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Victims of bullying will often display signs of distress that indicate they are being bullied. Such signs may include depression, withdrawal, anxiety, a drop in school performance, or even a drop in regular attendance. Certain types of people often become victims of bullying, and these people are generally a minority in some fashion. Ethnic minorities, religious minorities, people of lower social or economic status, homosexuals, or simply physically smaller people are often targeted for bullying, though anyone can be victims of bullying without falling into one of these categories. Identifying behaviors and warning signs associated with bullying quickly is vital to preventing it from occurring regularly.
The characteristics of bullying victims can vary on a case by case basis, but very often, bullying is focused on children who are in some way different than others. This may mean a socioeconomic difference — it is known that a particular student is receiving food stamps or free lunch vouchers, for example — or a difference in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or physical build. Students who are physically and mentally handicapped are often targeted for bullying, and in many cases, the victims of bullying suffer insult, ridicule, or even physical violence from more than one bully. It is not uncommon for groups of people to bully only one or two people.
The indicators victims of bullying will exhibit will vary from person to person, but some common behaviors one might exhibit include a change in eating habits, a drop in school or work performance, a change in daily routines — walking to school by a different route, for example — depression, anxiety, and withdrawal. A person who is ostracized by classmates or colleagues is likely to feel threatened, thereby encouraging him or her to withdraw from groups and become isolated. In some cases, the bullies may create a situation in which isolation is the victim's only option. The victim may become more introverted, melancholy, and in severe cases, suicidal.
Another common indicator of bullying is the loss of personal possessions. When a victim's possessions go missing, a version of physical bullying may be taking place. A bully may be stealing or destroying the victim's items, or he may be threatening to take or destroy those items, prompting the victim to hide them or leave them at home. A threat of physical violence against one's person or possessions is a serious and usually quite noticeable version of bullying that commonly takes place among boys, though girls may participate in this type of behavior as well.
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