People who were bullied as a kid. Does it bother you when people ask why?

I was listening to an interview with the film-maker of the documentary “Bully”, who was also bullied as a kid. The interviewer asked him why he was bullied, and he kind of huffed and puffed, saying he didn’t like that question because it puts the onus on him, the victim, to explain the behavior of the people who wronged him. It’s like blaming the victim.

I guess that’s true. I don’t know how a person is supposed to explain why they were picked on without sounding either really pathetic or sour-grapey (Because they were jealous!). But is it inherently a bad question? Can’t a person have some insight into the problem that would allow them to answer the question objectively?

When I was bullied, it was because I was bookish and had Buddy Holly glasses. But not for long, by anyone, as I also had a temper and fought back.

When I was bullied, it was because I was fat, studious, and the son of a local cop. It lasted until a couple episodes of near psychotic violence towards my tormentors convinced them to move on. The one I threw down a stairwell, in particular, was worse for the wear and might easily have been killed. Bullies prefer easy victims, but contrary to popular wisdom, they mostly aren’t afraid of a fight. As it turns out, they are afraid of getting killed or maimed for real, though.

I was bullied because I was smart and weird - which is odd because that is why my friends liked me. On reflection, I also had very poor social skills.

I think it is a bad question for a public discussion. The question itself suggests that instead of there being something wrong with the bully, there’s something wrong with the victim. Eventually the answer is going to boil down to “Because I wasn’t cool enough/tough enough/popular enough/whatever enough to NOT be bullied.” It’s like asking someone to make a public profession of inadequacy. So not only were you bullied, but now we’re going to humiliate you about it.

Of course there is something wrong with bullies, but the victim who responds “Because they’re sick degenerate assholes” is still cast in a negative light.

If there’s any value to asking and answering the question, I think it would be in a private setting, such as with a therapist, but even then I’d approach cautiously.

When I’d come home with tales of harrassment from school, my mother would always ask why the kids did what they did to me. And her questions did come across as blaming the victim. Like she was forcing me to examine myself through other people’s eyes in hopes that I would see the error of my ways.

Maybe a better way of phrasing the inquiry is, “How were you bullied?”

I was bullied in junior high school; I became the bully in high school. I can understand why bullying victims might be offended by being asked the question, as the real issues are why bullies behave as they do and why the school allows it.

Growing up in my neighborhood we learned early that bullies usually team up with other bullies, so becoming a part of our own group was a survival skill because loners were often the victims of bullies.

That was certainly not the fault of the victims, and children who are bullies might be acting out some abuse of power they are witnessing in their homes.

However, from what I have seen with very young children, there are those who tend to play the victim consistently, and it does attract the children who like to play the bully.

I was always being uprooted & moving to a new town every year or two.

Always the outsider.

Would you ask someone why they were raped?

I agree with the film-maker, it is blaming the victim.

The question reveals a certain ignorance from the questioner. But getting huffy in response to ignorance seems ill-advised. Better to gently educate:

“The question implies that bullies have a some rational reason for targeting any particular person. Do you really believe that is the case? It isn’t. The question also could be heard by some of those who were bullied as asking them to state what they did to provoke the bullies, what did they do to deserve it? And the victims are not the cause, the victims do not deserve it.”

Nobody ever asks me, but that’s as good an answer as any.

Agreement with bot implicit and DSeid. The question is a foolish one, and implies a reason for criminality. Yeah, the woman shouldn’t have worn a skimpy blouse in a big city at night; yeah, the schoolkid shouldn’t have worn glasses and gotten good math grades. Really bad process of reasoning!

And, yeah, getting defensive is a rotten interview technique!

Or, you know, “because I was different” would be adequate for most cases of bullying. It certainly was the case for me when I was dealing with bullying.

The victim will most likely not have the proper insight and volume of data to spot patterns. But researchers have looked into this question, and if I remember what I read, social standing and network played a large role.

Agreed. I can’t imagine anyone that’s ever been bullied DIDN’T know exactly why it was happening. And deep down, we all knew “They’re just jealous” wasn’t the right answer.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad question, though I do think that asking the person getting bullied is silly. Perhaps the interviewer should be asking the victim’s friends or other bystanders instead.

I was bullied in sixth grade, but didn’t have much of an objective point of view about it until recently, now that I’m in my 30s and have kids of my own (neither of which is being bullied). Had you asked me after I got beaten in the hallway why Amy was smacking the hell out of me, I would’ve either started crying and run to hide in the bathroom or said she was a hideous, fucked-up bitch.

Now that I think about it, she was a fucked-up bitch, but she probably picked me because I was new in school and was so insecure I tried too hard to get people to like me. I was that weird, desperate girl who laughed too loud at popular girls’ jokes and acted like an excited cocker spaniel when they talked to me.

To expand on this, bullies don’t see their behavior as bullying, they see it as refusing to put up with “unacceptable behavior”, especially the more subtle (and IMO more damaging) forms of bullying, like exclusion, ostracizing, rumor spreading, etc. Asking that kind of question in public reinforces the idea that some people “deserve” to be treated that way–both in the target’s and the bully’s mind.

It’s not like bullies tell their victims the (real) reasons why they bully them. I can only speculate, so it’s not like it adds anything to a conversation to ask me why I was bullied. The question itself also implies that there was something “wrong” with me, or that I somehow earned or deserved the bullying. I agree, the correct question is one asked of the bullies.

As for why I was bullied, the reasons they told me were: I was fat (not true until after a couple years into it left me severely depressed); I was stupid (definitely not true); I was ugly (matter of opinion, I suppose); I was a slut (no); I was a prude (ironic, given that this reason was simultaneous with the “slut” reason); and probably others I’m forgetting.

My WAG to the real reasons: some of them had shitty home lives and were lashing out at an easy target, and I was that target because I got no support or help from the adults; some of them were sociopaths; some of them were insecure and attached themselves as lackeys to the Big Boss Bully so they could feel important; or they became lackeys just to avoid becoming targets themselves. I have no idea which, if any, of these generic “why do bullies bully” reasons are true in my case. You’d have to ask them.

I was bullied because I had poor social skills. I’ve been told recently that I may have a touch of the asperger’s by my therapist. That said, yes I would be offended by the question, because who really knows why certain people do these things. I’m not in their head. I can honestly explain why I think it happened, but at the end of the day there wasn’t a damn thing I could have done differently. Once somebody gets an idea in their head, it’s not like I can do much to change it.