Bullying can take many forms, from peer pressure to hazing, none of which are good. You have a right to make your own choices and not be subjected to violence, abuse, or stress for wanting to do so. All types of bullying can lead to mental distress, and in extreme cases, injury or death. The cure for bullying is simple: Respect others and treat them the same way you would want to be treated. Read on to learn about the different types of bullying and how to combat them.


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Peer Pressure

Peer pressure occurs when an individual or group of individuals tries to influence your behavior, thoughts, or actions. It can happen at all ages of life, though the situations tend to change as an individual gets older. Often, people who are trying to fit in with a certain group (e.g., the “cool” kids) will succumb to peer pressure and do things that they wouldn’t otherwise, such as smoke a cigarette, skip class, or buy certain expensive clothes. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to fit in, if a group of people is subjecting you to peer pressure and making you feel bad when you don’t participate in certain activities, it may not be the best friend group for you.

Because you own your body, you don’t have to do anything just because someone else wants you to. Try to find friends who value the same things you do, and ones to whom you wouldn’t feel bad saying, “No.” While peer pressure is often more subtle than someone saying, “I won’t be your friend if you don’t do drugs,” it is still easily recognizable. If someone is trying hard to get you to do something, despite resistance, that is peer pressure.

Not all peer pressure is bad, though. If you find a group of people for whom getting good grades and participating in extracurricular activities is important, you’re more likely to want to get good grades and participate in extracurricular activities as well. All people are influenced by the friends that they surround themselves with, so surround yourself with successful people whom you admire and aspire to be like.

Peer Pressure at Parties

College, particularly freshman year, is a time of transition. There isn’t much close supervision by adults or parents while students are away at college. Naturally, students may want to experiment with alcohol or recreational drugs, especially if all of their new classmates are doing so. Peer pressure, whether intentional or unintentional, may influence students to try drugs or alcohol when they otherwise would not have chosen to do so. Peer pressure doesn’t even have to be spoken. Often, people model themselves on the behavior of the people that they are surrounded by. If you are the only one not drinking at a party, you may be more inclined to accept the next drink that you are offered.

Verbal peer pressure can range from someone offering you a drink or drugs to someone impolitely asking you why you’re not drinking or doing drugs to someone pressuring you to take a shot or smoke a joint. The easiest way to avoid peer pressure like this is to avoid situations where you will be surrounded by people who are partying, especially if it’s not your scene in the first place. However, you shouldn’t have to avoid parties just because you don’t want to drink or do drugs. You can make yourself nonalcoholic beverages and tell people, “I’ve already got a drink, but thanks,” every time they offer you another one. It’s also perfectly okay to tell people, “No, thanks. I don’t do drugs.”

If you get into a situation where you feel uncomfortable, you have every right to leave. Otherwise, stand up for what you believe in, and eventually, once people get to know you, they’ll stop asking. If you see someone else being pressured, step in. It’s okay to be an individual and not follow along with the crowd.

Bullying

Many people believe that bullying is predominantly a problem in K–12 schools, but bullying can and does occur on college campuses. As you get older, bullying is often referred to by the specific form it takes. It can include stalking, harassment, cyberbullying, hazing, or hate speech. In reality, any aggressive behavior in which one person repeatedly exerts power over another to coerce or intimidate is bullying. Peer pressure, then, can be a form of bullying. These behaviors almost always violate college policies and state and federal laws. There are four distinct types of bullying:

