OPINION | denizens of darkness

OPINIONdenizens

Ever had an experience as this?

You’re driving on a county road on a dreary, rainy evening — the road’s not lighted — when suddenly you spy a dark figure in the darkness. It’s frightening and it makes you wonder why someone would not have the presence of mind to wear brighter apparel or a lighted warning.

The denizen of darkness in the above scenario can produce chills and fear and anger. Why, you ask yourself, would someone not recognize the folly of their act of dressing in dark clothes and risking injury or death? For himself and others?

One reason might be that nobody ever taught the pedestrian about personal safety tips for pedestrians.

So, too, might that be the case for another denizen of darkness. The stalker bully who takes issue with you — verbally or in writing. This denizen of darkness ambushes you whenever he sees the opportunity to verbally assault and berate you in public — perhaps because he disagrees with you on whatever.

Recently, there’ve been reported instances of public verbal attacks against several Columbia citizens.

Unlike the occasional argument, shouting match or scuffle, this kind of bullying happens repeatedly, it is not an isolated event. It involves a physical or (perceived) social power imbalance between two people or two groups, with the perpetrator(s) thinking he has  more power and the victim(s) having less. It also involves one person trying to intentionally harm the other. It can be physical (shoving, punching, kicking) or verbal (name-calling, gossiping, spreading rumors).

There are studies that show that childhood bullies “might be more likely to engage in risky or illegal behaviors in adulthood. When they grew up, bullies were more likely to have been convicted of felonies and to have abused drugs, and they actually tended to be poorer and lonelier than their former victims. However, when researchers controlled for childhood hardships like divorce or psychiatric problems, they found … bullies tended to have more troubled childhoods — and that may explain both their bullying and the greater likelihood of engaging in illegal behaviors down the road.”

Bullies, despots and this kind of denizens of darkness often:

  • “engage in name-calling; this is a form of verbal abuse.”
  • “use words to shame you. Examples include critical, sarcastic, or mocking words that are meant to put you down.”
  • “Criticizes you and your opinions and expressions. They often try to silence you or intimidate you into not disagreeing with them. They’re not focused on constructive criticism or dialogue, the person doing the criticizing is simply being mean and has no intention of being constructive.
  • “yells, screams or swears – for them, these actions, are displays of power and the goal is to control and intimidate you into submission. As a result, it is abusive and should not be tolerated or excused.
  • makes threats. No threat should ever be taken lightly. When people make threats they are trying to control and manipulate you. Remember, there is no better way to control someone than to make them fearful in some way.

Even the most contentious situations and circumstances ought to be discussed in public forums with civility engaging collegiality and an honest, “eager-to-try-to-understand” approach. There will be differences, to be sure, but those differences cannot be resolved with verbal threats, intimidation and local versions of “racketeering.”

We know this about a local denizen of darkness who has purportedly and allegedly publicly accosted and verbally attacked local citizens. This person has had a history of legal issues including arrests, convictions and guilty pleas of offenses including:

  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Corruption Of Minors
  • Use / Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia (The manufacture, sale or delivery, holding, offering for sale, or possession of any controlled substance, other drug, device or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded.)
  • Harassment – Subject Other to Physical Contact
  • Driving While Operator Privileges Suspended Or Revoked
  • Follow Too Closely
  • Operation of vehicle without official certificate of inspection
  • Failure To Stop At Red Signal
  • Obedience to traffic-control devices warning of hazardous conditions.

A big risk for the persons subjected to intimidation and verbal threats is that the perpetrator’s actions can lead to more escalated and violent responses. Some experts contend, “‘going public’ with verbal abuse is ‘usually a sign of escalation and/or impending physical abuse.’”

At a recent Columbia School District Board of Directors’ meeting, Board President, Keith Combs said,

“I would first like to address a concern that was raised following the last meeting. It was brought to my attention that a member of the public who spoke before this board voicing his concerns regarding the KOZ was approached following the meeting and treated harshly. I’d encourage any member of the public wishing to speak before this board to do so without fear of being verbally attacked following our meetings. I’d appreciate it if members of the public resolved their concerns or disagreements at the podium and act with civility towards each other while you’re on school grounds or here at the DAC.”

In 2019, let’s pledge that each of us will be able to agree to disagree on anything without resorting to verbal abuse and inflammatory attacks and threats.


 

End notes | The Department of Labor provides these definitions of  terms used in the context of workplace violence:

Assault. To attack someone physically or verbally, causing bodily or emotional injury, pain, and/or distress. This might involve the use of a weapon, and includes actions such as hitting, punching, pushing, poking, or kicking.

Intimidating or Harassing Behavior. Threats or other conduct which in any way create a hostile environment, impair agency operations; or frighten, alarm, or inhibit others. Psychological intimidation or harassment includes making statements which are false, malicious, disparaging, derogatory, rude, disrespectful, abusive, obnoxious, insubordinate, or which have the intent to hurt others’ reputations. Physical intimidation or harassment may include holding, impeding or blocking movement, following, stalking, touching, or any other inappropriate physical contact or advances.

Stalking. A malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursuing another person with intent to place that person in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death to him/herself or to a third party.

Threat. Any oral or written expression or gesture that could be interpreted by a reasonable person as conveying an intent to cause physical harm to persons or property. Statements such as, “I’ll get him” or “She won’t get away with this” could be examples of threatening expressions depending on the facts and circumstances involved.


Other definitions:

non-physical threats.  When one party believes the other is making a threat. These threats  are serious when they are considered specific, substantive and severe, and believe they may soon translate into actual attacks.

2 comments

  1. Well done! Thank you for taking the time to address this serious issue. As taxpaying residents, we have the right to speak our opinion without fear of retaliation or intimidation.

  2. Since the current POTUS began to run for the office, he has publicly attacked people and continues to this day. This clearly has encouraged many citizens to do the same. They probably feel, “Hey, if he can do it, I can, also, and most people won’t attack me.” What a sad state of affairs we now have.

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