Now, I am not writing this as a chance to share my story or create some sort of “pity party” for myself. I am writing this to you now to let you know that you are not the only one who is going through this; I am writing this to you now because I want to provide you with some strategies I have learned to overcome being bullied or prevent it from happening in your future. According to Roni Weisberg-Ross, a topic expert contributor at Good Therapy.com, bullying is defined as an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. It is characterized as behaving in a manner to gain power over another person and is a form of abuse (Weisberg-Ross, 2010).
College bullying is a different experience than the stereotypical shoving-into-locker scenario that you might originally associate with the act of bullying. In college, the support system is miles away and often, the source of bullying is not as easily escaped. There is no home or safe space to go to, especially when that bully is a roommate or dorm mate.
Going off to college and leaving home is terrifying. Everyone feels those same nerves that occur when in a new setting, especially when meeting new people and being utterly alone for the first time. It’s completely normal. Because of this, self-confidence can often become hidden in the shadow of nerves, leaving you a perfect target to be victimized.
Writing from the perspective of the target, let me tell you that it is one of the most horrible experiences that I have been through in my life. I have never felt so alone. Despite having the support of my family, a phone call is not the same as having someone by your side, fighting your battles with you. However, I will say that although I did not have my support system physically by my side, I had it in every other aspect: on the phone with me, crying with me, staying up all night with me brainstorming solutions.
My first piece of advice is to find someone to talk to. Yes, I felt alone physically, but mentally I would not have been able to make it to the place I am right now had it not been for the support of my family. Whether it be a friend, a parent, an aunt or uncle or even the support system here at UW-Madison, find someone who you can talk to about what is happening. I found that when I was able to constructively discuss what had been happening, the actions that were taken at my expense became more concrete, allowing me to think and talk about them realistically and, most importantly, work to stop the bullying.
When talking to the person, whomever it is that you find and you trust, discuss what is happening and what role you are playing in possibly making it worse. This is very important: it is not your fault; do not feel ashamed to talk about what is going on because there is nothing wrong with you. Bullying often has absolutely nothing to do with you and has everything to do with the bully. However, you may be acting in a way that marks you more likely to be a target, and you can work to prevent that. Still, this does not mean that you deserve to be bullied.
WHAT IS A BULLY?
The thing about bullies is that they feed off of your reaction; they feel better about themselves after making you feel worse. What all bullies have in common is the use of power to satisfy one’s own psychological shortcomings (Weisberg-Ross, 2010). The bully elects to ignore the moral and ethical considerations by which the majority of people are bound. The rules don’t apply to them (Weisberg-Ross, 2010). Each time a bully moves against someone weaker, they feel better about themselves, but only for an instant. Because that feeling doesn’t last, they do it again and again (Weisberg-Ross, 2010). It’s like a drug that feeds them power and makes them feel big and they just cannot get enough of it.
When the bullying started in my case, I became nicer. That was my first mistake. “Kill them with kindness” may seem like a helpful technique, but in reality, it is far from effective. Bullies feed off of weakness, and if you remain a target that continues being kind after being treated with disrespect, you may be unintentionally encouraging the bullying to continue.
However, being confident and resilient is only half of the battle.
HOW DO YOU STAND UP FOR YOURSELF TO STOP BULLYING?
In order to eliminate the bully’s power, you have to prevent certain psychological traits that can cause you to be a larger target to the bullies, such as extreme passivity, sensitivity to criticism or low self-esteem. You should feel and act confident. You do not deserve to be a victim; work to embrace confidence and empowerment. If you walk around feeling confident and like you cannot be affected by any negative accusatory statements, you will diminish any strength that bully has over you.
If you are unaffected, they lose all power.
Recognize what is happening and remember that it is the bully who has the problem, not you. Unless they are physically threatening you, bullies are “paper tigers” (Weisberg-Ross, 2010). If you stand up to them calmly and confront their behavior rationally, they will back down.
The way to handle a bully is to calmly and self-assuredly stand up for yourself. You don’t want to give them reason to escalate by engaging in a heated or emotional manner. In fact, becoming emotional can encourage the bullying to continue. You must remain calm, however that sounds easier than it actually is.
If you can’t immediately stand up to a bully, that is understandable. Set a goal for yourself to try to ignore them; don’t give them the satisfaction of being affected. The best way to gain and retain power is to take action against the bully.
When it comes to bullying, even bullying by a college roommate, things tend to get worse instead of better. While it may be tempting to ride out the situation and see if it improves, the chances are highly unlikely. It is best to address the issues right away before it starts to impact your academics, your health and your sleep — even if that means evacuating the situation.
Now, I know this is a lot of information. I know it feels extremely intimidating and like you cannot do it. Let me tell you: you are capable of doing anything and you can do this. For me, this experience was the beginning of a new and improved me; I did not have the skills for confrontation, and I have learned a lot about how to deal with people who are failing to treat me with respect and human decency for that matter.
Below are included Roommate Support Resources provided by one of the Deans of Students:
If living on campus - House Fellow or Residence Life Coordinator (RLC-pro staff member)
Off Campus - Tenant Resource Center: https://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/
Dean of Students Office - email@example.com
University Health Services (UHS)
· Let’s talk – drop in appointments with counselor
· UHS - Medical Health Service- 24/7 Crisis Support Line [608-265-5600 (option 9)] for urgent needs
· SilverCloud remain available 24/7