Bullying occurs when aggressive, intimidating, or threatening behaviors are directed at an individual with the intent to cause physical or emotional harm. Bullying and harassment are very similar, but the law treats them differently. There are legal protections against harassment and most states have laws against bullying, however they vary in their scope and coverage. Even if your state does not have current legislation to protect against bullying, schools or other organizations may have their own policies that could offer some protection. There is currently no federal law against bullying.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can take on a variety of forms and can be in-person or through the use of electronics and technology, called cyberbullying. While this list isn’t exhaustive, you may be a victim of bullying and/or cyberbullying if someone:
- Subjects you to verbal taunts aimed to embarrass or humiliate you
- Manipulates you into giving up possessions or money for fear of harm or embarrassment
- Pushes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise physically harms you
- Sends and/or forwards to others any insulting emails, texts, videos, photos, or social media posts that are derogatory or untrue
- Impersonates you on social media to embarrass you or share your private information
- Uses electronic messages (texts, Facebook posts, etc.) with angry or threatening language
If you have been bullied, you may:
- Feel depressed, hopeless, angry, anxious, irritable, on-edge, and hypervigilant
- Feel a desire to hurt oneself or have suicidal thoughts and actions
- Miss work or school for fear of seeing your bully
- Be fearful of what the bully could do
- Feel vulnerable and unsafe
- Not use social media like you did prior to being bullied
What Can I Do?
While there is no universal set of steps that will work for everyone, these actions may help you feel in control of your life again:
- Call 911 for Immediate Assistance – You know yourself and your situation better than anyone. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel you are in danger.
- Connect with a Trusted Professional – Consider reaching out to your counselor, school administrator, human resource manager, victim services specialist, or advocate to get information on help that may be available to you and safety planning ideas.
- Document Every Incident – Make a log of encounters with the bully. Record in-person encounters, texts or social media messages, online postings, etc.
- Obtain a Protective Order – Consider filing for a protective order. Protective orders are issued differently by each state, so be sure to contact your local courts to determine what you’ll need to file the order. Ask about the type of order you can file based on the evidence and your particular situation. Bullying should be treated as a criminal act and is reportable to law enforcement.
- Create a Safety Plan – Develop a safety plan for all situations in which you may encounter the bully. You can enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to plan for what you will do if the bully contacts or confronts you.
- Prepare Your Children – Talk to your child about safe internet use and who to talk to if they experience bullying at school, work, or home.
Contact the VictimConnect Resource Center by phone at 1.855.484.2846 or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help if you are experiencing bullying.
Bully Police USA provides information on state-specific anti-bullying legislation.
The Cyberbullying Research Center offers a variety of cyberbullying information for parents, teachers, and children.
Stop Cyberbullying provides information on cyberbullying, including an interactive game for children.
The Civil Rights Center has information on workplace harassment, including hostile work environments, quid-pro-quo situations, and how to file a complaint with the EEOC.
Workplace Bullying Institute offers information on where to start if you are a victim of bullying, including how to take care of yourself, approaching the administration with the problem, and filing complaints.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides resources for finding someone to talk to. It also offers 24/7 phone and chat support if you need help immediately.
If you are in crisis and need to speak with someone about it, the Crisis Call Center offers 24/7 phone and chat support for any individual who needs immediate safe support.