Should I intervene when I witness bullying?

Your Life
Dr. Gelasia Marquez
January, 2016

While waiting for a bus recently, I encountered a group of kids, no older than 12 or 13. Three of them were ganging up on the fourth one and bullying her terribly – calling her names and teasing her until she was clearly fighting back tears. I ended up not saying anything to them, but later felt that I should have. When is it right as an adult to intervene with kids you don’t know when there is clearly a problem?

It can be uncomfortable to witness an act of bullying, and it may seem easier as a bystander to ignore that type of behavior. But we must always remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel. (10:29-37) Jesus told this parable in response to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” In order to be a good neighbor, as we are instructed, here are a few suggestions:

  • Create a distraction that breaks up the bullying situation.
  • Show verbal disapproval: Let them know you’re aware of the bullying and that it's not OK.
  • Provide an escape for the person being bullied.
  • If you feel safe, talk to the person who is bullying, privately, and ask them what's going on. Support the person being bullied after the situation is over.
  • If you feel threatened or think the victim is in physical danger, call the police.