5 Signs of Bullying Women Often Miss

On the surface it may seem that women have come a long way in the past few decades; equality between the sexes has become a norm. Women’s professional opportunities have increased and even roles in the home are changing. However, as we women continue to progress, the need to protect ourselves is higher than ever. As women are shaking centuries-old established programming, the male adult bully lurks. And he’s not in the places you think. Having close ties with a bully makes the signs of bullying harder to see.

No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth

plato

Since the #MeToo movement in 2017, women (SADLY) are finally feeling supported enough to speak up about sexual harassment. However, there are still many forms of harassment that we don’t talk about. They may not be physical but they are still harmful. The childhood bully has graduated and he has sharpened his skill sets too.  

This article highlights what constitutes a bully, how their methods manifest beyond the far side of sexual harassment, and 5 signs of bullying tactics to keep a lookout for. There’s a lot of stigma around the topic of adult bullying and this may make certain methods or behaviors difficult to identify. As a result, women find it difficult to talk about it or report the incident.

WHAT IS BULLYING

Bullying is such a passionate topic for me. From elementary school to middle school, bullies sought me out. I watched the same play out for my older son through most of his school years and most recently my youngest son had to go through it within the first two months of him entering kindergarten. Such garbage.

When researching online there is no shortage of information on childhood bullying. And if you do any type of search on adult female bullying you will notice that the little bit of information that is out there, touches on females being bullied in the workplace only.

The matter of it is there are so many different scenarios and spaces where women are actually being bullied. Bullies can be found in places of authority like in courtrooms, in your neighborhood, and/or worse –amongst your friends and family.

A BULLY’S PURPOSE

In casual conversations with girlfriends of mine, they have confirmed this. Each of their circumstances different. The theme, however, held a common denominator: Intimidation. I myself had come into my own situation this past year (2022), but I wasn’t able to call it out for what it was. I can now.

Bullying on top of other things is emotional abuse. It’s a control tactic. It is said to be a “coping strategy” used as a way to assert control when the bully is faced with personal limitations. So they bully.

And all for what, honestly???  Because my five-year-old wants to eat his gummy bears at lunch, because my friend wanted to get divorced from an abusive husband, because I voiced my needs/wants for what’s best for my family? We should be bullied?????

The whole matter is saddening. It’s frustrating. It’s fucking maddening. 

It is important to understand that bullying is not just physical. It is a type of aggression, in which a person causes another emotional distress–intentionally. Behaviors and actions from the adult bully may leave you feeling pressure, shame, intimidated, humiliated, fatigued, crazy even….

Recognizing the traits and symptoms of a bully confirms the cognitive dissonance that you may have been experiencing when interacting with a certain person. Only you could never put your finger on it. I hope you can after this.

Never be bullied into silence

Harvey S. Firestone

FIVE SIGNS OF BULLYING

I unfortunately have been a victim of all of the methods below, and all on the same day in just one conversation too. Ha! But, it wasn’t until later that I recognized that these things were being used, that I was being manipulated. That I was being led to a place where I felt shame about myself…for things I should have never felt shameful about in the first place. The worse part is because a lot of these methods that I experienced came from personal relationships, I was reluctant to protect myself.

Below are 5 experiences. 5 methods. 5 signs of bullying that should not be dismissed.

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS

You feel like you have to be careful around this person because they appear to be fragile or sensitive to certain situations, so you avoid upsetting them. You are not quite sure how they will react, and you feel that it is easier to sacrifice your comfort, instead of shaking theirs.

BEING UNDERMINED

Although this one can be done in a very subtle manner, it is a more challenging one to detect. It can manifest through body language and mockery, unfriendly competitive mannerisms, and the cock blocking of anything you do or say when setting standards in place. It is a tactic that you detect through feeling. You can feel you are being disrespected and walked over.

FEELING A DEEP SENSE OF ANXIETY

I know that this may sound stupid, and this one should be a duh! But it becomes a complicated feeling when it involves people you love and care for. It may not even be recognized as anxiety and just brushed off.  This one hit me as there was this one time when I was just sitting outside working on a paper and a phone call came in. Just seeing the name on the screen seized all my functions. My husband was sitting across from me, witnessing me go through all the motions I go through before I hit a panic attack.

Thinking back now it makes me laugh: the look on his face. Or how I must have looked. I ended up calling the person back but only after I had put myself back together. Seriously, that was the first time that I had to ask myself What in the Actual Fuck is wrong with me? If a name on my phone gives my body a reaction like that, I have some serious realness I need to get to the bottom of with myself and about this relationship.

Anxiety is an alarm system, and it is trying to tell you something.

