I’ve always had a very hard line attitude towards bullying, in more ways than one, and I have often been criticised for it. That is because I have always said that you can only get bullied in prison if you let yourself get bullied.
What I mean by this is that if someone tries to bully you, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally, it is only successful if you allow it to continue without doing something about it. If someone tells you to give them your canteen or they’ll hit you, and you give them it, then you have been bullied. But if you refuse and (if they do try to hit you) you fight back, then you have stood up for yourself and I therefore I don’t believe you can be labelled as a bully victim. Similarly, if someone calls you names and you just take it, this can be bullying. But if you can stand up for yourself and disarm them with your wit then you are not a victim at all. And if anyone tries to bully you emotionally by withholding their friendship unless you do things their way for example, and you give in, then you have indeed been bullied. But if you refuse to give in and you find friends that don’t treat you this way instead, then the bully loses all of their power and you will not be their victim.
The point is, you can only be bullied if you let yourself get bullied. As soon as you stand up for yourself then it is not bullying at all It isn’t a popular viewpoint because it very much sounds like I am blaming the victim. But that isn’t what I am saying. What I am really saying is that you don’t have to be a “victim”. That absolutely everyone has enough power of their own to stand tall without ever being labelled in that way. It isn’t always easy, but you do it anyway because the alternative is far worse.
That said, I am just as hard line when it comes to bullies themselves. Whilst you can’t be a bully victim unless you let yourself be, you are a bully yourself if you ever even try to be. If you attempt to bully someone and they stand up for themselves, putting you in your place, then they are not your victim, but you are still a bully and should be treated as such. I have no tolerance for bullies. Not at all, but especially not in prison. And I am not alone in this. Whilst prison is a place which naturally finds itself home to certain kinds of bullies, most of the people I have met in prison are not bullies at all In fact, most of them hate bullies and bullying. The only problem is, one bully can target dozens of other people so even if half of them do stand up for themselves, there are still plenty who don’t. And that’s exactly why most people might not realise how disapproved of bullying is even in prison. Because it is easy to assume that everyone who is being bullied is being bullied by someone different and that there are as many bullies as there are victims of bullying. In reality there are far less. They are just prolific in what they do.
The answer is simple. Since there are plenty of us who won’t tolerate bullies, it is up to us to stand up for those who don’t know how to stand up for themselves. It’s something that me and a lot of other people I know are always happy to do. But not unconditionally. The most important piece of advice I could ever give someone who is being bullied in prison is this: Stand up for yourself even if you don’t think you can and you will always find that people you didn’t even expect to care are there to back you up. But never ask the staff for help if you don’t absolutely have to because, if you do, not only will other prisoners turn their backs, there will always be another bully waiting when they do.