I am currently dealing with a neighborhood bully. It is a minor case at this point. I hope to work to a resolution by simply asserting my civil rights under municipal regulations if my attempts to approach the bully civilly fail. I have had ample experience with bullies as a lifelong homosexual in a homophobic society. I am a nonviolent person. My activism against bullies has been nonviolent unless my own life or health have been directly endangered.
Ultimately I trust cause and effect as ruling principles in an otherwise chaotic universe. This means that bullies inevitably reap the effects of their bullying causation. I have had several incidents in my life which have supported this hypothesis.
My first overt and violent experience with bullies occurred in 4th grade. One of my classmates who lived in my neighborhood organized a gang of young punks in the neighborhood to beat me up after school. They ambushed me as I walked home from school. There were six of them. They tore my clothes, destroyed my books and pummeled me in the street. I fought back and eventually broke free after inflicting my share of damage.
My mother was furious when she came home from work and discovered my bruises and ruined clothes. Frankly, I think she was angriest about the clothes. She was thrifty. She called the mother of the bully organizer and threatened to send my father, the police juvenile officer at the time, to deal with her son. Her son was promptly taken out of the Catholic school we both attended and sent to public school.
Twenty five years later, the mother of my chief attacker was admitted under my care in the state mental institution where I was a nursing supervisor. She was psychotically depressed. I had never met the woman before that meeting, but I immediately knew who she was. I insisted on being her primary nurse, the person to coordinate her care during her stay. I did my best for her. She recovered and was discharged. Two decades later she approached my mother in their parish church after mass. She told my mother I had saved her life and that she would never forget my kindness.
Another incident with a bully also supported my hypothesis about cause and effect. I moved to a resort town on Cape Cod in my thirties. It was summer and rentals were difficult to find. I took a room in a private home of a gay man twenty years my senior after finding it advertised in a grocery store. The man also rented another room to a bartender and transvestite performer who was about his age. They were old friends. It soon became evident they were both alcoholics.
I endured weeks of alcoholic behavior in order to avoid the time-consuming effort of finding another rental during peak season. The owner of the house loudly resented my complaints about being woken by drunken parties in the kitchen next to my room in the middle of the night. He soon began to bang on my locked door at night and eventually, with a chorus of his drunken buddies, threatened to gang rape me. I knew one of his drinking buddies was a town cop, so complaining to the police would have been useless.
I packed my things the morning after the gang threat, when I assumed my landlord was passed out. I quietly got into my truck and started my engine. Suddenly the landlord and the other tenant appeared. The landlord was carrying a kitchen knife. I drove off. They got into the landlord's car and careened after me. The neighborhood was a winding maze of crude streets. Finally I got to the major highway. They were tailgating my truck. I ran a stop sign and managed to get on the highway. I now assume they had followed in pursuit.
I remember hearing a noise behind me after I went over a hill in the road. I paid it no mind. I just needed to get away. I managed to secure an overpriced room at an inn in the next town. The following day, I read in the local paper that my landlord had been killed in a head-on collision and his passenger critically wounded. It came out later that my landlord and his passenger were heavily intoxicated. I occasionally saw the bartender/transvestite who survived. He was crippled for life and walked with a cane. We only spoke once very briefly. After I said hello, he simply said, "I'm sorry." We never spoke again.
Some people turn to religion to soothe the pain caused by bullies. Some people internalize the abuse and assume it is their fault. They can become masochists in all areas of their lives. Some people become raging bullies themselves, as though infected by the abuse. I have worked hard to realized that there is no easy answer to dealing with bullying, because bullies are mentally ill. This is why we have laws, police, mental hospitals, addiction rehabs.
Remaining nonviolent and persisting in responsible and educated behavior under the law to the best of my ability has been, and will be, my way of acting in the face of bullying aggression. Sometimes communicating with bullies is a useless exercise. Sometimes engaging civil authority immediately is the wisest course. But ultimately I am responsible for and will defend my own health and safety.