MOUNT VERNON — Jim Bisenius, a former therapist who has made a career out of speaking about and combating bullying, kept his audience absorbed for almost an hour Thursday night as he talked about bullying and ways to help kids resist it.
Unfortunately, there were only about 30 people in the audience at Mount Vernon High School on a dreary night with snow in the forecast.
A panel of people from various agencies that either see the effects of bullying or have programs on the problem, were on hand to answer questions about their roles in the effort, but most of the attention was on Bisenius.
Bisenius, who spent nine years as a therapist for Moundbuilders before embarking on his role as a speaker and consultant on bullying, first described how adults catch only about one in 10 incidents of bullying, and with some types of bullying that seems to mostly be used by girls, only about one in 50.
He explained how most bullies tend to have low self-esteem and are seeking to pull others down to their level.
Natural leaders and their social circles are usually not victimized by bullies, who target kids who are not in those social circles and are seen as vulnerable. And if they exhibit signs of fear, the bullies will keep up their efforts because they feed on that fear.
He then went into a thorough description of body language that sends a message of fear to a bully and how to change the signals you send out through body language. He explained that in his years of talking with bullies, if they don’t see those signs of fear, they’ll give up and look for other targets.
Simple things, like not speeding up your walk, not letting your eyes roam, not answering verbal jabs and keeping your posture natural and relaxed were among the techniques he demonstrated.
As for bullies that are physically violent, he urged parents to sign their kids up with a martial arts instructor to learn a couple basic defensive techniques that can help get them out of danger.
He spent a significant amount of his talk describing how social circles work, especially among girls, and how a member (which he refers to as a Mildew) can bully the other members of a circle by manipulating them against each other and playing on their desire to belong to the group. Most of it seems to be done to keep the Mildew in a position of prominence in the social circle around a leader.
Usually, he said, after graduation, the members of the circle drift away from the toxic influence of the Mildew and she will be left alone, winding up using her social tactics to ruin her personal life and career.
On the panel that was assembled were Christina Barnard of New Directions, Dave Paxton of Village Network, Juvenile Judge James Ronk, Lt. Gary Rohler of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Dodie Melvin from Mental Health America, counselor Sherry Miglin from Mount Vernon Middle School and Andrea Daubenmier from the Ohio State University Extension Service.