“Blaming the victim” is a common response to bullying episodes. In these cases, people often focus on the target’s behaviour rather than the behaviour of the student who bullies. The target is viewed as somehow weak, passive, or vulnerable and, therefore, someone who needs to be more assertive, to “stand up for themselves,” or to fight back, all in the mistaken belief that they need to develop strength of character. Sometimes students who are viewed as somewhat “different” or “strange” are told that all they need to do is change, when this is not the issue at all.
As well, if students who bully are respected athletes, class leaders, or popular, personable individuals, adults tend to like and believe them more than their targets, especially targets who also bully. In the case of students who bully but who are also bullied, adults may rationalize that they’re only “getting what they deserve”, or “asking for it” because of previous problems.
Some people also tend to underestimate the power and influence that students who bully hold, both over their targets and the witnesses to their bullying. Those who bully will assert that they were only “kidding around” and that the target of the bullying took it too seriously or was actually to blame for the behaviour. Bystanders will often substantiate the bully’s account and the intimidated target may even back the bully’s fabrications.