We can all picture it: a kid being beat up or verbally assaulted by a bully while a crowd of people start to circle up. A confounding number of them will start cheering the bully on - they tell themselves, "it's entertainment, I’m not the one doing it, and maybe the kid deserved it".
Others who join the circle, albeit not cheering the bully on, are still a part of the barricade and an obstacle to the victim's freedom.
Many, many walk right on by either not noticing or not caring - it's not their problem, or maybe they simply find the entire scene unsavory and don’t want to get dirty, and they're so busy after all. It is also entirely possible that this person is authentically oblivious.
Another type is standing just outside the circle, observing with anxiety, talking themselves into and out of acting every second but ultimately too afraid to engage or unsure how to help.
But every once in a while, someone who is not necessarily any bigger or stronger than the poor soul getting pummeled, finds the courage to break through the bully circle and try to stop the fight. Maybe at a personal risk, but it doesn’t matter to this type. They see that what is happening is wrong and doing nothing is not an option. It is a courageous act that is often the only thing needed to shift the attitudes of the bully circle.
There are 5 roles when dealing with bullies; which one are you?
The Freedom Blocker
The Willfully/Blissfully Ignorant
The Well-intentioned In-Activist
Whether it is racism, sexism, trafficking, or hateful political rhetoric, the Bully is ubiquitous in these arenas and we all play a part as a promoter or preventer. Bully power is 100% dependent on the certainty of the first 4 groups taking an active role in supporting the bully’s desired outcomes and minimizing the actions of the Disrupters.
When it comes to human trafficking, the vulnerable individuals continue to suffer harm and humiliation if we do anything other than take action*. It matters because no matter where you are, trafficking is there too. So you must ask yourself, what role do you play?
Definition of accomplice: One who knowingly, voluntarily, and with common intent unites with the principal offender in the commission of a crime. One who is in some way concerned or associated in commission of crime; partaker of guilt; one who aids or assists
Bully Accomplice These vocal participants often benefit from their actions and may gain the bully’s protection. The bully is nothing without these cheerleaders, and they each recognize that the bully’s power is fed by their fear and subsequent endorsement. When it comes to the world of trafficking, cheerleaders are excited about the activity because they enjoy the results of porn and inexpensive food and labor, or perhaps get a special contract, access to influence and power, and may even evade justice. They might be promoters and buyers of sex, or businesses profiting from labor exploitation. These benefactors of trafficking include businesses like Pornhub, Rubmaps, Hershey’s, and the agriculture industry. They are the Bullies' accomplices.
“You may choose to look the other way but you
can never say again that you did not know.” William Wilberforce
Freedom Blocker These passive members of the bully circle convince themselves that they are not guilty because they are not encouraging the bully, but merely observing as witnesses. They are, however, unequivocally complicit. They form the obstacles to freedom and even perpetuate the violence by remaining passive and curious by the activity, wondering what direction it will go. When it comes to trafficking, these types go ostrich on the origins of fast fashion, or the slave labor required to meet the demand for the latest and greatest tech device. Do you love seafood, Oreos, and/or cheap cleaning services? If so, it's time to acknowledge the slave labor required to meet the demand. Think porn is harmless? Its content (much of which actually contains real r*pe and pedophilic activity that Pornhub fails to remove) has cultural and neurological impacts leading to predatory grooming of children, increased sexual violence, and ED in otherwise able-bodied young men. The Bully enjoys significant influence over this group.
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” James Baldwin
The Willfully/Blissfully Ignorant Most members of society probably fall into this category. With a total lack of awareness of the issue, it is possible that trafficking is right next to you and you don't even notice it, because your mind is not primed to recognize it. Additionally, misconceptions and stereotypes will allow the mind to write its own explanation: "it's just kids being kids", "it's not my kid", "it's none of my business", “It’s someone else’s problem”,"someone else will fix it", "the law will arrive", "I have my own issues to worry about", "I don’t want to get involved", "I don't have time", "I don't have money", "I don’t have influence", etc etc etc. Shopping on Amazon is too convenient, so what if they sell child-like blow up dolls and cartoon illustrated books priming kids for sexual abuse? Sugar dating is an arrangement among equals, right? My child isn’t on TikTok, so all good. These are all justifications for disengagement and turning a blind eye. Apathy and ignorance is tantamount to perpetuation and endorsement. The Bully wants this group to remain as large as possible.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." Edmund Burke
Well-intentioned In-Activist A lot of us might fall into this category as well. The problem has started to enter our radar but we remain paralyzed with uncertainty or fearful for our own safety. We see something, our instincts tell us it is not okay, but we hope or believe that someone else will act first. What do I do, what can I do, how should I do it? And as we contemplate our next move, the bully has moved on, the vulnerable disappear quietly, and now it is in our rearview mirror. Unlike the passersby, this bystander has the onus of conscience, and may realize they are culpable of perpetuating the problem by remaining silent. With inaction, the issue exacerbates and festers. The Bully is effective in silencing this group along with the victims.
"You have enemies? Good. That means you stood up for something in your life." Winston Churchill
The Disrupter This person has courage to cross the barricade, or at least go find help. What moves someone to action in this case? For some it is easy. We know the type: the fearless confronter of injustice easily putting their own safety and resources on the line to advocate and intervene for others. You might ask, "What if that's not me, how can I possibly make a difference?" The good news is that it takes very little. Every conscious decision you make to minimize exploitation is a powerful one. Micro-Actions add up to big results. The Bully fears this group.
Opportunities to engage run from meek to brave but all are critical to ending the exploitation of our fellow human beings. We can be the one who busts in the circle to comfort and offer support to the vulnerable or finds ways to restrain the bully. Or we can simply buy fair trade, shop at consignment stores, sign petitions to address the online peddling and procuring of people. Support non-profits doing the work, get educated and spread the word, volunteer. Or simply sign The Pledge to motivate your engagement.
What action looks like is different for everyone, and all can be a part of the solution. Imagine that poor kid getting bullied while so many watched on. Imagine being that poor kid. What would you want someone to do?
*Ways to to be a Defender
Get Educated:Polaris | We Fight to End Human Trafficking
Get Involved: TAKE ACTION | I5freedomnetwork
Go for help: National Human Trafficking Hotline 888-3737-888
Know the perils of fast fashion: stop buying cheap clothes and goods by shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops. That is a double benefit as you are doing good things for the planet, too
Buy Fair trade
Share what you know with your networks: an informed society can take informed action
Sign The Pledge to fight human trafficking