5 Simple Steps to Take Against Bullying and Harassment

Steps to Take Against Bullying and Harassment

Bullying is rampant in our schools today, and across the United States, about one in every five children experience bullying. These incidents have long-lasting effects on their development and may affect the individual during adulthood.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Education outlined the first federal definition of bullying. Three core elements define it:

  • Unwanted aggressive behavior
  • Observed or perceived power imbalance
  • Repetition or high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors

What is Bullying?

Dieter Wolke and Suzet Tanya Lereya (2014) describe bullying as the “systematic abuse of power” involving aggressive behavior or intentional harm, repeated over time, and featuring an imbalance of power. Despite misconceptions, bullying is harmful, impacting mental and physical health, and hindering adult roles such as forming lasting relationships, integrating into work, and achieving economic independence.

Having experienced bullying, I understand the difficulty of dealing with a bully. Bystanders, often afraid to intervene, can play a crucial role in ending bullying. Reasons for their reluctance include fear of trouble or the belief that they should mind their own business. It’s essential for bystanders to overcome these fears and take steps to deal with bullies, regardless of the power dynamics.

Focus Areas for Researchers:

  • Prevalence of bullying in schools
  • Prevalence of cyberbullying in online spaces
  • Impact of bullying on individuals
  • Risk factors for those bullied, those who bully, or both
  • Bullying prevention strategies
  • Influence of media and media coverage on bullying

Statistics on Bullying: Understanding the Issue

  • About 20% of students aged 12-18 nationwide experience bullying.
  • Reasons students believe others bully them include influence (56%), social power (50%), physical strength (40%), and financial advantage (31%).
  • Bullying occurs in various places at school, with 19% of high school students reporting bullying on school property.
  • Different types of bullying include rumors or lies (13.4%), name-calling (13.0%), physical harm (5.3%), exclusion (5.2%), threats (3.9%), and coercion (1.9%).

What is Harassment?

Harassment, covered by laws like the Sex Discrimination Act and others, involves unwanted conduct that violates dignity or creates an intimidating environment. ACAS defines it as “Unwanted conduct that violates people‚Äôs dignity or creates an intimidating hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

If you are asking, what steps can I take against bullying and harassment, here is the most effective ways to protect your mental and physical health.

1. Practice Making Assertive, Positive Statements:

Practicing assertive, positive statements involves learning to communicate confidently while maintaining a positive tone. It empowers individuals to express their thoughts, feelings, and boundaries effectively, fostering self-respect and commanding respect from others.

Example: Imagine a coworker consistently takes credit for your ideas during team meetings. Instead of reacting negatively, practice assertive communication by addressing the issue calmly. You might say, “I appreciate collaboration, and I’ve noticed that our recent projects involve shared ideas. I’d like to ensure proper recognition for everyone’s contributions, including mine. Let’s work together to make sure credit is given accurately.” This assertive and positive approach communicates your concerns while encouraging a collaborative resolution.

2. Document the Incidents:

Maintaining a comprehensive record of bullying or harassment incidents is vital for various reasons. It provides a clear timeline of events, helping you recall details accurately. Additionally, documented incidents serve as crucial evidence if you decide to involve authorities or take legal action.

Example: Suppose you experience bullying at your workplace. Keep a detailed log, noting the date, time, location, individuals involved, and a description of each incident. For instance, “On [date], during the team meeting in [location], [coworker’s name] made derogatory comments about my work. I felt humiliated, and this has been a recurring issue.” This documentation strengthens your case by presenting a factual account of the incidents.

3. Seek Support from Trusted Individuals:

Reaching out to trusted individuals is a crucial step in dealing with bullying or harassment. Sharing your experiences with friends, family, or colleagues provides emotional support and may offer valuable insights or perspectives. Trusted individuals can also guide you on the best course of action and reinforce your sense of well-being.

Example: If you’re facing bullying at school, confide in a close friend or family member about the incidents. Describe how the bullying has affected you emotionally and seek their advice. For instance, “I’ve been dealing with persistent bullying from a classmate, and it’s taking a toll on my well-being. Talking to you about it helps me feel supported and gives me the courage to address the issue.” Seeking support can empower you to navigate challenging situations.

