The term bully victim can be used in two different ways when discussing the social phenomenon of bullying. One definition uses the term to describe someone who is the target of bullying behavior, while a second definition uses it to describe someone who is both a victim and a bully. In the first instance, the victim endures a pattern of intimidating, threatening, and humiliating behavior from a bully or group of bullies. In the second case, she may likewise turn around and bully others whom she perceives as vulnerable and of a lower status in the social hierarchy in which victim and bully interact. The fact that some legitimate victims of bullying go on to bully others contributes significantly to the difficulty of addressing and resolving the problem of bullying.
In the first use of the word, a bully victim is someone who is repeatedly subjected to abuse or exploitation from an individual or individuals. Although conflict is inevitable in most social situations, bullying involves a pattern of behavior directed against someone who is perceived by the perpetrator as vulnerable. Bullies often continue their negative behavior because they do not believe that they will experience any negative repercussions. Likewise, the victim may often feel helpless and believe that taking action to stop the torment, including informing authority figures, will not do any good. In many cases, a victim may have very poor social skills and cannot develop a strategy for confronting a bully or lessening the behavior.
When the term bully victim is used to describe someone who is both a bully and a victim of bullying, it typically describes a child or adult who experiences bullying and, out of stress or frustration, engages in similar behavior toward others. Some experts believe that both victims of bullying and bullies themselves often have poor social skills and have difficulty negotiating social relationships in a healthy way. Both the bullying and victimization may therefore be symptoms of the victim's own lack of social skills and understanding of appropriate social relationships. This type of bully victim may have a particularly difficult time receiving assistance if authority figures, such as teachers, focus mainly on his own acts of aggression rather than his experience of being bullied by others. As such, it is important for individuals who are responsible for preventing bullying to take into consideration a bully's own position in the social hierarchy and whether he himself has been the target of negative behavior.