  • Verbal: Verbal bullying is spoken or written and involves using words with the intent to cause emotional distress. Examples of verbal bullying include name-calling, making fun of someone’s appearance, threatening, encouraging someone to take their own life, insulting, or teasing. Verbal bullying comes in many levels of severity, but all constitute bullying in their own right.
  • Physical: Physical bullying involves a student physically hurting or attempting to hurt another student. It may include tripping, hitting, pushing, kicking, pinching, hair-pulling, etc.
  • Relational: Relational bullying involves an attempt to isolate one student from their peers. The bully may spread rumors to harm a student’s reputation or instruct others to exclude a student from their group (e.g., telling the student they can’t sit with other students at lunch, refusing to pick the student for either team during physical education, or making the student the butt of a practical joke).
  • Cyber: Any bullying that takes place online is considered cyberbullying, but typically cyberbullying occurs over social media and text or instant messaging applications. It may range from a student posting mean things on another student’s social media pages to a student texting abusive messages to another student. Sharing photos, spreading rumors, and creating a hostile environment are all examples of cyberbullying. It is a particularly concerning form of bullying because the anonymity that one can hide behind online increases the cruelty of the message. Furthermore, with internet access on phones and computers, the victimization is constant and the impact is instant.

While bullying can affect anyone, there are certain risk factors that may make a student more likely to be bullied. Any student who is perceived by a bully as different from others (by being overweight, wearing glasses, being new to the school or the class, or wearing different clothes) may automatically be more of a target. Depending on the environment, students may be targeted because of their LGBT+ identity; a disability; or their race, sex, or religious beliefs. Furthermore, as bullying is essentially a power play, students who are perceived as weak or being pushovers, having low self-esteem, or being less popular than others are more vulnerable.

Accusations of bullying are taken so seriously by teachers and administrators because bullying can have serious results. Students who are bullied typically experience isolation (whether self-imposed to avoid the bully or imposed by other students) and the resulting loneliness. Furthermore, experiencing any type of bullying could damage a student’s mental health and self-esteem. It can also increase the likelihood of suffering depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. If you are being bullied, it could be difficult to concentrate on schoolwork, work-study, and extracurricular activities, and you might try to avoid campus gatherings altogether.

Speaking Out

If you are being bullied, you might feel like there’s no one on your side. That simply isn’t true. Real friends, trusted mentors and professors, and your residential assistant are just a few of the people who would be glad to listen and help connect you with additional resources.

If you have concerns about a friend or classmate who has been bullied or if you have been a witness to any such behavior, it is your responsibility as a member of your campus community to speak out against what you have seen. This could include standing up for the student who is being bullied at the time you witness the actions, offering yourself as a friend to the student who is being bullied, or talking to a superior (a coach, an academic advisor, a dean, etc.) about what you have seen.

It is important to report any instances of bullying so that you can stop the aggression before it gets worse. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education mandates that every school, colleges and universities included, have at least one employee (usually called a Title IX coordinator) who makes sure the school is in compliance with Title IX of the Educational Amendments. These amendments prohibit sex and gender discrimination in education. If you are reporting an instance of gender-based bullying or discrimination, you may alert the Title IX coordinator.

Otherwise, the dean is a good resource for students grappling with bullying. Depending on the size of your school, you may be able to contact the dean through email or make an appointment through the dean’s office. The dean is an expert on student life and will be able to connect you with appropriate resources to help stop the bullying. He or she may follow up with the student who is doing the bullying and other victims in an effort to make campus a safer place.

If bullying, no matter what kind, is threatening your immediate safety in any way, please alert the police and campus security. These departments can follow up, help you file a report, and protect your safety.

Respecting Others

These instructions are so obvious, and yet, with so many instances of bullying around the globe, there are clearly people who are not following the Golden Rule: Treat others the way that you want to be treated.

Teasing is sometimes a sign of affection. Other times, it crosses the line. Before you make a joke about someone you know, ask yourself if it seems hurtful. Would it bother you if the roles were reversed? If so, keep it to yourself. Also, be mindful that some people may be more sensitive or self-conscious than you are. That is not a character flaw of theirs. They are not to be blamed for feeling hurt.

It’s easy to accidentally hurt someone’s feelings or take a joke too far, but it can feel awful for the other person. If this happens to you, apologize immediately. It takes guts to admit that you were wrong, and the gesture won’t go unnoticed. It is always best to apologize, even if you think someone is being overly sensitive. Do not blame that person for his or her reaction. Be honest: “I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t think about how it would affect you. I wasn’t considering your emotions. It won’t happen again.”

