“How can a person deal with being bullied or ganged up on by an abusive roommate? Especially one that does not take safety precautions for COVID-19?”
—Camila R.*, first-year graduate student, Florida International University, Miami
Roommate life can be tough. Having to share a small space with someone you don’t know well and may not agree with on anything can put a strain on the college experience. Most of the time, learning how to navigate those conflicts and uncomfortable situations is a part of growing that you can look back on as a great learning experience. However, bullying is a form of violence and should not be accepted in any situation, particularly when it comes to your physical safety.
If you live on campus
Please contact your university residence hall coordinator immediately. Explain to them what is happening and document the risks you feel your roommate is exposing you to, related to COVID-19 and otherwise. Most universities have strict policies against bullying, so you should have no issues getting assigned a new room. They will likely also take actions to discipline the other student. You want to make sure that they provide safety precautions for you when you are moved so that the student is not allowed near you (if they are still allowed to be on campus). You may also want to consider staying away from your room as much as possible until you or your roommate can get reassigned. I know it is not fair to you, but you need to put your safety first.
If you don’t live on campus
Reach out to your landlord to find out what your options are for getting out of your lease. Explain the situation to them, with evidence, and let them know that you feel your safety is at risk. Try speaking with your landlord openly, honestly, and calmly. You want to give them the full picture and communicate in a way that is most likely to get them to help you. If your landlord refuses and you feel unsafe or threatened in your home, contact a domestic abuse shelter or friend or family member you can stay with.
What to do about COVID-19 risks
In terms of COVID-19 risks, please consider getting tested if you or your roommate have any symptoms of illness. While it may be difficult to socially distance given the space limitations in your room or apartment, please be sure to wear a face covering whenever the two of you are in close contact with one another—and make sure to wash your hands frequently.
How to handle emotional stress
To deal with the emotional stress that your roommate is causing you, consider talking to a therapist or someone in the counseling center. Whatever this person is saying to you or about you is not true. They are likely trying to take out their own pain on you. Do your best to remind yourself of the great things about you. Talk to others who lift you and your spirits up. Listen to music or watch shows that make you feel better. Do these things as often as you need to until you can find a new living situation.