What to Do About Bullies by Deanne Quarrie

I could probably go on and on about this topic, so in the interest of education I offer the following information gathered in my own recovery. Why would I write about bullying at all?  Are we not Goddess lovers, one and all?  How would such behavior ever come into a spiritual path that believes all life is sacred?

Well, we all come to this path with all our old baggage. That baggage may include jealousy, fear, and a desire for the wrong kind of power, that which attempts to control others.

Bullying is not merely, as many believe, an occasional stinging comment made by a significant other at the breakfast table, a bad day with the boss, or children wrestling on the playground.

Bullying is cruelty deliberately aimed at others with the intent of gaining power by inflicting psychological and/or physical pain.

Bullying behaviors are varied: name calling, humiliation, spreading rumors, gossiping, public ridicule, scape-goating or blaming, isolating, assigning poor work conditions and job assignments, or denying holiday and vacation time in the workplace, or more obvious punching, hitting, kicking, taunting, ostracizing, sexualizing, or making ethnic or gender slurs, etc.

Those who are the targets of bullying often feel intense vulnerability, fear and shame, and increasingly lower self-esteem that may increase their likelihood of continued victimization. Victims may become depressed and feel powerless. Many who have been bullied over a long period of time become suicidal. Others may retaliate in acts of violence or begin to bully others.

Unfortunately for victims, many people who are sought out for support dismiss bullying by saying, “It’s happened to all of us, just ignore it”. Some will even say the victim must deserve it! For too many, bullying has become such a part of the fabric of everyday life that many look the other way, and many have become numb to its devastating effects. Others see bullying behaviors, yet they avoid intervening because they feel powerless to stop it.

Studies indicate that two-thirds of the attackers in thirty-seven different school shootings felt persecuted into doing so due to long histories of being bullied by classmates. Being the target of bullying is a major factor in youth suicide, and millions of Americans face abuse in the workplace daily.

Many bullies have been perfecting their skills of intimidation since early childhood. Without intervention, the feelings and beliefs of childhood bullies become strengthened and ingrained. Bullying on the playground is frequently only the beginning of a life pattern that culminates in domestic violence and/or bullying in the workplace. Bullies depend upon the confusion, fear, or feelings of powerlessness in their intended victims, as well as the silence of those witnessing abuse, to continue their behaviors.

We learned through many interviews that those who had been life-long bullies continued to be so until someone had the courage to intervene. Bullies seem only to be temporarily empowered, and both bullies and their victims are injured by the helplessness, apathy, and silence of others. We need to create workplace, school, and community norms where aggression towards others is unacceptable, not because of strict law-enforcement or severe punishments, but simply because we care about one another.

Courage does not mean that we are without fear, it means, as Pee Wee Reese demonstrated in 1947, that we do not let our fears stop us from acting:

“It is not death or pain or loss that robs us of power: It is the fear of death, the fear of pain, the fear of loss that turns the manipulated into victims and the manipulators into terrorists”. (Abdullah, 1995, p. 56)

According to Bullies by Jane Middleton-Moz & Mary Lee Zawadski, “Bullying is frequent and systematic cruelty deliberately aimed at a person by a person or persons with the intent of gaining power over another by regularly inflicting psychological and/or physical pain.” The first chapter in this book is entitled “Moving Out of Denial”. This is a critical step. Bullies too often get away with bullying because we turn our backs, we do nothing to stop them, we don’t stand beside the one being bullied, and we “don’t want to get involved” because we are afraid it will happen to us.

Every day in America over 160,000 children miss school because of fears of bullying. About 20% of high school students who were surveyed said they had seriously considered suicide because of having been bullied. And, about 43% of our school children are afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of being bullied in the school restrooms.

Bullying exists in our schools, in relationships (both straight and gay), in the workplace, and anywhere there are people. And yes, pagans are no different. If you are a part of your local pagan community, you will be very familiar with what are called, “witch wars.”  The basis of a witch war is a staged campaign conducted by bullying behavior. Typically, it consists of unfounded rumors, innuendos, and outright lies spread via a “gossip mill,” one person to another, one group to another.  Sadly, it is typically an Elder or a group of Elders who spread these rumors and lies, for the sole purpose of silencing and destroying the reputation of someone or a group. Because it comes from an Elder, it goes about unquestioned. There is no physical, violence just a staged campaign to destroy a reputation. It is about power, truly has no place in any spiritual community. It is hurtful and devastating to the people being bullied.

