I recently wrote about how we can work so that churches are a safe place for abuse victims to turn to. I want to follow up by saying a bit more about how we deal with abusers and bullies. Abusers are bullies. They use power to influence, control and manipulate others who they perceive as weaker for their own gain and gratification. That power may be based on physical strength, hierarchical position, popularity or the ability to influence through charisma or intellectual capability.
Here are some things to watch out for with bullies.
1. Bullies will very quickly try to turn the tables as soon as they are accused. They are very quick to play the victim.
2. Bullies will insist that they get to be the judge and jury. They will demand that you provide them with the evidence that satisfies their evaluation. Of course the level of evidence and burden of proof will never be to their satisfaction.
3. Bullies are cowards and they will find others to hide behind or to do their dirty work for them.
4. Bullies will attack the motives of those who challenge them. They will say that the problem is with you, that the accusation says as much about your vices as it does about theirs. They will say that you are motivated by jealousy or just want to cause trouble for them.
5. Bullies will find ways to twist an apology into a non-apology. There are two classic variations of this. The first is the famous “I am sorry for any hurt that you may have felt.” This is about appearing magnanimous, the problem is really with the victim. Another variant is to try and shift things so that we can all learn from the event. The bully loves to be the teacher. So I have seen someone appear to apologise for causing offence but then move very quickly to claim that there was an important lesson we all needed to learn. No! When you apologise, you say sorry and then you leave it at that.
6. Bullies love a war of attrition. They rely on the knowledge that most people don’t like confrontation and so will give up sooner than they will or will want to quickly find a way to make peace.