Bystanders and the Victim Profile

It’s now college and the bullies still haven’t stopped.

To be fair, it usually happens in my Italian classes and it usually involves the same two people.  We’ll call them Alyssa and Anthony.  Their behavior is so juvenile I feel ridiculous getting upset over it, and even more ridiculous writing about it on here.

But it’s always the same.  Whenever I participate in class, even the most benign comment, causes them to discuss it among themselves, mutter under their breath, giggle, etc.  I can clearly see them and hear them doing it.  I know it’s a silly thing to let bother me but after a while they wear me down.

Today things escalated, however.

After disagreeing with me over a silly comment (whether or not the real Julius Caesar was “manly” and heterosexual) I heard Anthony begin his usual muttering, with the f-word thrown in quite a few times.

And today I’d finally had enough.

I calmly confronted him:

“Is there a problem?  Do you think I can’t hear you muttering under your breath?  Do you think I can’t hear the f-bombs?”

I then observed a rather frightening physical change in him.  He seemed to turn red and began shaking.  He (literally) yelled at me:

“Do you have a problem with me saying f***?  Does it offend you when I say f***?  I’m a 22 year-old man, I can say f*** whenever I want!”

Even more shocking was the professor’s response.  First with a joke:

“Guys, this isn’t therapy.”

Then by reprimanding me:

“Come on.  Don’t.  Not now.”

I was mortified.  And excused myself to use the restroom a few moments later.

At this point in the story, you should know that not only did no one come to my aid, but they all seemed to act as though nothing was out of the ordinary.

Now I hate to get up on my moral high horse but I don’t think I’d ever witness something like this and not speak up, even if it’s just a comment to my neighbor.  By saying nothing you are in fact giving your silent approval for this sort of behavior.  I mean are parents really teaching their kids to just keep their heads down and mind their business?  Even if someone is being verbally harassed (or worse) in front of them?  We hear horrible stories on the news all the time of bystanders watching as someone is beaten or raped.  Is this how that phenomenon begins?

The professor immediately approached me after class as I was visibly upset.  I then waited for everyone to leave before confronting him.

“Why did you allow him to verbally harass me like that?  You scolded me instead and embarrassed me in front of everyone.”

He admitted that he was taken aback by the situation and didn’t know how to respond.

“I just wanted to defuse the situation before he became more violent.  I’ve never seen anything like that in a classroom.  I didn’t handle it the way I should have.  Next time I’ll kick him out.  I’m sorry.”

I immediately reported the incident to the Dean of Students, filed an online report, emailed the professor for documentation and will be going to the police tomorrow to file a report with them.

But I guess the real issue and question in this post is why me?  Why is it always me?  I’ve been a target for bullies since I was 10 years old.  Something about me draws them in, like a moth to a flame.  I’ve even asked therapists if they’ve noticed anything about me that they think might cause it.  And so far everyone draws a blank.

Do any of you guys know what I mean?  Do I fit a certain victim profile?



2 thoughts on “Bystanders and the Victim Profile

  1. You are continuously subjected to this because you are a no nonsense person who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. You also showed more courage than anyone else in your class. It is too bad your professor acted the way he did, but at least he owned up to his mistake. I hope the next time you attended this class, the guy kept his mouth shut. This is just the tip of the iceberg – the working world is much worse. It is good that you called out both the bully and the professor. Stay strong.

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