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There really is no way to describe what it is like to be harassed in an institutional environment, to people that have never really been through it. There is a difference between a little messing with, healthy competitiveness and serious harassment. It can be overwhelming, and because of the very specific rules inherent to institutional environments imposed by the state and federal governments, and the additional regulations implemented by the individual institutions themselves, knowing exactly how to deal with such occurrences can be mind boggling. If you intend to stay within that institution and not develop an institutional reputation that follows you from place to place, you need to deal with it appropriately in such a way that it stops and affects your position minimally if at all. It seems as if it might be easy at first and for some it may be, but that is not always the case. This is people we're talking about, after all.
It doesn't matter if you're being harassed because of your race, religion, sexual identity, cultural identity, ethnic heritage, nationality or whatever. The goal is to get it to stop. There are many ways to get it to stop. You can simply leave the place where you are and move on to another place or something else. There is no right or wrong in terms of that excepting what your own morals, conscience and feelings towards the specific situation dictate. Perhaps, that would be just fine with you, or perhaps that is the last thing you want. It all depends.
You could react out of emotions and let your ego charge ahead full speed. But in an institutional situation that could very easily put you on the losing end of the situation. There are almost no institutions where this would be tolerated or looked upon favorably. You could end up getting punished in some manner, kicked out permanently or even arrested. You might think so what at the moment, or as an impulsive reaction, but often that is exactly what the folks harassing you want. They want to watch your downfall in one manner or another, or they would not harass you. They want you to break, and in any institutional situation, that is exactly what acting out is – breaking.
The first option to consider is going to your higher ups. However, If you are being harassed by a superior, say at work, or a person in a position of authority over you in some other position, things could get very murky in terms of who to approach and how. In such situations it is always your word against theirs. This could mean they have numerous people that will attest to their version of events for purposes of professional allegiance, in exchange for favors, in exchange for promotions and bonuses, etc.
But, it is considered the right thing to do, once trying to reason with those harassing you has failed. If you plan on going to court the judge and jury will look favorably on your having taken that step, and in some instances, your case may be thrown out if you do not do so. That is why it is always a very important step to consider, and forgoing such a step is not something one should do lightly.
However, there are other steps. Each person can get creative as they wish and develop their own series of steps to deal with such situations. What one comes up with depends on many things like who the person being harassed is, where the harassment occurs, the people doing the harassing, the rules that apply on all levels, how the harassment manifests itself and the goals of the people engaging in the harassing behavior.
When I went through it at the University of Connecticut, majoring in their Landscape Architecture program, I found myself being harassed by numerous people and they were on multiple levels in terms of hierarchy within the program. This included professors and students. It included students that were doing well in the program, and those that weren't. It included students that were often popular, and those that weren't. It included those leading the “pack” in terms of the people doing the harassing, and those that weren't.
After a while I realized that the people harassing me had begun to utilize certain strategies, as the ordinary basic “we don't like you” sorts of things that weren't working got pushed to the side. They wanted me out, whether I quit, flunked or reacted and got kicked out due to the stress they hoped their strategies were causing me. They knew the rules, and that they could not openly harass me for what they didn't like about me – my race (it was just after 9-11 and my dad's from India). So they used more subtle methods to create a hostile environment – hostile mostly for me and/ or anybody that supported me in any way.
Once I realized this, I began to notice that the same handful of strategies were being used over and over. I began to take notes on them and develop my own. I learned the rules of the state, federal government and the school's itself, not completely of course, but well enough and I began to launch my own strategies and tactics. The difference was that they really didn't know I had been studying them and was launching my own.
It was still a stressful experience, but a little less so. There were people, such as one student named Ed that I thought was a friend, then learned was anything but – the farthest thing from a friend there is. But I took my hits, learned from it, absorbed and used it. I went from being “hunted” for the purposes of harassment, by Ed and Ed-like people, to doing some “hunting” of my own. It was not the same in terms of legality what I was doing was legal and in self defense. I wasn't harassing them just fouling up their attempts to harass me, and embarrassing them in the process (never underestimate the power of embarrassing your harassers). They had no reason and were just acting out of racist sentiment and their desire to harass a person, both of which were illegal and against school policy.
By becoming my own kind of hunter, not only did I survive, I graduated. I beat them by in many ways becoming the reflection they didn't want to see in the mirror. They liked to think of themselves one way, not see themselves for who they really were.
In any case, all it takes for someone to become an “Ed hunter” themselves, is to think outside the box, have a little courage and know nothing is impossible. Then start hunting! We need more “Ed hunters” in this country, as for too long so many of us have been “victims” of “Ed's,” with no alternatives for the serious stuff but therapy and unnecessary prescription drugs. The “Ed's” have earned it and have it coming. The key to winning is watching, then acting appropriately, and be creative. In the end this kind of self defense can teach some harassers an important lesson about why not to choose to harass people, also. Something our country could also use a whole lot more of at times.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.