4. Utilize Workplace or School Resources:

Reporting incidents to the appropriate authorities in your workplace or school is a critical step in addressing bullying or harassment. Many institutions have established channels and resources specifically designed to handle such situations. Utilizing these resources not only ensures a proper investigation but also demonstrates your commitment to creating a safe environment for everyone.

Example: Suppose you are experiencing workplace harassment. In this case, inform your supervisor, human resources department, or use any established reporting mechanisms available in your organization. Clearly detail the incidents, providing dates, times, and any supporting evidence. For instance, “I want to bring to your attention a series of incidents where I have been subjected to harassment. I believe it’s important to address this issue through the appropriate channels to maintain a healthy work environment.” Taking advantage of workplace resources helps initiate a proper investigation and resolution process.

5. Explore Mediation or Counseling Services:

In situations where direct confrontation is challenging or may not be the preferred approach, exploring mediation or counseling services can be beneficial. Mediation involves engaging a neutral third party to facilitate communication and resolution between the involved parties. On the other hand, counseling services offer emotional support and equip individuals with coping strategies to navigate through challenging situations.

Example: Suppose you’ve experienced bullying at school, and the idea of confronting the person directly seems difficult. In such cases, you might explore the option of mediation. This involves a trained mediator who can help both parties express their concerns and work towards a resolution. Alternatively, seeking counseling services can provide you with emotional support and strategies to cope with the impact of bullying. Saying, “I believe involving a mediator could help us address the issues we’re facing in a constructive way without direct confrontation,” is an example of expressing your preference for mediation.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which step should a person take against bullying and harassment?

Individuals can take various steps to address bullying and harassment effectively. One crucial step is to Practice Making Assertive, Positive Statements. Developing the skill of expressing oneself confidently and positively helps assert boundaries in a clear and constructive manner.


What is a legal consequence that bullies might face?

Legal consequences for bullies can vary, but they may include suspension, expulsion, and, in severe cases, jail time. Additionally, bullying can lead to the loss of friendships and damage social relationships.


What are characteristics of bullying behavior?

Bullying behavior includes various forms such as teasing, taunting, name-calling, put-downs, threatening, hitting, stealing, and intentional exclusion from peer groups. It involves actions that are inflicted by one or more persons against a victim, causing harm or distress.


Does humiliation increase as a result of harassment and bullying?

Yes, harassment and bullying can significantly contribute to increased feelings of humiliation. The offensive and intrusive nature of such behaviors, whether sexual, racial, or physical, can violate a person’s dignity and create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment, as defined by ACAS. This emotional impact is a common consequence of sustained harassment and bullying.


What factors can lead to stress?

Several factors can contribute to stress, and some examples include isolation, a lack of job security, work overload, harassment, and bullying. These situations can create challenging and emotionally taxing environments, leading to increased stress levels for individuals experiencing these factors.


What is cyberbullying and how can it be stopped?

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that occurs through digital devices and online platforms. It involves the use of technology, such as social media, texting, or online forums, to harass, intimidate, or harm others. I have written ten ways to deal with cyberbullying, but here is a few more steps to stop it:

  1. Practice Digital Etiquette: Be respectful and considerate when communicating online. Avoid sending offensive or harmful messages.
  2. Monitor Online Presence: Keep an eye on your online accounts and be cautious about sharing personal information. Adjust privacy settings to control who can access your content.
  3. Report and Block: If you encounter cyberbullying, report the incidents to the platform administrators and, if possible, block the individual responsible.
  4. Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about cyberbullying trends and educate yourself on responsible online behavior. Share this knowledge with friends, family, and colleagues to create awareness.
  5. Promote a Positive Online Culture: Encourage positive interactions and discourage negativity. Be supportive and respectful in online discussions.
  6. Seek Help: If you are a victim of cyberbullying, don’t hesitate to seek help from friends, family, or mental health professionals. Report serious cases to law enforcement if necessary.

How does bullying affect mental health?

