• In my years of training with the Navy and Law Enforcement Agencies, I was often tasked with assessing the reaction time of individuals to a perceived threat.  One instrument we used was a Scenario Simulator, which is essentially a life-sized video game.  The accuracy and reaction time to a perceived threat was measured on the screen.  We discovered that reaction time was much faster when the perceived threat was directed at the participant versus when the threat was directed at someone else (a victim).  When asked, participants reported that they knew they should have reacted immediately to save the life of another as if it was their own but for some reason they hesitated.  Often self-preservation was their main focus of concern, and then came the safety of others.  It made total sense to me that their own safety ranked higher on their hierarchy of basic human needs.  In the real world I have noticed that the preservation of self above the preservation of others isn’t limited to life threatening circumstances.  Just look around you and observe how often people standby and don’t come to the aid of others, when intellectually they know they should have done something.

    At that point she stepped up and put a stop to it to protect herself

    We recently had a similar situation at my 11 year-old daughter’s school whereby one of the more popular girls in her class had befriended her.  The girl was kind to my daughter but was harsh and curt with the other girls.  As a matter of fact, she was very opinionated and immediately put people in two categories- they were amazing or were horrible.  There was no middle ground with her.  She would either want to kill you or kill for you, as my daughter put it.  Her behavior was extreme and abusive on many levels.  Yet somehow she treated my daughter well though she would often witness her abrasive and derogatory treatment of others.  It bothered my daughter extensively but she kept making excuses for her and wanted to believe that this girl’s good nature would eventually prevail.  But it never did!  Though my daughter didn’t partake in this abusive behavior of others, she often stood aside as others were berated and even bullied.  She knew it was wrong but likely didn’t want to face the wrath of her anger and therefore did not intervene.   That is, until the behavior was directed at her.  This happened once my daughter refused to partake in the bullying of others.  At that point she stepped up and put a stop to it to protect herself.  Needless to say, they are no longer friends.  Yet it really bothered my daughter that she didn’t stand up to her sooner, when she saw it happening to others.

    Often people encounter bullies and do what they can to deal with them to stay safe (see our Playdate articles “Coping with Bullies” and “Adults Getting Bullied“).  What I’m focusing on here, are the individuals who are not the direct target of the bully.  These are the people that the bully may even try to befriend or try to encourage to join in on their reign of terror.  Sometimes people remain silent and don’t say anything to intervene because the problem isn’t theirs or they are afraid of retaliation.  Not only is this wrong, to stand by while others are being abused, but you are empowering the bully by not telling them that what they are doing is wrong.  This is a lesson my daughter learned the hard way.  There’s a basic level of respect with which all people deserve to be treated and this should never be compromised.  Even if the injustice isn’t happening to you, it’s your duty to stand up and put a stop to it.  Firstly, because it is the right thing to do!  Secondly, because you’d want people to reach out and help you.  And finally, as is with most bullies, eventually the tides will change and you might find yourself on the receiving end of his/her aggression.  So, zero tolerance for injustice is the way to go, regardless of where it is directed!