03 January 2011

Bullying and Cyber Bullying

A few notable facts about bullying and cyber bullying:

1. "[A]s few as 10 percent of bullying victims are cyber-bullied. Meanwhile, a study of fifth, eighth and 11th graders in Colorado that same year found that they were more likely to be bullied verbally or physically than online." About a quarter of all kids are bullied in the old fashioned meatspace way.

2. Most bullies learn to be bullies from experience as victims themselves: "72 percent of children who were physically abused by their parents became a bully, a victim of a bully or both." Most bullies are both victims and perpetrators, as are many victims of bullying, although generally not both in the same relationship.

3. "[N]early 50 percent of American workers have experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace, . . . 80 percent of workplace bullying is legal - and and 72 percent of bullies outrank their targets."

4. Bullying may trigger suicide, but generally this happens in cases where the victims were already at grave risk for suicide from other factors.

5. Active efforts to control bullying can significantly reduce it, but probably not eliminate it.

Has Feminism Narrowed Our Understanding Of Bullying?

The article cited doesn't discuss it, but one way to conceptualize both domestic violence and child abuse is as a cycle of bullying behavior that encompasses all of the domains of work, home and school.

Japanese culture is quite sensitive to the existence of bullying as a problem at both work and in school, and sometimes spanning over into the home. Whether that is because it is more common there, or because it is conceptualized that way is hard to tell.

American cultural responses to bullying type behavior through sexual harassment and domestic violence lenses, a gender specific way of thinking that may go all the way back intellectually to 19th century culture of honor concepts, while effective in the domains targeted, may be preventing Americans from seeing the issue in a holistic way, or from a mental health as well as a criminal justice and private litigation perspective.

Bullying Compared To Gang Violence

Another, overlapping but not identical area, where there is a large overlap between the class of likely perpetrators and the class of likely victims is gang violence, which is probably the most variable component of the violent crime rate in the United States, rising and falling much more than other kinds of violent crime (e.g. impulsive assaults by people with drinking problems or domestic violence).

The insularity of gang violence is one of the reasons it is not addressed more assertively by the criminal justice system. Sorting out honor among thieves isn't easy for law enforcement to do.

A very large share of all murders and firearm assaults, and even even larger share of all murders and firearm assaults during periods when murder rates are high (particularly the subset of unsolved murders) appear to involve violence related to gang membership perpetrated with other gangs or member's of one's own gang as targets (and other victims being mere bystanders caught in the crossfire). The motives for gang violence include vigilante justice, establishment of territory, opportunistic raiding for loot, suppressing criminal justice system involvement, and reputation building to prevent further challenges to gang authority.

Much of this violence can be conceptualized as social, rather than psychological in origin, like the violent acts carried out by soldiers in furtherance of a sovereign's direction, although it is also true that a disproportionate share of gang violence appears to be carried out by the minority subset of gang members with mental health factors, some hereditary, that particularly predispose them to it.

Indeed, one can see gang violence as an apolitical version of terrorism. Terrorism is socially organized and motivated violence committed by non-governmental groups with political ends. Gang violence is committed by semi-sovereign non-governmental groups that don't aspire to genuine sovereignty seeing the legitimate government as too daunting to overcome outside their narrow space of organized criminal activities carried out for profit and personal safety.

Conceiving of gang violence as a fundamentally social activity provides insight into what will and will not work in the criminal justice system to reduce violent crime associated with gang violence. On one hand, a "sociopath" (i.e. someone who engages in anti-social behavior because it is acceptable or even required within the norms of his social context) may be redeemable in a way that a "psychopath" (i.e. something who is congenitally without a conscience psychologically), may not be. Governor Ritter's pardon of Reverend Kelly in December was an example of that kind of redemption being accomplished in real life. On the other hand, incarceration that is draconian relative to personal culpability (e.g. in the case of felony murder sentences) may work because they disrupt the social entities (gangs) that drive members to act in sociopathic ways.

If one is looking at social context, rather than individual culpability, as being the key to suppressing gangs, the natural next step is to consider non-traditional sentencing options and penal management methods that can disrupt gangs and put convicted gang members into a new social context with mainstream norms, without expensive overkill use of incarceration. The dynamics involved (and their intractability) are explored, for example, in "The Good Girl's Guide To Getting Kidnapped" (2010) by Yxta Maya Murray (who is also a law professor), in which a young woman with deep ties of Los Angeles gang life struggles between success in that context and success in the contexts of the middle class establishment. It is a young adult book that pulls no punches and is assiduously committed to showing rather than telling, and leaving morals open ended rather than resolving the issues.

Addressing the motivations of gang violence in sentencing in a way conscious of its social context, through the criminal justice system, which usually defines crime in the context of isolated individuals without much thought to context, may also be the key to really making progress in addressing racism in the criminal justice system, as a large share of all disproportionate involvement of racial minorities in the criminal justice system in related to gang affiliated crime. Indeed, given the ubiquity of gang related crime in high poverty minority communities, one of the big crimological and sociological question may be not "why do high poverty minority communities have so much criminal gang activity?," but "why do high poverty Anglo communities seem to lack significant criminal gang activity?" Criminal gangs, of couse, used to be common in immigrant communities in the United States, particularly those involving Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, but that American mafia is almost gone now and while there are exceptions, this does seem to be the case.

1 comment:

Judge Tom said...

After 23 years in juvenile court, I believe that teenagers often learn from the experiences of their peers, not just from being lectured by those in authority. Consequently, “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” was published in January, 2010.

Endorsed by Dr. Phil ["Bullied to Death"], “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” presents real cases of teens in trouble over their online and cell phone activities. Civil & criminal sanctions have been imposed on teens over their emails, blogs, text messages, Facebook and YouTube entries and more. TCI is interactive and promotes education & awareness so that our youth will begin to “Think B4 U Click.”

Thanks for looking at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” on http://www.freespirit.com [publisher] or on http://www.askthejudge.info [a free website for & about teens and the law].

Regards, -Judge Tom