I have been very much disturbed lately over the suicide of Rutger’s University student, Tyler Clementi. He was only 18 years old. I can’t stop thinking about him and his family. I can’t stop thinking about the pain he must have endured the days before his death. He must have been in a terribly dark place. Tyler’s roommates used a webcam to record an intimate moment between him and another man. It was a horrific invasion of privacy. He was the victim of two sick and twisted individuals.
In this post, I want to explain the difference between harassment and bullying, and what to do about it if it is happening to you, or if you see that someone is a victim.
Bullying is typically emotional or psychological. It involves written and verbal communication. Harassment has physical components such as unwanted touching, invading personal space, and damaging possessions. Both are possible to stop, whether it be in the work place, school, or home. Bullies typically target people they perceive as better than them, such as popular, or successful people. People who harass others however, usually single out people they feel are different from them. These differences can be racial, gender, cultural, disability, and other differences.
Harassment is easier to prove, because it only takes one instance to identify it. Harassment is usually bold and in your face so to speak. Discrimination falls into this category. Bullying is more subtle and insidious. Which makes it harder to stop and prove. Bullying typically happens in private, whereas harassment is usually boldly done to boost the image of the harasser, and to show their peers they are better.
These differences are important to identify because different procedures and strategy need to be taken. However, in both cases the behavior MUST be reported. This goes for children too. Children need to be told by their teachers, parents, clergy that they need to tell if they see another child being bullied. Just imagine if several children reported the same bully to their teacher or principle, the school would then be pressured to do something about it, and the victim would no longer be a victim.
If you are being harassed, keep a record of every act. Record dates, times, locations, witnesses. Keep every piece of evidence such as emails and phone records. If suitable, address your concerns with the harasser, tell them to stop. Report the behavior to your boss, or human resources if it is happening at work. Contact local law enforcement if necessary.
If you see someone being harassed or bullied, tell the victimizer to stop, but only if you feel safe doing so. Talk with the victim. Rally up your peers and friends to stand with the victim. Usually people are singled out for being socially isolated. If they aren’t isolated anymore that is a turn off for the bully.
Now after the suicide of Tyler Clementi there is outrage and remorse. There needs to be outrage while people are being bullied and harassed. No one should have to die for people to see what a devastating problem this is. I wish Tyler would have immediately been surrounded by people who would support him and let him know that what happened to him wasn’t his fault.
In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King, Jr.