Body-sham­ing prob­lem on, off the web

Pro­fes­sor: Be­hav­ior may be eas­ing in some com­mu­ni­ties

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By ALEXI CO­HAN

Bul­ly­ing takes the form of a per­sonal, pointed at­tack when body-sham­ing comes into play — a vi­o­la­tion that fol­lows vic­tims on­line and in per­son.

“With the merg­ing of the on­line and off­line world, we are see­ing a steep rise in body-sham­ing,” said na­tional bul­ly­ing ex­pert Bar­bara Coloroso.

Body sham­ing — mock­ing or mak­ing cruel jokes about one’s phys­i­cal fea­tures — can gravely im­pact the men­tal health of vic­tims, she said.

“It’s per­sis­tent, it’s per­ni­cious, it’s con­stant … it doesn’t go away,” said Coloroso. “They carry the weight of the pain of in­sult in their brain and in their body.”

But, psy­cho­an­a­lyst and North­east­ern psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Sharp sug­gests body-sham­ing may be eas­ing in some com­mu­ni­ties due to a wider ac­cep­tance sur­round­ing gen­der iden­tity and sex­u­al­ity.

“Peo­ple are more com­fort­able with their friends’ bod­ies,” said Sharp.

Sharp said body-sham­ing pres­sures can also come from tele­vi­sion shows, movies and mag­a­zines — not just from fel­low class­mates.

Ac­cord­ing to guide­lines from Stop­bul­ly­ing.gov, a web­site man­aged by the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, there are sev­eral phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics that may make one more sus­cep­ti­ble to bul­ly­ing.

The site lists risk fac­tors like be­ing un­der­weight or over­weight, wear­ing glasses or dif­fer­ent cloth­ing.

“It’s a mat­ter of tak­ing se­ri­ously the mat­ter of ver­bal and so­cial tar­get­ing of a hu­man be­ing,” said Coloroso.

MATT STONE / BOS­TON HER­ALD

PRES­SURE: North­east­ern psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Wil­liam Sharp said body sham­ing may be eas­ing as peo­ple be­come more com­fort­able with oth­ers.

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