about instances of this level of contempt in our news with great frequency these days.

Bullies also rely on bystanders to carry out their acts of aggression. Bystanders come in varying forms and have different roles.  Some bystanders will stand by and watch, some will actively inspire the bully and possibly join in, and some will choose to look the other way.  The bystander may offer words of encouragement to the aggressor or may dismiss the acts of a bully by stating, “he’s learned his lesson and won’t do it again.”  These acts of omission or commission actually fuel the fire of a bully.  The bully feels emboldened when no one stands up to him or her.  These acts also effect the bystander as they become desensitized to the cruel acts of the bully.  The bullying becomes normalized.  Bullying and creating terror are never normal and they need to be called out and stopped.

“Far more, and far more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience that have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.” – C.P. Snow

It is not acceptable to let the bully continue.  It is not okay to brush bullying under the rug and hope it will end on its own.  It will not.  Standing up to a bully and labeling their behavior as hurtful and unacceptable are not easy feats, AND they are necessary.  To let bullying continue allows the perpetrator to feel that their actions are acceptable and warranted, desensitizes all who are witness to the violence, and cause great harm and distress for the target.

It’s time to make a different choice instead or normalizing such destructive behavior.

1.  Find courage.  “Pay attention, get involved, and never ever look away.” This is a quote from a Holocaust survivor.  Standing up to bullying behavior, especially if it has gone on for some time will require a stiff spine and resolution to speak up.  Labeling it as bullying and harassment is important and necessary.  Bullying in the schoolyard and from a podium are damaging acts that require us to stand up and say, “no more!”
2.  Become an upstander.  An upstander is a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.  An upstander will not only stand up to bullying behavior but will also come to the aid of the target.  Make it a point to be the individual who does not stand for abusive behavior.  Let others know you are there to help and support them.
3.  Become a role model.  The more that we as individuals walk in the path of compassion, inclusion, and kindness as well as standing up and speaking out about bullies and their behavior, the more likely others will follow suit.  This is not a sprint but a marathon.

The normalizing of bullying and deviant behavior needs to stop.  Become part of the solution and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Kindness and respect can be modeled to others and it can start with us today.

2020 – End of Year Letter

2020 – End of Year Letter

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”  – Aesop

Happy Holidays:

As we wrap up this very eventful year of 2020, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the BRRC community.

In March, BRRC hosted a community event, “Connect Through Magic”, just two weeks before residents were instructed to shelter in place. We gathered with friends new and old and were treated to the inspiring magic of Scotty Wiese and delicious pizza from Mod Pizza.  The day was truly magical, and it was wonderful to watch our families and friends mingle and support one another.

To say that from March going forward has been challenging for any of us is probably an understatement.  For us as a charity, much of our advocacy work was put on hold.  Our collaborative work on a Colorado anti-bullying bill of rights (Jack’s Law) was put on hold for a while.  Work with many Douglas County families who were subject to gender bullying and harassment were also temporarily sidelined.  With the transfer to online schooling for our children we learned that cyberbullying was on the rise, and some children were struggling with their new school day.  Other kids welcomed a break from facing their tormentors in the school buildings and playgrounds.  The emotional stress for students, parents and teachers is ongoing and exhausting.

Through all these months it is apparent that our services are greatly needed and there is much work to be done to stop bullying.  The phone continues to ring and we have aided families in Colorado all the way to New Jersey who are in the midst of bullying.  We have met many allies this year who are deeply passionate about stopping bullying and our mission of advocacy and recovery.  The inroads we are creating in Colorado and beyond by assisting in giving voice to targets of bullying is meaningful.  We have made a good start.  But there is more to be done.

As we trek into a new year, BRRC has lofty goals to aid more children and their families who are targets of bullying.  We are currently on boarding more advocates to aid families who are in the midst of bullying.  We look forward to gathering our youth in peer recovery groups to grow and move beyond the torments of bullying.  We have plans in place to reach more individuals and organizations who support children and their families and make them aware of our services.  We look forward to hosting community gatherings either online or in person to continue to build a community where families can gather to rebuild and recover together. We also endevor to make meaningful state-wide changes in bullying laws and create transparency and policies for schools so that every bullied student and their family can be treated with the care and respect they deserve.

I am so grateful to all the wonderful people I have met on this journey.  I am inspired by the passion, strength and stamina exemplified in my colleagues, the families I have met, and by those who connect with our mission to defend bullied children and help rebuild lives.  Thank you for doing your part and being an upstander.

Happy 2021!


Dru Ahlborg, Executive Director, BRRC