Worse than sticks and stones: Words that only hurt

Worse than sticks and stones: Words that only hurt

Most of the time, when we think of bullying that takes place in person, we associate it with physical violence. But that’s not always the case. Verbal bullying is a pretty big part of the bullying spectrum, and one that causes a lot of unseen damage. The definition of verbal bullying is roughly; “Verbal bullying is intended to degrade or demean the victim in some way, so the bully feels powerful or strong. It can occur on its own or in conjunction with other forms of bullying. Though it happens more frequently among girls, this type of bullying can happen with boys as well, and it can be just as damaging as (or even more damaging than) physical bullying. A bully might target a specific child because of things like weight, gender, race, appearance or height or for some other reason entirely.”

Verbal bullying is actually the most reported type of harassment, with 79% of reports detailing verbal abuse. It's also widely agreed to be the most common type of bullying in schools. It’s all the more dangerous because it can happen between peers, and even student and teacher, without anyone realizing something is wrong. 

What can you do if you’re being constantly verbally bullied?

  • Have a talk with them, but only if you feel safe doing so.
  • Ask your friends to step in.
  • Tell a parent or trusted adult.
  • Document any and all times they harass you. 
  • Report them to the relevant authorities.

Verbal bullying can affect children in different ways. First, it can affect their self-image in ways that persist in adulthood. It causes emotional and psychological harm, including low self-esteem and depression. It can also make it difficult for your child to focus and do well in school, and it can affect their friendships and their family life. Some victims may suffer physical harm alongside the verbal bullying, but the long-term effects can be serious even when there's no physical harm. In extreme cases, verbal bullying can even result in suicide attempts.

What can you do if someone you know is getting verbally bullied? 

  • Make your support known. Sometimes just that is enough to discourage the bully. 
  • Make sure your friend knows you’re there for them. 
  • Aid them in avoiding the bully if they wish, and reduce times when they are alone. 
  • Encourage them to document and report it.

Verbal bullying can affect adults in the following ways:

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety along with feelings of sadness or loneliness
  • Changes in sleep and eating habits
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Loss of interest in activities and socializing
  • Frequent sick days
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Thyroid problems
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Increased blood pressure

Verbal bullying, like any sort of bullying, has consequences. It's our responsibility to stand up for ourselves or anyone else who is being subjected to it. 

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