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Bullying in halls

Monday 14 February 2011 Student Accommodation

For lots of you, your time in halls will have been great, and you will have met lots of people that will remain good friends, and potentially future housemates. However, this isn’t the case for everyone, and it’s easy to forget that people living near you may not be having such a positive experience. Here’s Sam’s story.

“I didn’t recognise what was happening at the beginning as bullying as such. When I started uni, we had all gone out and socialised during freshers. It was clear that they were far more interested in partying than I was. At first, this was manageable; we were all settling in and getting used to uni life. Also, there was another flatmate who wasn’t much of a drinker, like me. However when she decided to leave her course, it was clear I was on my own.

“As the months passed, my flatmates continued with a ‘party’ lifestyle, and would bring people back to our flat practically every night. After the first or second time that this happened, I approached my flatmates to try to find a compromise. However this just made the situation worse; that night when they got in they began to hammer on my bedroom door shout abuse at me. This continued throughout the year, and during the day they simply ignored me.

“I kept myself to myself after that, avoiding my flatmates and eating in my room. AS I had an ensuite room, it was pretty easy to stay out of their way. When house hunting season came around, I was pretty miserable. Everyone seemed to have someone to live with other than me. I had met a few people through clubs and societies at the students’ union, but I didn’t feel that I knew anyone well enough to ask if I could live with them.

“Luckily, I saw an advert for someone who needed a housemate and the rest is history – that summer I got to move out of the flat and on with enjoying the rest of my time at uni!”

Unfortunately for Sam, she didn’t realise at the time that this was bullying, or that there were people who she could talk to for emotional support or to help resolve the situation.

Here are Sam’s top tips, should you be in a similar situation:

  • Recognise the difference between ‘settling in’, ‘personality clashes’ and ‘bullying’. Of course the first few weeks will be strange for everyone, but if you begin to feel at any time like you are being singled out, ganged up on, or threatened, it’s really important to speak to someone.
  • Remember that bullying or harassment is unacceptable, and there are policies in place in unions, universities and colleges to protect students from this kind of thing. Check your student handbook, or accommodation websites to find more information on this.
  • Try and speak to your flatmates – they may genuinely not know that they are acting in a way that’s unacceptable to you. If they don’t respond to this, then it’s vital you take the matter further.
  • Go and talk to someone in your students’ union. If the first person you speak to can’t help, then try someone else.
  • If you are member of a club or society, chat to someone on the committee. They are likely to be a third year, or a finalist so will know who you should talk to or be able to offer some advice.
  • If you are in a situation at the moment where you are unsure of your living arrangements, see if your students’ union or accommodation office are putting on any housing advice events. These will often have time for people to meet one another, or lists of people looking for room mates.

Tips if you think someone is being bullied:

  • Be friendly, often people being bullied can be really isolated. Talk about day-to-day things; what's been on TV, their course, what they've been up to, rather than focussing on the bullying, unless they want to talk about that.
  • Confront the perpetrator.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. if you're not sure if it's bullying or banter, put yourself in their shoes and try to imagine how they are feeling.

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