Bullying is usually thought of as something that happens in the playground, but this is not the only place it occurs. It can happen in the workplace, in a relationship, in a social situation or online.

You’ll find information about workplace bullying on our Bullying in the Workplace page. For school bullying see our Problems at School page; and for information about bullying and abuse in a domestic situation see our Violence & Abuse pages.

What support is available to a victim of bullying? 

It can be helpful if you can talk about what is happening with a friend or family member. If you are finding it hard to cope emotionally, as a result of the bullying, the following services are available:

  • Youthline (0800 37 66 33 or free text 234): offers online and telephone counselling for young people. This service is available 24 hours, 7 days
  • Kidsline  (0800 54 37 54): offers online and telephone support for children aged up to 14 years, and is operated by senior students. This service runs weekdays from 4pm to 6pm 
  • What’s Up (0800 942 8787): telephone counselling for 5 to 18 year olds. This service runs daily from 1pm to 11pm
  • Lifeline (522 2999 from within Auckland or 0800 543 354 from outside Auckland) provides free telephone counselling to people of any age. This is available 24 hours, 7 days per week.

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How can I protect myself from an aggressive customer?

Working in the retail or service industry means you will occasionally come across angry and aggressive customers. They may not be angry with you personally, but may nevertheless take out their feelings on you. The best way to respond is to remain calm, polite, attentive, and acknowledge the other person's feelings.

Try allowing the customer to vent their feelings without interruptions or argument. Sometimes they will be more open to a compromise once they’ve said their piece.

If this fails to calm the person down, the Police recommend you follow these rules:

  • ask the person not be aggressive or abusive
  • if your request is ignored, politely but firmly ask the person to leave the store
  • if the person refuses to leave the store, call 111 and ask for Police
  • if you’re alone in the store, stay in public view
  • if you can’t call the Police from a position of public view, move to the shop entrance and ask someone else to call the Police
  • don’t argue with the customer and never turn your back on them
  • if possible, make sure you have someone else with you, or that someone else can see what’s happening
  • don’t try to touch the person or escort them out of the store
  • if the customer assaults you, ask staff members and other customers to take note of the person’s appearance and their actions

More information on protecting your business and your employees against crime is available from their booklet, Crime Prevention Advice.

If someone repeatedly behaves aggressively towards you, consider taking out a trespass order against them. Information about how trespass orders work and how to apply for one is on our Trespass page.

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How do I deal with the abusive text messages I've been receiving? 

Text message bullying is a form of cyber bullying.
Other forms of cyber bullying include:
  • posting nasty or threatening comments on your social network (e.g. Facebook) page or via Instant Messaging,
  • sending intimate images of you to other people, spreading rumours about you, and
  • hacking into your online accounts 

Netsafe has some advice to help young people deal with these situations. There is also advice aimed at parents and teachers.

If you're receiving abusive or threatening text messages, it's important to:

  1. avoid replying to the messages, and
  2. keep the messages as evidence, or keep a log of the times, dates, content of the messages, as well as the phone numbers of the senders.

If text bullying is happening at school, you should report it to your school principal. Also report it to your mobile phone provider, and to the police if you feel physically threatened. It will help your case if you can provide the evidence described above.

If you're a Vodafone customer you can use their free blacklisting service to block messages from any number. Your phone may also have a built-in facility enabling you to block certain phone numbers.

If you're a customer of another service provider, contact the provider and ask them how they can help you out with this problem. they will be able to tell you whether your mobile phone allows you to block texts and calls from certain numbers.

You can also call Netsafe on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) for advice and assistance in dealing with harmful digital communications (see below).

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What legal protections are in place against cyber bullying?

The Harmful Digital Communications Act came into force on 3 July 2015. The aim is to deter people from indulging in cyber bullying, harassment, “revenge porn” and other digital communications which cause harm to individuals.

This law makes it a criminal offence to cause harm by digital communication or to use digital communication to incite someone to commit suicide (regardless of whether the victim actually attempts suicide as a result of the messages). These offences can attract a prison sentence of up to three years.

Examples of harmful digital communications include:

  • sending or posting threatening messages, by text or through public forums (also known as “trolling”)
  • sharing intimate images or other personal information without the subject’s consent (it is now also an offence if someone does this through non-digital means.)
  • publishing defamatory statements online

It also includes re-publishing private information that has already been made publicly available - whether accidentally or maliciously.

If you or your child are receiving messages like these you can make a complaint to NetSafe, the approved agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act to help internet users experience online harassment.

NetSafe can provide you with advice (including potentially advising you to bring a case to the District Court), investigate your complaint and liaise with third party hosts (e.g. website hosts) to have the harmful communications removed. 

If you feel your safety (or that of your child) is threatened you can make a complaint to the Police, who can also bring a case to the District Court.

The District Court has a civil process to deal with cases of harmful digital communications. Orders the court can make include:

  • orders requiring the website host to take down the offending communications
  • cease-and-desist orders
  • orders to publish a correction, apology or give you the opportunity to reply to the messages
  • ordering the release of the identity of the person responsible for anonymous communications
  • ordering name suppression 

Failure to comply with a court order is punishable with a fine or prison sentence.