Dealing with harassment and bullying
Help and advice
At Portsmouth, we encourage every student to play a part in our welcoming community and we hope you'll never experience harassment or bullying in any stage of your life. But if you do experience it at uni, we want you to know you'll have all the support you need.
Most universities have a set of principles that encourage you to be an advocate for your student community and develop strong support networks in your personal life, as well as your academic life. One way you can do this is by knowing how to recognise harassment and bulling.
Recognising harassment and bullying
Harassment and bullying is psychological or physical behaviour that is mean, intimidating, insulting or threatening. Bullying can be more subtle and develop into more obvious and threatening behaviour over time. Harassment is less subtle, making someone feel intimidated or threatened from the beginning.
Both harassment and bullying can have long-term effects on a victim's mental health and wellbeing. It can lead to long-term issues including stress, anxiety, panic attacks, high blood pressure, ulcers and trouble sleeping. For a university student, this could seriously affect their ability to focus on their studies and could also impact their future career.
Reporting harassment and bullying
You should report bullying or harassment if you witness it being done to others. Instead of standing by and letting someone get hurt, speak up and let someone with authority know.
Our Student Charter highlights the importance of respecting others, being a role model for others and playing your part in the university community. One way you can do this is to identify harassment and bullying when you see it, and help the student experiencing it by offering support and reporting the incident.
Our Dignity and Respect policy asks all our students to take personal responsibility for reporting:
- any incidents where dignity and respect is not demonstrated
- incidents of bullying and harassment
- any form of discrimination that they are aware of
If you witness any experience of harassment, bullying, violence or discrimination at Portsmouth, you can submit an anonymous report or an informal report to request an adviser.
Experiencing harassment or bullying
If you experience bullying or harassment, you should know you're not to blame for being treated badly and that actions can be taken to make it stop. All universities have formal complaints and disciplinary procedures for reporting cases of harassment and bullying.
Certain forms of harassment and bullying can make you feel isolated and without support. But you should know you're not alone. Universities have many services and individuals who can form part of your supportive network and give you the resources you need to succeed in difficult times.
At Portsmouth, we encourage you to map out your own Learning Well support network – a network of supportive connections from across the University.
Your friends and family
Your first stop should be your friends and family. It's okay to depend on people in your life when you need them, especially people you are close to.
If you're being bullied within your friendship group, and you don't feel comfortable talking to friends, call your family. If you don't feel like you have any personal support network at all, there are many services at university that can help you.
Your personal tutor
When you start uni, you'll be assigned a personal tutor. You'll meet with them a few times a year, and can email them to ask to see them if you need any guidance and support. This includes personal support, so reach out to them if you're experiencing harassment or bullying.
Your personal tutor is likely to be an academic at the university. But if they can't help you straight away, they can help direct you to support service that can give you the support you need.
Student wellbeing services
Most universities have a dedicated student wellbeing or counselling service. They offer free, confidential help when you need support for your emotional wellbeing and mental health.
You can book a 1-to-1 appointment with a member of their team to tell them what you're going through and get advice on how to deal with it and whether to report it.
Students' Union advice service
Your Students' Union will run an advice service for students that's independent from the university. It's a great way to get support from your peers, especially if you're experiencing harassment or bullying from within your friendship group.
Some Unions can help you report your experience by mediating with the university or act as a mediator between yourself the person harassing or bullying you to work towards a solution that stops you getting hurt.
Residence support service
Find out if your university has a Residence Life Team who can support you if you're experiencing bullying or harassment in your halls or shared accommodation.
Residence support services are usually available 24/7 in case of emergency. The team will be made up of staff and students who can give you confidential advice if you need welfare support.
Religious support services
If you're looking for religious comfort and support, most universities have a multi-faith chaplaincy. They are open to you no matter what faith you practice and can give you confidential support and guidance.
As well as being available for drop-in appointments, you can usually contact a chaplain out of hours in an emergency.
You can speak to your doctor about more issues than just physical ones. They have a duty of care to listen to you and give you the best advice they can. While they might not be able to actively help you stop the bullying or harassment, they can point in the direction of services that can give you support.
They can also help if your physical health is suffering from the experience. Harassment and bullying can lead to anxiety or depression and physical pain such as headaches, muscle pains, tiredness and insomnia.
The person bullying or harassing you
If you feel safe enough, speak to the person bullying or harassing you in private. In some cases, they might not have realised how much they were hurting you. If this is the case, point out ways they've treated you and explain how that made you feel.
If the harassment or bullying is severe or you feel that the person might get violent, you don't have to do this. In many cases, it's best to get support from someone else who can help mediate the conversation between the two of you, like your Students' Union. If conversation isn't an option, report their behaviour.
Recording your experience
Keeping a record of your experience of harassment or bullying can come in useful if you decide to report the situation. You might find it hard to relive encounters with your harasser or bully, but you'll benefit from having a written record of what's happened.
Useful notes to keep include:
- the date and time that encounters happened
- a description of what happened
- how the encounter affected you – emotionally, physically or both
- how your study, home or social life was affected by the encounter
- any witness who saw what happened
- screenshots or harmful messages sent via email, text or social media
- Citizen's Advice – information on your legal rights if you experience harassment and examples of types of harassment
- Victim Support – free and confidential 24/7 support if you've been a victim of a crime (even if you haven't reported it to the police) – call them free on 0808 503 9054 or through their email supportline
- Bullying UK (Family Lives) – further advice on dealing with bullying at university – call them on 0808 800 2222 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice
- The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation – inspiring stories from those who have experienced or stood up to bullying
- Ditch The Label – international anti-bullying charity with hundreds of articles on bullying