Who’s Responsible?

Every time I give a talk I’m asked whether I’m victim blaming by telling victims of bullying how to get their bully to stop. No. I’m not victim blaming. I’m empowering them by telling them what they can do to make it stop.


What I teach is about putting the victim in control. It’s about helping victims shift power away from the bully and to themselves. It’s about turning a victim into a victor!

Let’s be clear about this. The bully is responsible for their actions. The blame lies with them. But, that doesn’t mean that the bully will stop just because you ask them to and blame them for their behavior. When was the last time that ever worked? Uhhhhh Never!

Telling a victim of bullying that that they don’t or shouldn’t have to do anything to get their bully to stop gives the bully power and takes it away from the victim. You are telling the victim: your salvation from bullying lies entirely in the hands of your bully. You are telling them that they can’t and shouldn’t help themselves and that there is nothing they can or should be doing to make the torment stop, so don’t even try.

I literally can’t imagine telling a victim of bullying anything more fatalistic than that.

This, don’t blame the victim and don’t try to help them take responsibility to make the bullying stop because the bully is to blame sort of advice is idealistic, but not realistic. In the ideal world, the victim wouldn’t have to do anything, the bullying would just stop. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world. And in the real world asking a bully to stop, doesn’t work. Ever.

What we should be teaching victims is how to make it stop. Them. What they can do to make it stop. Yes, this is about responsibility. Yes, the bully is responsible for their behavior. But so is the victim. The victim is responsible for how they choose to respond to bullies. Some responses make it stop and other responses make it worse.

Teaching someone how to respond in a way that makes the bullying stop is something that pretty much everyone I’ve ever met wants to learn! No one I have taught it to thought I was blaming them for being bullied. What they thought and have told me – is – finally – information I can use that actually works!!!! Relief followed by a feeling of – yeah – I can do this and I did! And it worked and I’m no longer going to be a victim.

This is what teaching responsibility to a victim of bullying does. It does not make them responsible for the behavior of a troll but it does help them take responsibility for making it stop. They aren’t damsels in distress waiting for a knight in shining armor to save them. They are capable of handling this themselves.

Let’s empower targets of bullying instead of encouraging them to act as if they are helpless victims.