Relationship bullying refers to behavior that is perpetrated by on person to maintain power over the other, usually rising to abusive levels. Bullying can take place in romantic relationships, between siblings, parents and children, friends and co-workers. It often escalates over time as well. There are a multitude of manipulative and coercive tactics that a bully will utilize to control his victim. Stopbullying.gov, an online resource managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports that bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide. Understanding the dynamics of relationship bullying can help you recognize and respond appropriately to it.
Physical bullying not only includes actions such as hitting and pushing. A man blocking the doorway to prevent his girlfriend from leaving during an argument, a boss who slams doors and throws things across the office and an angry father who punches a hole in the wall during a fit of rage are all engaging in physical bullying. This type of abuse often rises to the level of criminal activity. In addition to seeking necessary medical treatment, it is an option to contact police or the local victim service agency for assistance with planning for your safety.
Psychologically bullying someone can occur through the use of intimidation, name-calling and threats. It is also useful to the bully to set people against one another, and is often accomplished by spreading misinformation. The bully may receive some gratification from the resulting divisiveness, but he also benefits because everyone's attention is focused on the conflict and away from him. Maintaining a trustworthy system of support is particularly important because it can help the victim identify the more subtle bullying behaviors.
Coercion is another type of manipulative behavior the bully may use. It can appear as sexual pressure: "If you loved me, you'd show me by having sex." It can occur among close friends, with one saying, "If you don't do this favor for me, I'll tell everyone about the affair." It is also found in the form of bribery: "If you just write this paper for me, I'll buy you a new camera." Coercion can be difficult to recognize, since it can be framed by the perpetrator as "negotiating a compromise." Remember that in the presence of fear or a threat of any kind, a fair and fully consensual compromise cannot be made.
Cyber-bullying is prevalent in abusive relationships, and well as among teenage and young adult populations. It can be defined as the use of means like text messaging and social networking sites to stalk, harass, threaten or spread false information about the victim. Embarrassing photos can be shared, and fake profiles created. This type of relationship bullying is unique because it allows the perpetrator to access the victim at any time and it can be done anonymously, allowing bullies to avoid accountability with greater ease.
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