“Emotional bullying, like ridicule and exclusion, seems to be more common than physical violence and, judging by what young people express, it can also be the most difficult type of bullying to cope with or prove.”
– Karen DeBord, Ph.D. & Stephanie Moore (2011, p. 4)
Emotional bullying most commonly takes the form of verbal abuse, but there are several other types of emotional bullying that children can also endure:
Emotional Bullying through humiliation
Bullies can use several methods of humiliation to bully a child. Here are a few examples:
A) Shouting “Jonathan, get your hand out of there and stop playing with yourself, God, that’s sick man,” in a booming voice so that everyone in the vicinity hears, when of course, the victim is doing nothing of the sorts.
B) Having a peer tell the victim that a girl he likes (but who the bully knows isn’t too into him) actually likes him and wants him to ask her out, so that he is humiliated by her inevitable rejection.
C) Taking a picture of a teen in an unflattering way using a camera phone and then spreading that picture around to others.
Emotional bullying through mocking
Mocking the victim can include things like mimicking the child’s body gestures or actions in a derogatory way. Or it may be mimicking the target by assigning them thoughts or beliefs (“Hi, I’m Nicky, and I have no friends and love to stay home and jack-off on Friday night”), or perhaps by pointing to another guy and saying something like “You know John wants a piece of that ass.”
Emotional bullying through taunting
Taunting involves egging a child on to make him or her feel as though they must prove themselves through some arbitrary test. Bullies may taunt a child into performing stupid, humiliating or dangerous feats, and then laugh or make fun of them when things go wrong. Often times these “tests” are well thought out in advance, with other kids conditioning a child and working the victim like a con artist to fool him into thinking that certain stunts actually will earn him respect, when in fact the entire process is set up to make the victim do outrageous things that will only earn them more ostracism.
Here’s an abbreviated example: If you were to take off your pants and run down the hallway you’d be the coolest kid in school. One kid did that a few years ago and instantly became the most popular kid in school. All the girls liked him…girls love guys who are spontaneous and rebellious like that. But I bet you’re such a loser and such a pussy that you wouldn’t have the balls to do something hilarious like that.” No matter how ridiculous or dangerous the stunt, peer pressure can be a powerful thing, especially to a socially awkward kid who is desperate for friends and has been worked over for several days or weeks by a pack of cunning peers. This pressure is enough to get otherwise sensible kids to do some really stupid things: things that earn them lasting humiliation or even get them killed.
Emotional bullying through impersonation
In the infamous Megan Meier case, a bully and her mother pretended to be a cute boy in order to develop a false relationship with Megan to the point that she thought she was in love. They then dumped her under this fake persona while calling her names and telling her how stupid and worthless she was. Or impersonation can involve someone impersonating the victim herself to act in ways that sabotage the victim’s reputation.
Emotional bullying also takes several other forms that will be discussed separately in the upcoming sections:
- Emotional bullying through gossip
- Emotional bullying through social exclusion