When their bullying behavior is brought to a bully's attention, they often try to play the victim by equating their bullying behavior with some selected past behavior of their target they describe as bullying. Below is an example of how a bully may try to deflect attention from their own bullying behavior. (see identifying bullies).
Case Study: In this case study, a bully tries to assert that Bob bullied people with 'rules' that made people sit in an alternating male-female pattern during lunch and therefore deserved to bullied in return. The bully is trying to describe Bob as a bully for his unwanted 'rules.' (see unjustified causation).
Of course the bully's claim of being the victim doesn't stand up to scrutiny, but that doesn't matter to the bully. They just want to deflect attention from their own behavior in any way they can for as long as they can. In this case study, for almost two years Bob invited groups of people to lunch with humorous tongue-in-cheek invitations such as this:
At the time everyone seemed to understand this was a tongue-in-cheek invitation not to be taken seriously. Part of the fun at lunch was to purposely not follow the impossible-to-follow "rules". Half the time the seating 'rules' were suspended with a ridiculous reason such as the moon being full or the day of the month was an odd number.
But, after the fact, years later even, the bully may try to use something like this to deflect attention from and justify their own bullying behavior. For the bully, the more time that has passed, the better -- they can re-frame people's memories to encourage them to remember events the way they want them remembered. Saying, "Can you believe that Bob said..." or "Remember when he did this to us..." while slanting the facts to make themselves look like a victim.
In this case the bully seems to think people will believe it's easy for a lower ranking employee of the college to force Administrator's and Directors to sit where they don't want to. And the bully's story doesn't make sense logistically: Bob would have returned to the lunch table on average after half the people have already sat down wherever they wanted to sit. And for the seating 'rules' to be followed, the number of men and women had to be nearly 50-50%, which was rarely the case. And, finally, the bully attended more than 30 of these lunches so it seems the bully and her friends didn't object that strongly about the tongue-in-cheek rules at the time.
Bullies, when confronted with the impact of their behavior frequently:
Bullies will say things like,
“He made me do that.”
They link their bullying behavior to a minor oversight or mistake by their target, usually in retrospect, to justify their inappropriate behavior towards the target.
A Difference in Philosophy
In fact, after being bullied, rather than continue the lunches and not invite the bullies, their target, Bob, discontinued organizing group lunches and happy hours entirely.
In contrast, the bullies started organizing their own happy hour and lunches, inviting the people Bob used to invite, without inviting Bob (while still letting him know he isn't invited).
That says a lot about the character of the bully, the bully's friends, and their target. (see mobbing)