7 Ways to Deal With College Roommates That Bully

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Going off to college is exciting. If you are like most students, you cannot wait to move into the dorms and experience college life. You might even imagine developing a close friendship with your college roommate. But sometimes interacting with her is not exactly what you expected. For some reason, the two of you just do not click. Still, this doesn’t mean that the relationship cannot develop into a healthy friendship. In the end, many people find that having a roommate with different interests can be a rewarding experience.

But there are still those people who just are not healthy roommates. These roommates use bullying to get what they want and to control their environment. If you find yourself being bullied by your roommate, here are seven ways to deal with the situation.

Be Sure You Know What Bullying Is

Before you accuse someone of bullying you, make sure you know what bullying is. For instance, some people are inconsiderate or unkind but that doesn’t make them bullies.

Bullying usually involves repetitive actions that are intended to cause harm in some way. Additionally, not all bullying is physical in nature. In fact, there are six different types of bullying including physical bullying, verbal bullying, relational aggression, sexual bullying, cyberbullying, and prejudicial bullying. Be sure you also know the signs of mean girls, frenemies, and fake friends.

Keep Documentation

The best way to prove that your roommate is bullying you is to keep some sort of documentation. For instance, if your roommate destroys your stuff, take a picture of the damage. Or, if she leaves nasty notes or sends mean or threatening text messages, take screenshots of those.

Even if most of the bullying is verbal bullying such as name-calling, you can keep documentation. Write down the dates and times of the incidents, the words she used and any witnesses. You also may want to include how these names and comments made you feel.

Find a Trusted Adult

If you are experiencing bullying by a roommate, find a trusted adult and report the bullying. For instance, some students report bullying to the dean of students while others prefer to tell their advisor. Other students prefer to talk to someone in the campus health center about the bullying they are experiencing. You also should let your parents know what you are experiencing.

Be sure the adult you talk to is someone who will take the bullying seriously and take the necessary steps to protect you from further harm. And if the first person you tell doesn’t take the bullying seriously, keep telling adults on campus until you find someone who will address the bullying.

Ask About the Next Steps

Understand that when you report bullying, the college may decide to take disciplinary action against your roommate. Be sure you know what their plan is. Also, ask what the college plans to do to keep you safe from harm.

For instance, if the college plans to speak to your roommate while you are still living together, this could be dangerous for you, especially if the bullying is physical in nature. Even you are only experiencing verbal bullying or relational aggression, intervention can cause your roommate to escalate the bullying behavior. Ask that they refrain from disciplining your roommate until they have made different living arrangements for you. Be sure the college administrators take the necessary steps to protect you.

Avoid mediation if you can. Because there is a power imbalance between the target of bullying and the bully, it can be hard to share your side of the story while sitting in a room with the person who bullies you. Instead, offer to share your account of the events separately.

Avoid Sharing the Details With Random Dorm Mates

While it can be tempting to talk about what you are experiencing with other people in your dorm, it is best to only confide in your close friends. Talking about the bullying too much may be construed as spreading rumors or gossiping. Additionally, you may share details with someone who is close friends with the bully, which could lead to more bullying incidents.

Request a Change

No one should be expected to tolerate bullying behavior. Therefore, it is important that you request a room change if you are being bullied. At first, the college may claim that there are no available rooms, but be persistent. Every time your roommate bullies you, be sure to report the behavior. The college administrators need to see the pattern of bullying and the severity of your situation. This will help motivate them to find a safer room assignment for you.

Take Steps to Stay Healthy

Being a victim of bullying can be a traumatic experience that leaves you feeling depressed, anxious, vulnerable, and isolated. The best way to deal with these feelings is to develop a circle of support. To do this, be sure to stay in contact with family and friends from home. Allow them to help you with what you are experiencing.

Additionally, take steps to develop healthy friendships on campus. For instance, you can make friends by joining an intramural sports group, volunteering with a community outreach program, participating in a professional group, or starting a study group for others in your major.

It is a good idea to talk with a counselor. Be sure the counselor is familiar with bullying and can help you sort through your feelings. You will need direction on coping with your situation in a positive manner. Also, mention any challenges you are facing, especially changes in mood, eating habits, and sleep patterns. 

A Word From Verywell

Remember, when it comes to bullying, even bullying by a college roommate, things tend to get worse instead of better. While it may be tempting to ride out the situation and see if it improves, the chances are highly unlikely. It is best to address bullying issues right away before it starts to impact your academics, your health, and your sleep. You are paying a lot of money to attend college. It is not too much to expect to be treated with respect and kindness while there.

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  1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Get help now. Updated September 2017.

  2. US Department of Health and Human Services. Effects of bullying.