THE SILENT TREATMENT

Oh, the kiss of death. One of the bigger markers in the trait of a bully is shutting down communication on you. Believe it or not, this is a form of abuse. I have much shame in admitting this, but I too used this tactic on many occasions as a tool to hurt in my younger years. It was a norm in the environment that I was raised in and was always used on us.

This method leaves the other party to drown in thoughts of what did I do, how can I fix this, how can we fix this? I must be a bad person. Or as a means of letting you know that you are not seen and not heard. It’s very cruel and one of the worst feelings to put anyone through. It is a message that says, my way, I’m right, and if you don’t adapt to what I want—then I don’t see you.

GASLIGHTING

One of the biggest signs of bullying, this method is used to confuse the person it is being used on. Mostly associated with narcissism and socio-paths ( I mean a bully is a bully right?) the Gaslighter will use phrases like

  • Stop being so sensitive
  • you’re so emotional
  • you can’t take a joke
  • you are the only one overreacting
  • Everyone agrees with me
  • There is something wrong with you
  •  I did this for you, why can’t you see that

Ugh, I’m over it! Even typing those words has exhausted me. But wait there’s more…

The gaslighter not only says such things to fuck with your head they also tend to be forgetful about things. Pretending they did not agree to something, or that they have no idea what you are talking about. This method is a manipulation used to make victims doubt themselves. The toxic practice releases any type of accountability from the bully. Mostly used in romantic relationships, don’t turn a blind eye to a sibling or a boss that may be saying these things to you.

All cruelty springs from weakness

seneca

SO NOW WHAT

The cold truth of it all is that the adult bully really is a person who has unrealistic expectations and makes unreasonable demands. They are emotionally immature and more times than not they are victims themselves with trauma of their own that stems from their childhood. Exercise empathy for these individuals if you can but do it from a distance.  

And the signs of bullying methods above aren’t to say that if you know a person who has done those things to you it doesn’t mean they are automatically considered a bully. For if you made that person aware of how any of the above affects you negatively and they don’t do it again, they are not a bully.  A true bully… don’t give a shit. And that’s how you spot them.

If you are dealing with an adult bully tell yourself right now that standing up for yourself, and speaking out, DOES NOT make you argumentative. This is something a bully wants you to feel. To think. To believe about yourself.

SPEAK OUT

In situations and relationships where you can control how much you engage with the bully, the first thing you need to do is tell them how you feel. Call out the tactic.

“When we are on this topic, I feel like I have to walk on eggshells”. Or, “I know you are upset but it hurts my feelings when you give me the silent treatment. Surely, you can talk to me and tell me what you’re feeling or thinking. Let me know if you need a few days”.

In personal relationships, if you are met with punishment for speaking up, then you need to either set boundaries or decide to be done with that person period. Friend or family. Don’t let anyone make justifications through the ties that bind– because it still does not make it okay. A bully is a bully. Do not accept that type of treatment. You are better than that –AND THEM!

WHAT IF I CANT GET AWAY?

For bullies that you can not control the amount of interaction you have with them, you need to do a little more work and get creative with a means of protecting your mental well-being: create a special routine, prepare yourself with affirmations, and look for resources that offer ideas and support.   

My friend was caught in a very nasty divorce with one of those slimy lawyers. He intimidated her, and he put her through repeated trauma through revictimization, even when it hurt his own client. He did it on purpose and there was very little she could do about it at the time. There’s a real term for it too! It’s called “Legal Bullying” and it’s the abusive person using the legal system and court procedures to harass and break down their ex-partner. Caught in the whirlwinds of emotion she didn’t recognize these as signs of bullying right away. As this too is a very taboo subject with very little info out there, but through her educating herself on the issue she was able to get support through it and ways to work around it.  

FIND THE HELP YOU NEED

If you are in a situation where you feel like you can’t get out of it, there are steps to take to help yourself.  Make sure you are documenting anything and everything. You never know when you will need to show proof. Talk to your supervisors and HR, and if need be go above them. Consult a lawyer. Research. Talk to someone. Maybe even hashtag on your social media, you never know – you too just might start a new movement.

It’s crazy to think that only 5 years ago, sexual harassment in the workplace has been taken more seriously. To think we have come so far, but really we haven’t.  Bullying has been around since the beginning of time and it is not going away anytime soon. It is a global problem actually and especially for women, on issues that we are barely touching on. If you are a current victim of an adult bully and need help, I have gathered some resources for you below.

Please share your experiences through the comments and other signs of bullying that I may have missed. We can help others through insight from sharing our stories.

Hang in there…you are not alone.

Stop bullying .gov

STOMP OUT BULLY Help Chat Crisis Line        

Fight Cybercrime

Crisis Text Line

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