It is vital that this national problem be addressed, and it begins with everyone. It begins with education and it begins by standing up and saying “NO!” When we see a sister or brother being bullied, we need to use our power to stand beside her/him, to let her/him know she/he is not alone. We need to speak out against the bullies.  We cannot be afraid just because it is coming from an Elder. We cannot continue to be blind to it. We cannot be silent.

There are many excellent books on bullying that you can buy in a store or online.  Here are some that I personally recommend:

Take the Bully by the Horns by Sam Horn

Bullies: Strategies for Survival by Jane Middleton-Moz and Mary Lee Zawadski

Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman by Phyllis Chesler

How to Handle Bullies, Teasers, and Other Meanies by Kate Cohen-Posey

Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher

Books that are particularly useful for recovering from abuse:

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Hadin Elgin

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work by Suzette Hadin Elgin

Tongue Fu by Sam Horn

How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable by Suzette Haden Elgin


Deanne Quarrie, also known as Bendis, is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of six books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition and the Liminal Thealogical Seminary.  She is an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College. In 2002 she created Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine. Deanne is a hierophant within the Fellowship of Isis. Her most recent work, dedicated to Hekate, is the creation of a group practice called Hekate’s Tribe, open to both men and women. It available in Austin, Texas as well as online. Those who come to Hekate’s Tribe may also enroll in the master’s degree program within the Seminary. This creation brings Deanne full-circle after dedicating her work to Hekate in 1986.

Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Violence

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Great post. I was bullied as a child “long tall Sally” “how’s the weather up there?” etc. I felt humiliated and isolated. To this day I can barely stand it when strangers stare at me or comment on my height, all those feelings come right back. You are right that we need to teach children (and adults) that bullying simply will not be tolerated. The Donald is not helping matters at all and he needs to be reigned in too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LIke you, I, too, was bullied. As a young child it was not particularly traumatizing as it was pretty much normal, playground ugliness. I grew up as an “Army brat.” For my first 8 years of school, I was in military dependent schools so did not experience anything out of the ordinary, but when I got to high school, my parents thought it important that I experience a “normal” American high school. I am sure you know the term “mean girls.” It was in high school that I was always “that new girl.” I was left out, humiliated and picked on by girls and hit on by boys. The more interest the boys showed, the more those “mean girls” went after me. I went to three different high schools and it was the same in each one. However, the most traumatizing experience of my life happened as an adult, by women who held themselves out as Elders in the pagan community. I learned a lot from that experience. Because of it, I am stronger. I have dedicated over 30 years of my life to helping women find their power and to be strong in the face of adversity. Phyllis Chesler’s book helped me understand it. I only wish she had gone into what to do about it more. The other books are more about what to do about it. Understanding it, however, is critical to begin the healing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post. I too was humiliated and bullied as a child and became a domestic violence victim – breaking this pattern has been a life time quest of mine – with mixed results. Sometimes it is not enough to say we won’t tolerate it – if we are isolated or “different” it becomes even more difficult. Bullying is being modeled as a way of life in the collective – I don’t see that pattern undergoing change – oh how I wish I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent, very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I once wondered if we Neopagans (or whatever we choose to call ourselves) are more often bullied than other people, but now I know we are not. Anyone can be the victim of bullying. Anyone can be a target. Anyone can turn into a bully. Our so-called leaders (at any level, in any context) need to become good examples of kindness. Oh, I wish!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very necessary post. Well thought out and described.


  5. I’d like to offer a quote by one of my favourite writers, David Mitchell. It’s from the book Black Swan Green. “Contrary to popular wisdom, bullies are rarely cowards.
    Bullies come in various shapes and sizes. Observe yours. Gather intelligence.
    Shunning one hopeless battle is not an act of cowardice.
    Hankering for security or popularity makes you weak and vulnerable.
    Which is worse: Scorn earned by informers? Misery endured by victims?
    The brutal May have been molded by a brutality you cannot exceed.
    Let guile be your ally.
    Respect earned by integrity cannot be lost without your consent.
    Don’t laugh at what you don’t find funny.
    Don’t support an opinion you don’t hold.
    The independent befriend the independent.
    Adolescence dies in its fourth year. You live to be eighty.”

    Liked by 1 person

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