Let’s take a trip down memory lane; back to the grammar school basics. If you passed kindergarden, the “golden rule,” or law, was most likely ingrained into your brain. “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” It’s a pretty simple concept, yet seems to be one that is ignored after graduating the 5th grade.
By definition on stopbullying.gov, bullying is an “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time.” Although the days of getting picked on during recess are over, it is still a prevalent issue among middle and high school and even college students. Over our past three years at UNH, we have heard multiple stories about individuals being targeted over and over by one person, or group of people, which is by definition, bullying.
And we shouldn’t be surprised because if high school bullies never had to take responsibility for their actions or were not disciplined for bullying others, what is going to stop them from continuing to put others down in college? What is more difficult to face in college with bullying is that there is no escape, especially if the bully is a roommate. Also, older students, such as those in college, experience more pressure to deal with social issues without assistance.
From our personal observations, we have found that the bullies and their victims in college tend to be mainly female. Unlike the aggression seen among college-aged men, we have witnessed how bullying among women typically tends to be less physical and overt, and more emotional. More specifically, based on our personal experience, it seems women use exclusion, gossip and “taking sides” in social circles as their weapons of choice against each other. In college especially, it can be particularly difficult when a woman’s friend group turns on her overnight. Unlike in high school, in college a person’s friends are more like family, and having that support system torn away can be harmful in more ways than one.
At a place like UNH with so many people and ways to be involved and find a niche, it can be easy to think bullying isn’t very common, but we’re here to tell you that it is. In our past three years here alone, we have seen a variety of social aggression between our female peers, from acts as seemingly harmless as excluding a friend from a social outing to something as horrifying as leaving bags of trash on a roommate’s bed because they wanted her to take out the trash. We’ve heard of women leaving anonymous notes to a boyfriend lying about cheating for the pure entertainment of emotional harm; roommates who say mean things loudly enough in another room to intentionally hurt another; stories about entire “friend groups” singling out one individual and ignoring them, while one girl tells the others they “aren’t allowed” to hang out or talk to her while they all still live together. The stories go on and on, we are having trouble keeping these examples down to one paragraph.
The emotional harm one person can do to another can be detrimental. A study reported by CNN showed that college girls who are bullied were three times more likely to meet clinical criteria for depression. Severe anxiety, feelings of sadness and loneliness, decreased academic achievement and even thoughts of suicide are effects people can experience from being bullied. If you are a victim of college bullying or have experienced any of these negative feelings, please don’t feel like you can’t reach out for help. UNH has many resources and support systems to assist bullying victims. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you are in an emergency scenario to seek assistance. Talk to your hall director, stop by Health Services or make a free appointment at the Counseling Center; your emotional health matters.
But what can be done to actually end this epidemic? We have asked this question so many times throughout the course of our college careers. For starters, if you are a witness or “bystander” to one of these accounts, stand up and speak out. Having a backbone and learning to go against the mean girl may seem tough but that is what being a decent human being is about. Part of college is becoming the best person one can be through education, but holding oneself to a high moral standard as an overall human should be everyone’s main goal and we expect nothing less from our fellow Wildcats.
All the Best,
If you are experiencing an emotional emergency and none of the facilities are available at the time, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK