Living life on the borderline

Bullying versus abuse – is there a line?

Posted on: May 22, 2010

So I remembered the post I was going to make. Triggers for abuse, bullying and violence.

I may just be being incredibly opinionated, but I don’t entirely agree with the word “bullying”. You hear people saying “All kids need a bit of bullying to toughen up”. Is that entirely correct?

A man is walking to work when a group of other people surprise him from where they’ve been hiding. They shout abuse, empty the contents of his briefcase on the floor, hold him up against the wall and threaten him not to tell anybody.

A woman is walking through town when a man starts making inappropiate comments. When she tries to ignore him, he grabs at her, fondling her and calling her names. His friends laugh and encourage him, sometimes joining in. She eventually manages to get away. This happens on a regular basis.

Sounds traumatizing, right? That’s surely some form of abuse or harassment, yes? This happens to children and young people all over the world – all disguised under the misapplied term of bullying.

I think the word “bullying” does the victims of it injustice in some way. What these young people (and adults, for that matter) experience is physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and sexual abuse/harassment. Who would tell somebody that they need a bit of physical and verbal abuse to toughen up?

Maybe I’m biased because I too am a victim of bullying. Probably. I probably feel too strongly about it. But the media are catching up.

During the period I was bullied (physically, verbally, racially and sexually), it was spoken of very little. People refused to believe it happened in their school, by their children and their teachers. It may not have been long, but things have changed dramatically with anti-bullying policies and the like. There wasn’t any of that protection for me. I wasn’t believed. Nothing was done. So I guess I feel strongly about it.

People are beginning to catch up, though.

Here’s an extract from the website. The link can be found here

The focus of the DSM-IV definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a single life-threatening event or threat to integrity. However, the symptoms of traumatic stress also arise from an accumulation of small incidents rather than one major incident. Examples include:

  • repeated exposure to horrific scenes at accidents or fires, such as those endured by members of the emergency services (eg bodies mutilated in car crashes, or horribly burnt or disfigured by fire, or dismembered or disembowelled in aeroplane disasters, etc)
  • repeated involvement in dealing with serious crime, eg where violence has been used and especially where children are hurt
  • breaking news of bereavement caused by accident or violence, especially if children are involved
  • repeated violations such as in verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse
  • regular intrusion and violation, both physical and psychological, as in bullying, stalking, harassment, domestic violence, etc

Where the symptoms are the result of a series of events, the term Complex PTSD (formerly referred to unofficially as Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder or PDSD) may be more appropriate. Whilst Complex PTSD is not yet an official diagnosis in DSM-IV or ICD-10, it is often used in preference to other terms such as “rolling PTSD”, “PDSD”, and “cumulative stress”.

As you will probably know, I suffer from PTSD/the-symptom-of-PTSD-but-pompous-hospital-doctor-doesn’t-agree-with-diagnosis. A lot of the flashbacks and nightmares and intrusive thoughts I get are based in the bullying I experienced.

Bullying is something that often continues over time, worsens in intensity, makes the victim feel guilty and ashamed and can result in a lot of psychological distress. Just as the more widely accepted view of “abuse” does.

Now the term “bullying” takes on a lot more significance.

So, what do other people think? Is there a line between bullying and abuse?

NB: I am entirely intellectualising in this post because my flashbacks are worse tonight. Please do tell me if I’m talking absolute rubbish, which I very likely am. x


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About the blogger.

I'm an 18 year old girl/woman/person of the female gender who blogs about growing up, living with mental health problems and her experience with the NHS mental health services, both CAMHS and CMHTs. Expect plenty of teenage angst and general craziness. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

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