Bullying is a problem that’s easy to understand, but many people fail to recognize this form of abuse when it is perpetuated among girls. Adolescent girls bully differently than boys do, frequently making it difficult to identify and deal with. The emotional abuse inflicted by girls on their peers can be exceptionally harsh and damaging. If you believe your daughter is the victim of bullying, there are ways to help her cope and to avoid being a victim in the future.
How Girls Bully
Unlike boys, girls rarely use physical violence when bullying other girls. The female perpetrator of this specific victimization uses emotional manipulation within the social structure to exert her power. The level of viciousness, and the toll it takes on its victims, goes beyond the familiar playground punching and name-calling used by boys. Girls bully by excluding and ostracizing, and by spreading vicious and hurtful rumors. They also tend to attack in packs, although groups of mean girls usually have a leader who manipulates her cohorts to go along with her schemes. These behaviors relate directly to power and popularity. It’s often difficult to know when the line has been crossed, however, as the beginnings of a problem can look very much like normal female adolescent behavior.
When Bullying Becomes a Problem
Victimized girls may try to hide the fact that bullying is going on, out of embarrassment or fear that family involvement will exacerbate the problem. Even if she builds up the courage to tell someone, adults may trivialize the situation or brush it off as a rite of passage. To adults, their young years in retrospect, alienation or embarrassment in the social structure may not seem all that important. To a teenage girl, however, it’s everything. The first sign of victimization is almost always an unwillingness to go to school or attend social functions. She may suddenly feel “sick” regularly, not wanting to get up in the morning or reporting to the school nurse, asking to be sent home. Her grades may begin to suffer and she may experience anxiety or depression. In extreme cases (unfortunately no longer rare), she may attempt suicide.
Ways to Help a Bullying Victim
Today, prevention is considered the first line of defense, and teaching girls from an early age how to recognize and combat bullying is crucial. If intimidation is already happening, individual and family counseling can help mitigate the problem before it gets out of hand. This involves learning effective communication and response skills, strengthening self-esteem and developing ways to cope with and prevent bullying. She needs to know she’s not alone, that it’s not her fault, and that there is hope.
Havenwood Academy offers programs specifically designed to help young women who have been the victims of bullies. Using experiential therapy along with other scientifically based treatment approaches, Havenwood’s staff of professional counselors can provide your daughter with the tools she needs to recover from victimization and bullying.