A big problem going around is abuse and boundary violations. This is not just a problem that only a few individuals face, but it is also seen in a majority of colleges and in the under 18 community.
But what are boundaries and how do you know they aren’t being broken for you right now? Most of the time your intuition does a pretty good job of keeping you safe, but for others they might think that it is the norm and that the sick feeling in their gut is just butterflies or too much pizza.
Physical Boundaries are what we define as “personal space” or the distance we feel comfortable letting others occupy while talking with them. The more we trust others, the closer we allow them to physically approach us.
Sure, best friends tend to sit closer together and have smaller bubbles, but if some random classmate or teacher got really close to you and invaded your bubble, then it is always good to make sure to say something to them or just back up a little. If they do not get the hint, or listen, then maybe avoid being in one on one situations with that person and be wary if they start making unwanted advances towards you or others.
Emotional Boundaries determine how much and what personal information you share within a relationship. Normally, the more intimate the relationship the more information we share. We use these in order to avoid being manipulated or used by others. They also help us to separate who we are and how we think & feel from the thoughts of others.
Have you ever been asked a question and you were about to answer but someone cut you off and answered for you? If something like that happens once or twice, that’s relatively normal, not okay, but normal. What is 100% not acceptable is when someone never lets you speak for yourself and in the process puts you down. That is when your emotional boundaries become violated.
Social Boundaries are defined by roles, norms, and customs that establish the appropriate types of behavior for certain situations. Laws govern social boundaries which prevent inappropriate behavior for different types of interactions. An example of this is the law that kids are not allowed to date adults.
This one confused me for a bit, but after consulting my all knowing supervisor (shout out to Leslie), it all became clear. Have you ever been hanging out with a group of friends and there’s that one person who just has zero filter and will say very inappropriate things at random times? That’s a social boundary, and just like the others it can range from annoying to sexual harassment. If you ever come across someone like that, the best thing to do is just be honest and tell them that their comments are upsetting you and most of the time they will try to stop. But, if they don’t stop, then that is a great time to distance yourself from that person because you should never put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable.
Why are boundaries so important, you may ask? Boundaries help us establish acceptable and unacceptable ways people interact with us. Without boundaries, our lives and relationships would be chaotic and unsafe. Establishing boundaries allows people to feel safe and secure in their everyday lives and feel in control of their personal safety.
What are Boundary Violations? Sometimes in our lives, we come across people who make us feel uncomfortable and violate our boundaries. Boundary violations can range on a spectrum from slight (annoying) to serious (harmful). Sometimes these violations can be accidental, like someone talking so close to you that they are in your bubble, and most of the time if you kindly point it out to them, they will stop. But other times they can be harmful and range from dirty looks, gestures & comments, to assault & sexual abuse.
If you have had your boundaries violated & don’t know what to do, here are some resources that could help you out:
- Visit your campus counselor and/or health clinic
- Talk to your RA or Residence Life Coordinators (keep in mind, both of those resources are mandated reporters which means they have to report any abuse to the authorities)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/
- The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
Although some of these resources are mandated reporters, anything you tell them will be confidential.
For more information on Boundaries and how to establish them, you can visit: http://www.essentiallifeskills.net/personalboundaries.html