The Making of a Bully


SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– If there’s any one person equipped to speak on bullying, it’s probably a middle school counselor. Brian Vega has been one of those for the Springfield School District for nearly 20 years. We sat down with Vega and asked, ‘What makes someone a bully? Specifically, what kind of behavior qualifies as bullying?’

“Bullying is where there’s repeated abuse. And there needs to be an imbalance of power. It could be physical it could be digital it could be emotional,” Vega says. “There’s someone with more power inflicting abuse on someone with less power.”

We also asked, ‘What kind of background leads to that behavior?’

Vega says that depends.

For those who are bullying at a young age, maybe it’s part of a teenage identity crisis, or maybe that’s how they were taught to treat people by their parents.

For those who are bullying at an older age, into adulthood, maybe they never developed a strong sense of empathy.

One motivating factor, however, unites bullies both young and old.

“If people feel they don’t have enough power in certain areas of their life, power, and control, they have a need for that. That’s a need. So in a dysfunctional way, they get that need met by exerting power and control over people in negative ways,” Vega says. 

But the need for power doesn’t just fuel bullies– we’re told it’s also what motivates a similar but different kind of person– people to commit acts of domestic violence.

Here at Harmony House in Springfield, hundreds of domestic abuse victims are breaking free of those who have tried to exert power over them.

“If you don’t deal with your stuff it will deal with you,” Brenda Johnson says. 

Johnson is a caseworker who learns the back stories of these victims and these abusers.

It’s why KOLR10 chose her to answer some questions similar to those we asked Vega.

This time we asked, ‘What makes someone capable of committing domestic abuse?’

“A batterer is someone that needs power and control,” Johnson says. 

It doesn’t take long to see the similarities in how Johnson describes batterers and Vega describes bullies.

“It could be something society has taught them,” Johnson says. “It could be something where they were wounded themselves.”

However, Johnson explains there are differences, but those lie in the nature of the relationship. Not the motive of the abuse.

“In a bully type of situation, you don’t have a fear of loss. In a bullying relationship there is no sense of loving a person,” says Johnson.

Finally, there is one major similarity that both bullies and domestic abusers share. 

One that transcends background, upbringing, social or economic status, or relationship with the victim. What is this one thing all the abusers and bullies of the world have in common?

“It’s their choice,” Johnson says. “That person is choosing to use power and control over that individual. There is no criteria other than choice.”

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