by Jon Atack


Bullying - Coercive Control

Bullying is the foundation of all coercive control. While the problem is now recognized in schools, much more needs to be done to eliminate bullying from business and home environments. Bullying usually consists of verbal abuse, but can easily escalate to violence, and leads to a feeling of helplessness for those who are bullied.

Bullying doesn’t just happen to schoolchildren. This form of influence happens throughout society: in the workplace, social clubs, places of worship, and wherever people of any age gather.

Bullying is commonly defined as aggressive, domineering behavior, determined by four factors:

  • it is deliberate
  • it is intended to cause pain, discomfort or fear
  • it relies on an imbalance of power, and
  • it is persistent.

Bullying can take several forms, the most common of which are:

  • physical abuse – slapping, pushing, kicking, shoving or using force to intimidate
  • exclusion – deliberately excluding people from social events, or using the silent treatment (shunning and alienation are extreme forms of this)
  • slander or mudslinging – spreading false, malicious rumors
  • verbal abuse – name-calling, taunting, jeering, and mocking
  • degradation – using shame, embarrassment, or threats to coerce and subjugate

There are also targeted forms of bullying, where people are harassed for their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, physical ability, economic status, their appearance, their perceived social standing, or any other difference from the majority. Although our society is becoming more inclusive of diversity, there are still far too many instances where those who are seen as different in some way are picked on and bullied mercilessly.

Whether targeted or not, bullying is at the base of most undue influence. It is the common tool of both destructive groups and predatory individuals. Underneath the demand for compliance, there is usually a threat or an induced phobia. Bullying can be used to coerce people into anything from handing over their lunch money to avoid a blow, to handing over their children, to avoid damnation.

Bullying can lead to disastrous results: without support, victims do not learn the social confidence needed to fend off the attacks, and they can make disastrous choices, sometimes causing irreparable damage. Victims of bullying can become isolated and can resort to suicide – the most significant cause of death in young people. Out of rage, some victims will lash out and go on the offensive. The epidemic of school shootings in the US is often a response to bullying.

A culture that rejects bullying and shames predators and their supporters can overcome the extreme consequences of this behavior. If children are taught to speak out through intelligent disobedience and assertiveness training, and if bullies are identified early and helped to find a better expression for their unhappiness, there will be far less bullying.


Bullies are human predators. Learn how to recognize them here.

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