Hazing

Hazing is any situation that is intended to cause an individual embarrassment, humiliation, or debasement, regardless of whether the individual agrees to participate. With or without willing participation, these situations run a high risk of inflicting emotional or physical harm. Unlike bullying, which is generally intended to single an individual out, hazing is often intended to be an inclusive measure. It may be used as initiation into a sorority or fraternity, a sports team, or other extracurricular group.

As of 2008, 73% of students in sororities and fraternities reported experiencing hazing. A survey of 325,000 NCAA student-athletes found that 80% had experienced some sort of hazing when they were initiated onto their teams. Furthermore, over half of college students involved in any extracurricular activity reported experiencing hazing.

While hazing masquerades as inclusive (once a student makes it through the hazing ritual, they’re officially a part of the team, fraternity, etc.), bullying and hazing still have a lot in common. Similar to bullying, the commonality between all hazing rituals is a power discrepancy between the individuals promoting the hazing and the individual(s) being forced to endure the hazing. Unlike bullying, those who haze act as a group; bullies often act alone.

Hazing may include beating, branding, forcing a new recruit to drink copious amounts of alcohol, forcing an individual to endure verbal assaults, kidnapping underclassmen at night and depriving them of sleep while forcing them to cater to the whims of upperclassmen, forcing a student to eat something that isn’t food, or forcing inappropriate and unreciprocated sexual acts.

Many schools have instituted anti-hazing policies, and hazing is currently illegal in 44 states and the District of Columbia because it tends to go wrong. (States without laws preventing hazing are Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming.) Despite the illegality of hazing, incidents still occur. For example, in 2013, a Baruch College freshman died after participating in a hazing ritual, as have students at Pennsylvania State University, Clemson University, and Florida State University.

Though many students anonymously self-report being hazed, few students actually report hazing to a school official for fear of the consequences, whether from the other students involved in the same extracurricular or the school. The consequences for hazing are tough and can include an individual’s expulsion from school, the disbanding of the extracurricular for which the hazing occurred, or legal action.

If someone is in immediate harm due to hazing, call 9-1-1 and campus security immediately. Many hazing deaths are the result of students waiting until it’s too late to get help for the affected individual. Never leave someone who has passed out from being forced to drink too much alcohol or enduring a beating to “sleep it off.” Regardless of the potential consequences or your compliance in the hazing, call emergency services. The consequences will be far worse if a student were to fall into a coma or die because his or her fellow students were too afraid to get help.

If you have personally been a victim of or witnessed hazing, speak up, even if it’s after the fact. Not only can hazing be emotionally traumatizing or life-threatening for the individuals who experience it, but participants may have felt peer pressure to go along with the rest of the team within a hazing ritual despite not wanting to take part. Nobody benefits from hazing, and it should be reported to a coach, administrator, or trusted individual. There is also an anti-hazing hotline that students may call anonymously if they would like to talk to someone outside of their schools (1-888-668-4293) or students can visit the Stop Hazing website.

Resources for Students

For everyone:

  • Crisis Call Center
    • Call 775-784-8090 toll-free or text “ANSWER” to 839863 (standard data rates apply)
    • Hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Hotline is free and confidential
  • Stopbullying.gov
    • Visit the site to get support tailored to your situation
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • Call 1-800-273-8255 toll-free or 1-800-799-4889 (for deaf and hard of hearing individuals)
    • Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Lifeline is free and confidential
  • The Samaritans
    • Call 212-673-3000 toll-free
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Calls are confidential and anonymous; caller ID is not used

For Spanish speakers:

For teens and adolescents:

  • Thursday’s Child
    • Call 1-800-872-5437 toll-free
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    • Helpline is free

For LGBT+ youth:

  • The Trevor Project
    • Call 1-866-488-7386 toll-free or text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200 (standard data rates apply)
    • Instant messaging options are also available
    • Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Page last updated: 12/2017