Bullying can have severe and lasting effects on mental health. Individuals who experience bullying may suffer from various mental health issues, including:

  1. Anxiety: Persistent bullying can lead to heightened levels of anxiety, with victims constantly fearing the next incident or attack.
  2. Depression: Bullying can contribute to feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and low self-worth, often resulting in depression.
  3. Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and humiliation can erode a person’s self-esteem, making them doubt their abilities and value.
  4. Suicidal Thoughts: In extreme cases, the emotional distress caused by bullying may lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Individuals who have experienced severe bullying may develop symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness.
  6. Social Withdrawal: Victims may withdraw from social interactions, fearing further judgment and mistreatment.

What are different types of bullying?

Bullying can manifest in various forms, each with its own characteristics and impact. The main types of bullying include:

  1. Physical Bullying: This involves direct physical harm, such as hitting, kicking, shoving, or damaging property.
  2. Verbal Bullying: Verbal abuse, including name-calling, taunting, and using hurtful language to belittle or intimidate others.
  3. Social Bullying: Also known as relational aggression, this type involves manipulating relationships, spreading rumors, and intentionally excluding individuals from social groups.
  4. Electronic or Cyberbullying: Bullying through digital platforms, including social media, text messages, emails, and online forums.
  5. Racial Bullying: Targeting individuals based on their race or ethnicity, often involving discriminatory remarks or actions.
  6. Religious Bullying: Bullying someone because of their religious beliefs, involving discrimination, prejudice, or ridicule.
  7. Sexual Bullying: Inappropriate comments, gestures, or actions of a sexual nature that cause distress to the victim.
  8. Disability Bullying: Targeting individuals with disabilities through mocking, exclusion, or other harmful behaviors.

What decision have most US states made to address the dangerous consequences of bullying and harassment?

All 50 U.S. states have enacted anti-bullying laws to address the harmful effects of bullying and harassment on students. These laws vary in their specific provisions, but they generally share common goals of preventing and responding to bullying behavior.

Common elements of state anti-bullying laws include:

  • Definitions of bullying: Laws typically define bullying as repeated or persistent mistreatment of an individual by one or more individuals in a position of power. This can include physical, verbal, social, or cyberbullying.
  • Prohibition of bullying: Laws prohibit bullying in schools and may also extend to other settings, such as online and after-school activities.
  • Reporting requirements: Laws often require schools to have procedures for reporting bullying incidents and to investigate and respond to such incidents promptly.
  • Disciplinary measures: Schools may take disciplinary action against students who engage in bullying behavior, up to and including expulsion.
  • Prevention programs: Some states require schools to implement bullying prevention programs, which may include anti-bullying curricula, training for staff and students, and positive school climate initiatives.

In addition to state laws, several federal laws also address bullying and harassment in schools. These laws include:

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: Prohibits sex discrimination in education, including sexual harassment.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including bullying and harassment based on disability.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Requires schools to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, which includes a safe and nondiscriminatory learning environment.

What is the bystander effect, and how does it apply to the issue of bullying?

The bystander effect is a social psychological phenomenon wherein individuals are less likely to offer help or intervene in an emergency situation when others are present. This diffusion of responsibility occurs because people assume that someone else will take action, leading to a collective hesitancy to act.

In the context of bullying, the bystander effect can manifest as individuals witnessing bullying behavior but hesitating to intervene or report it. The larger the group of bystanders, the less likely any single individual feels responsible for taking action. This phenomenon exacerbates the challenges of addressing bullying, as the passive presence of onlookers may contribute to the continuation of harmful behavior.

To combat the bystander effect in the context of bullying, it is essential to promote a culture of active intervention. Encouraging individuals to speak up, report incidents, and support victims helps create a community where everyone shares the responsibility of preventing and addressing bullying. Education and awareness programs can play a crucial role in empowering bystanders to become allies against bullying, fostering a safer and more supportive environment.

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Olivia Mercie. (2023, November 24). 5 Simple Steps to Take Against Bullying and Harassment. EssayHelper.me. Retrieved from https://essayhelper.me/blog/5-simple-steps-to-take-against-bullying-and-harassment/

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