When faced with a bullying situation, witnesses and students who are bullied may respond in several ways. They may choose to respond passively, avoiding or ignoring the situation and trying to “wish it away”. This may have the effect of entrenching or even escalating the bullying, as the student who bullies believes she or he is gaining power and control over the other person. They may act aggressively, in an attempt to frighten or overpower the other so she or he will stop the bullying. This may also escalate the bullying, as the student doing the bullying may become even more aggressive as a way to maintain control. And finally, they may seek revenge, hoping to “get even” and feel more powerful. This too may escalate the situation as the student who initiated the bullying responds with more aggression to the act of revenge.
Witnesses and students who are bullied need to learn assertive ways of responding to bullying which help de-escalate the situation while ensuring that all involved keep their rights. It is essential that adults acknowledge that all efforts to end bullying on the part of a student are courageous and creative, whether they are successful or not.