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What Is a Bully Victim?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen

The term bully victim can be used in two different ways when discussing the social phenomenon of bullying. One definition uses the term to describe someone who is the target of bullying behavior, while a second definition uses it to describe someone who is both a victim and a bully. In the first instance, the victim endures a pattern of intimidating, threatening, and humiliating behavior from a bully or group of bullies. In the second case, she may likewise turn around and bully others whom she perceives as vulnerable and of a lower status in the social hierarchy in which victim and bully interact. The fact that some legitimate victims of bullying go on to bully others contributes significantly to the difficulty of addressing and resolving the problem of bullying.

In the first use of the word, a bully victim is someone who is repeatedly subjected to abuse or exploitation from an individual or individuals. Although conflict is inevitable in most social situations, bullying involves a pattern of behavior directed against someone who is perceived by the perpetrator as vulnerable. Bullies often continue their negative behavior because they do not believe that they will experience any negative repercussions. Likewise, the victim may often feel helpless and believe that taking action to stop the torment, including informing authority figures, will not do any good. In many cases, a victim may have very poor social skills and cannot develop a strategy for confronting a bully or lessening the behavior.

Bully victim can refer to someone who is bullied by others.
Bully victim can refer to someone who is bullied by others.

When the term bully victim is used to describe someone who is both a bully and a victim of bullying, it typically describes a child or adult who experiences bullying and, out of stress or frustration, engages in similar behavior toward others. Some experts believe that both victims of bullying and bullies themselves often have poor social skills and have difficulty negotiating social relationships in a healthy way. Both the bullying and victimization may therefore be symptoms of the victim's own lack of social skills and understanding of appropriate social relationships. This type of bully victim may have a particularly difficult time receiving assistance if authority figures, such as teachers, focus mainly on his own acts of aggression rather than his experience of being bullied by others. As such, it is important for individuals who are responsible for preventing bullying to take into consideration a bully's own position in the social hierarchy and whether he himself has been the target of negative behavior.

Discussion Comments


My boss is five months pregnant and is very nice. In the past, I've noticed and some of my colleague's scenarios where she's been bullied but is too afraid to stand up for herself. My question is, is this bullying?

Today, an individual on another team came over to her this morning, asking for an individual to work on a project. She spent several minutes explaining to this person we don't have a resource to give at present. Two minutes later, he and his manager were over chatting with the department head, trying to persuade her to force my boss to give up a resource to work on the project, thus leaving the rest of the team struggling to meet deadlines. Shortly afterward, they left the department head.

My manager told my colleague that she was invited to a meeting on the project. She then went over to the individual who requested our resource and his supervisor and spent a good 10-15 minutes explaining we'd no resource. I got up from my desk and met my boss making her way back to my desk. She looked extremely stressed and to me, worried that she'd be bullied into giving a resource which we didn't have. She didn't notice me, she was so worried. They then made her go to the meeting.

She came back and said that they had a contingency plan in place and wouldn't be requiring a resource. Do you think this is a form of bullying or am I wrong?

For me, the fact that they were 1. Willing to go over her head and get her boss to give them someone after she went over and explained further to them we'd no resource, leaving her in a state of stress and worry and perhaps a lack of concern for her pregnancy and authority; 3. Forcing her to go to the meeting when they could have come over and told her they had a contingency plan in place; 4. Having her authority undermined and 5. Worrying that she would be manipulated and bullied in the meeting having to give up a resource.


This really is a great article and I have read all of your comments. I just wanted to comment on this from a different point of view. As the article stated, bullies can be former bullying victims. For years, my nephew was bullied. He was an honor roll student. Due to injuries from a car accident, he has three amputated fingers on his left hand. He was called names such as “chicken-wing” and “freak”. He was always the sweetest and kindest young man.

However, after being bullied for over three years, he had enough. He got into several fights, first in defense and then, just to fight. From the years of bullying, he somewhat became a bully. He is now in counseling and is doing much better. I just wanted to make people aware that the bully victims do become bullies themselves sometimes. Unfortunately, bullying in schools will probably always happen.


@momothree & cmsmith10- I commend the author of this article for taking the topic of bully victims seriously. Great article. For the two of you who have children that have been bully victims, I commend you, as well. We as parents try to keep our children safe in every way that we can. However, once they walk through the doors of the school, we expect the teachers and principals to act as “parents” and keep them safe there.

Unfortunately, it took kids committing suicide to get the bullying laws passed. I don’t know the specific laws in each state but there are laws in place. These laws include intimidation, harassment, or emotional, verbal, and physical abuse.

Sadly, bystanders that witness the bullying don’t intervene on behalf of the bullying victim. They just don’t want to get involved. It is up to us, as parents, to demand that our children not be victims of bullying while they are in school.


@momothree- I am sorry to hear that your son is being bullied. My daughter was also the victim of bullying because she has bright red hair and freckles. She was called hurtful names and came home crying on more than one occasion. We even changed schools once because the bullying got so bad. However, it didn’t take long for the bullying to start up at the new school.

I didn’t know how to stop bullying. I went to the principal several times, like you. Finally, I had enough. I went to the board of education and let them know clearly that if the school did not do something about it, I would be obtaining legal assistance. That is the only thing that made them look into it.

My daughter is doing much better now. She still has low self-esteem but she is getting better. Her red hair turned out to be a beautiful color and she just recently made the cheerleading team. I wish you luck with your son.


My son is 12 and has been a victim of school bullying for the past year. I have talked to the principal on three different occasions. He always assures me that bullying is not tolerated but yet it still happens. I am determined to stop the bullying but I don't know how far I can take this matter. Does anyone have any suggestions? I am so tired of seeing this happen to my child.

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      Bully victim can refer to someone who is bullied by others.
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