Bullying. What can you do about it?

Are you a repeated victim or witness of hostile, hurtful or offensive words, actions, gestures or messages (e.g. cyberbullying)? Trustpunt is here for you!

What is bullying?

Bullying involves repeated behaviour - words, threats, actions, gestures, ignoring, messages - that is hostile, offensive or hurtful. Anyone can become a victim of bullying. It affects someone's personality, dignity or integrity (psychological or physical). It can involve minor comments, inappropriate jokes, as well as damaging or taking away personal belongings, systematically ignoring or excluding someone and physical violence.

A common form of bullying is cyberbullying via social media and other platforms. Because of the sense of distance and sometimes anonymity, the threshold for doing so is lower.

In bullying, too, boundaries are personal. For instance, what one person still calls "teasing" or "practical jokes" can have a negative impact on someone else. If it doesn't feel OK, then it crosses your boundary and has to stop. It is important to be aware that we can all have different boundaries. At Ghent University, we expect everyone to respect each other's boundaries.

In Belgium, bullying is also punishable. Repeated bullying behaviour is regarded as stalking.

Do you have questions about this? Do you doubt whether what you experience is bullying? Looking for support in responding appropriately? Send an e-mail to trustpunt@ugent.be or call 09 264 82 82 between 9 a.m. and 12 noon.

What can you do if you experience bullying?

You can respond to bullying in different ways. Know that you are not alone. You can always turn to Trustpunt, whether you want to do something or not.

  • You can seek support from friends, fellow students, family or a UGent staff member. You can also make an appointment for a confidential conversation with a Trustpunt confidential counsellor. You decide which steps to take. Discussions with a confidential counsellor are always confidential.
  • You can address the person or persons responsible for the bullying behaviour yourself. It helps to clearly state which behaviour is not OK for you, what it does to you and what you would like the other person to do. You can ask a friend or support figure to be here. Would you rather prepare such a conversation first and need tips? Then you can do this together with a Trustpunt confidential counsellor.
  • Sometimes it can help to ignore the behaviour. By consciously not reacting, you can also send a message and the behaviour will no longer have the desired effect. However, don't do this in cases of physical violence or unwanted touching. It doesn't help? Then it is better to take a more direct approach.
  • Are you experiencing bullying but you don't feel comfortable addressing the person(s) involved single-handedly? You can ask a confidential counsellor to guide a mutual conversation with you and the person who is exhibiting the behaviour.
  • Does starting your own conversation not feel safe to you at all? Then you can ask the confidential counsellor to speak with the person who states the behaviour.
  • If dialogue does not work or does not feel safe, you can examine with Trustpunt's confidential counsellor what other actions are possible. More information on action options, procedures and frequently asked questions from students can be found on this page.

What can you do as a witness?

Do you witness bullying? Then you can speak to the person(s) yourself or make it clear in another way that you do not think it is okay. You can also ask someone at UGent and Trustpunt for help yourself. To create a safe study climate, we need everyone. It is never too late to do something. Don't know what you can do? Contact Trustpunt.

Have you been addressed as a 'bully' or are you in doubt about your own behaviour?

Sometimes you don't realise that your behaviour doesn't feel okay to another person. Have you been spoken to about your behaviour? Are you in doubt about what to do? You can always discuss this with Trustpunt. A confidential counsellor does not judge and is there to support you.

Where can you go?

Have you experienced behaviour that crossed your boundaries? Do you feel you are being bullied? Have you witnessed bullying? Or were you confronted about your behaviour? You can always turn to Trustpunt. Even if you don't know whether you can call it bullying.

Conversations are confidential. You decide whether and which steps to take. Confidential counsellors are neutral and do not judge. Do you just need a listening ear? Would you like tips on how to react or how to handle the situation respectfully yourself? Do you need concrete help? Don't know? Don't hesitate to talk to us.

What can Trustpunt do at your request?

  • offer a listening ear and support, whatever you want to do next,
  • give information about possible procedures,
  • give advice,
  • offer support to deal with the problem yourself,
  • engage in conversation with the other person,
  • mediation with the other person,
  • refer you to another service.

Not sure what you want to do yet? Discuss it with the confidential counsellor. You don't have to decide right away either. Conversations always remain confidential, you decide with whom you share information.

Make an appointment with Trustpunt or ask a question without any obligation?

There are two ways to contact Trustpunt:

By email at trustpunt@ugent.be
By phone from 9 am to 12 noon on 09 264 82 82.
You will receive an appointment for a conversation as soon as possible, this can be live or via video call.
Where to find Trustpunt: go to Campus Ufo, rectorate, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 25, floor -1, room 27 (check the route here)


Cyberbullying can take many forms. It can involve messages on social media, bullying websites, hacked or fake profiles, threats via text message, forwarding offensive photos, ...

It is often more difficult to respond appropriately to this because you don't see or sometimes don't know the person(s) involved. Also the bully cannot see how the other person reacts and what impact it has.

What can you do yourself?

  • You can give a short and strong message that you want it to stop and then ignore other messages.
  • In the case of personal messages, you can block the sender.
  • If you want to take further action, it is best to take screen shots of the messages or photos.
  • Report inappropriate comments or posts on social media to the administrators. On Facebook and Instagram, you can report photos and posts and have them removed.
  • Talk about it with someone you trust or a Trustpunt confidential counsellor.
  • Does it go too far? Then you can report it to the local police. This form of bullying is also punishable.
  • Always consider whether your messages are respectful.

Help outside Ghent University

  • Call, mail or chat with helpline 1712 for questions about violence, abuse and child abuse.
  • Up to the age of 25, you can contact the JAC (Youth Advice Centre) in your neighbourhood for all your questions and problems.
  • You can also call day and night to tele-onthaal on the number 106 or chat via the website.
  • You can report to the local police in your neighbourhood.