Bullying can present itself in several different ways. It can be very clear that someone is bullying another, through means such as physical/verbal threats, consistent attempts to upset someone, or regular name-calling. It can also be subtle – sometimes a group might pick out one individual to be casually unkind to, or a bully might say something that they know is going to be upsetting or triggering for another, which might not be obvious bullying on the surface.
Cyberbullying is when bullying takes place online, often via social media. This can take several different forms such as frequent unkind messages to someone’s inbox or making a public post about someone for all to see. Sometimes, a group of bullies might publicly slander somebody in the comments section of a public forum – making fun of them or speaking badly about them. There are many ways someone can be bullied online due to the huge range of ways for people to communicate online, via a vast amount of social channels and platforms.
The above is not an extensive list of the different ways someone can be bullied. It can take so many different forms, and if you feel you are being bullied and the above does not resonate with you, by no means does that indicate that it isn’t happening.
Banter is the exchange of teasing in a good-humoured way. However, banter can be easily misinterpreted and manipulated into bullying and harassment. It is important to recognise the difference between when banter becomes bullying. For example, when banter is used to victimise or insult someone, it can be deemed as bullying; especially if it is targeted or ongoing. Someone might feel uncomfortable with banter and view it as bullying, and their responses might not always clearly show how they feel about it. It is important to be sure that the person you are having banter with is comfortable and finding it funny, rather than feeling victimised or bullied.
Harassment is unwanted behaviour from someone which may cause the other to feel threatened, intimidated or humiliated. This can be through verbal, non-verbal, physical or written communication which creates a hostile or degrading environment, and to be harassment it must be completely unwanted by the recipient.
Someone might harass another person based on several discriminatory factors, including sexual orientation, gender, religion, race or ethnic origin. It may also have nothing to do with these factors and the individual has another reason they might want to harass someone. Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature that violates the victim’s own personal boundaries, causing them to feel degraded or humiliated.
If you witness someone being bullied, there are some routes you can take, depending on how comfortable you are with taking action as well as the dynamics of the situation.
The first point is never to join in. Bullies love to have an audience and love people to be on their side. If you are a part of a group that has developed a bullying mentality towards an individual, or you witness someone being bullied, please do not take part. Depending on how safe it is and your level of comfortability, perhaps try to diffuse the situation and talk to the bullies about how their behaviour might be harmful to the other person. If this is not something you feel comfortable doing, or if it is unsafe to do so, maybe have a one-on-one conversation with the victim and reassure them that this behaviour is not okay. You can talk them through an action plan, perhaps encouraging them to talk to somebody who will be able to help (at work this may be a manager, at university the Students Union doors are always open for support).
If you are the person being bullied, the same applies. Please come forward to the Students Union, we are here for you, we can help and you are not alone.
Another route is using Report+Support. This is an online platform where you can anonymously report incidents of many natures including bullying or hate crimes. Here you request and access support directly from UCA. They take all incidents seriously and all reports are dealt with sensitively and professionally by their trained teams. You can access Report+Support here.
We will start with a confidential conversation between you and the Advice and Wellbeing Coordinator. This will be an opportunity for you to talk through the details of the situation and the outcomes that you would like to see. Our aim is to be there to support you and guide you through the process, to come to the best possible outcome. As the Students Union are separate from the university, this will not result in us taking any further action without your consent.
We will always encourage students to initially attempt to resolve the situation through an informal process. This could mean you talking to the bully/bullies about their behaviour and letting them know it is not welcomed, that you find it offensive, or it makes you feel uncomfortable. You might want to have a friend with you to support you, and/or a member of the Students Union can be there to facilitate this conversation if this is something that would make you feel more confident, comfortable and able to speak honestly.
If this doesn’t resolve the bullying, then the student is able to raise the matter with their Course Leader or Head of School, who will listen to your concerns, and together you can decide on the best route of action. This could result in a meeting taking place between yourself, the person who is bullying you and the course leader. Both you and the other party can be supported by a friend and/or a member of the Student’s Union throughout this process if this were something you would like.
If you have been through the informal complaints policy and you haven’t had the outcome you would like, you may consider raising a formal complaint. This is something that the Students Union can support you with - please see our page on formal complaints here.