Bullying is a search for domination to help mitigate feelings of despair. It isn't about treating people fairly or treating people well. The ultimate goal is to put another down so to maintain one's status and self-perception. There are few legal protections for people who are victims of bullying as often laws don't step into protect people from social consequences. There are also few laws against sharing your opinion, getting your friends involved, sharing only part of the information, or manipulating stories. They may be despicable acts on their own but rarely constitute a legal violation unless malicious and directed. Because there are few protections one must continuously enforce boundaries and create distance until resolution has occurred.
Let me give you an example. A person used questionable biased comments around younger people. The act was more of carelessness than intentional....kind of a "duh...I have little understanding of diversity" comment. Its not that the person said those terms directly to the adult kids but that these terms were said in "ear shot" and could possibly be heard, or accidentally said at the wrong time, or encourage disrespectful attitudes with others. Concern was growing that rude, negative, or inflammatory comments are becoming acceptable in the group (i.e. inappropriate jokes, put downs, negative comments, gossiping, etc...)
1. In-out group dynamics that translates into "us" versus "them" mentality. When this occurs the needs of others are diminished and reduced. That can turn into carelessness about comments. and actions. One must address those issues quickly.
A parent feels concerned that these jokes exceed an acceptable limit and increased in intensity by a couple of adults. Because the kids are sensitive they simply don't need to be involved at all in any negative family dynamics. The concerned parent asks their siblings first politely and then more forcibly to please respect boundaries, watch what is said to the kids, and keep children out of adult affairs. A normally reasonable request in confidence becomes part of a campaign to character assassinate as the offended party retaliates and openly talks negatively in an effort to damage a reputation and implement control.
2. The bully is more concerned about how they look than ensuring a healthy environment. Bullying is self involved with little respect for the target or the potential outcomes.
In this example, one of the parents have their own children to contact the targets children....has "so and so ever said an inappropriate term to you?". The questions are not related to the issue and is not reflective of the concern. The child doesn't want to have problems, desires to tell the truth, and isn't sure what is going on so he replies in a text "no". The proxy children pass the response to one of the parents who in turn spreads it throughout their social networks as "proof" nothing wrong occurred. No one is wrong....there is only a need to be more aware of differences and how insensitive comments impact others (one of the reasons for the initial request to keep boundaries). In normal situations people are willing to adjust...but with dysfunctional patterns everyone is on the defensive.
The offered question wasn't related to the complaint and was an attempt to manipulate legitimate concerns. Until someone text them the children were shielded from controversy and were unaware. The problem was that the question directed to the child was inappropriate and an attempt to further ensnare the youngster into squabbles raising stress on them. The continuous involved of the kids starts looking a little like a type of punishment for making the accusation that boundaries have been violated. The question should have been better directed to the parents with, "have you ever used this term?" and "have you ever used this term at a family function?" If they grudgingly say "yes"....they have an opportunity to work issues out. Contacting the child is never the solution and was a willful violation of the the initial request not to get children involved in adult issues.
3. The bully purposely miscues information to make sure that they look good and have "justification" for their abusive behavior. Distorting information is fairly common in almost all arguments but when it is used aggressively there are larger issues to be raised. It is impossible to fix problems if someone intentionally seeks to distort information to justify any claim that serves their interests. This is why open communication is better than indirect communication. Both parties must come to the "table" and be honest.
As they share the concerns the parent begins to look like they are "crazy" because each of their claims are invalidated without being fully heard (its intentional to force only one side). As a matter of point, they may have told the multi-racial child their parent is "crazy" for even trying to create protective boundaries in the first place. The concerned parent may be the only person in the group telling the truth. No one cares. They get more isolated as their legitimate concerns are de-legitimized. This is where real victimization starts to occur as children are hurt, families are broken and the target needs to withdraw to protect their family from a hostile environment. What was a natural parental issue now becomes an issue that requires distance for the sake of everyone simply because there is a lack of constructive solutions and a preponderance of immature behavior.
4. The bully "gas lights" to make sure that others believe the victim is at fault. Gas lighting means they distort the truth to gain influence over the other person. Such as, invalidate a concern.
The bully continues to spread lies and rumors and isolate the victim and in turn encourage others, including young children, to get involved based on a falsely aligned principle. They don't say they are doing this...they just sort of tell everyone they know, their kids who tell their friends, and they share information that was confidential and requested to be confidential. Someone investigating and reconstructing a timeline would be shocked at the lack of regard socially acceptable need to stay close to the truth. Truth doesn't always count in social situations and those who do engage in truth need to watch out about speaking up. Many times its just better to say nothing and create boundaries. Few things within that network from that point on make any sense as information is purposely distorted and people join a mob without critically thinking about the information presented. The original request to "respect kids boundaries" now becomes distorted.
In this case, the target must disassociate with the family in order to protect themselves and their children. They know that the more they stick around, the more angry people get, the more people manipulate information, the more they lie about issues, the more kids get hurt. If the initial attempt was to protect the child, and after numerous attempts to resolve the issue, they must come to difficult solutions. Protecting you and your children's rights to be treated civilly shouldn't rely on who has the most friends, who is willing to be the most dishonest, who has the social power to push their version of the truth, who is most brutal, and who is going to look like they are at fault (blaming the victim).
5. There are few protections for those who desire to maintain healthy boundaries.
When it comes to highly aggressive people who use social manipulation to gain influence, there will always be attempts to utilize these networks to damage people who have crossed them in some way (these patterns are learned in high school and childhood as acceptable methods of managing networks). The inappropriate behaviors were learned over years of practice. Such "rule the school" mentalities were not acceptable when we are young or when we are older. When it is used against family to maintain social status and domination it takes a new level of maliciousness. In the end, nothing good comes from aimless conflict where one side refuses to acknowledge the legitimate claims of another. When your voice isn't heard and your concerns are invalidated you must create bigger boundaries. Boundaries mean having little to no unnecessary contact with those who have done harm....at least until boundaries are respected.
Lets be more clear about the definition of bully. When the term here is used and applied it doesn't mean that a person IS a bully. What it does mean is that behaviors in that situation are bully oriented designed to unfairly influence a person, embarrass, harass, mischief, create unjust pressures, or punish a person for non compliance with personal expectations. Those behaviors are part of the typical definition of bully. It is an outward manifestation of aggression based on previous mental patterns.
Policy Lab organization that is working on clinical trials for people who have been abused. They try and connect patients to clinical trials. Excellent stuff!
Here is some generic stuff on bullying... https://www.learnpsychology.org/now/bullying/
Most states have very poor protections for children. https://education.findlaw.com/student-conduct-and-discipline/specific-state-laws-against-bullying.html
A really good resource is Operation Respect. They believe that bullying starts with the personality of the parents. https://operationrespect.org/about-us/
You may want to read other related articles in a series to raise awareness. Why You Should Encourage Bullies to Get Help? Life Long Disruption