wikiHow to Deal With Abusive Street Teens

Three Parts:Walking Away ConfidentlyPreventing Negative InteractionsFinding Help

Do you feel unsafe when walking on the street due to a group of teenagers who like to insult, bully, or provoke you? When interacting with bullies, particularly ones who may be in a gang or "wannabe" gang, it is important to learn the steps to handle the situation in-the-moment, as well as to avoid those interactions altogether. And if these incidents continue, you can also find ways to get help.

Part 1
Walking Away Confidently

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    Seek alternate routes for safety. The first step to dealing with bullying teens is to avoid interacting with them in the first place. Identify if there are alternative routes, or other ways to walk, to avoid a group of teens who may bully or act abusively. This may involve trying to:
    • Cross the street
    • Go into a store, or nearby shop
    • Head to an area where there are more people nearby
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    Find the confidence to walk past the group. If you are stuck walking down the same path as the group, don't act like a victim. Groups of teens who heckle like bullies want to assert dominance, and get attention. [1] By being unfazed by them, you'll be able to show your confidence in yourself, and not look like an easy target. Here are some ways to show confidence, without being confrontational:
    • Always remain calm to avoid confrontation. Pretend to be in your own world but pay close attention.
    • Don't scurry past with your head down. Walk swiftly without slowing down, and keep your head up.
    • If you are threatened, a strong, but brief, look of conviction can get you out of an awkward spot. Try to look strong and undeterred.
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    Use purposeful and non-confrontational eye contact. Though you may have been taught to keep your head down and avoid eye contact, actually eye contact can be used purposefully as an acknowledgment of respect. Showing respect, but without words, can be helpful to avoid further negative interactions. [2]
    • You should look briefly with purpose, but not with disdain. A nod of respect to the group or individual may allow the group to feel validated that they don't need to assert themselves any further.
    • Make sure that you don't look down on them (or at least don't let them know that you look down on them), as this will make them feel the need to assert themselves, and they may react with harsher words or threats.
    • If you don't feel up to engaging in eye contact, a confident sniff or rummaging through your pockets can be an effective way of showing you are not afraid and not a victim.
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    Consider using humor to diffuse the situation. Rather than getting tangled up in a war of words, if the group says something funny, it's okay to laugh as you walk by. Sometimes using a few words that make light of the situation, without insulting or putting down the group, can helpful. [3]
    • Humor can redirect attention to something other than yourself, or help to gain respect from others. However, this tactic should be used sparingly, and only if the situation is right.
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    Avoid physical contact by staying cool and calm. While it's unlikely that a stranger will physically harass you (e.g. shoving or butt touching), remember to stay cool under pressure. Don't react violently, and stoop to their level. Try to deescalate the situation if you can, and ignore the need to respond. Stay confident that no reaction is better than having one.

Part 2
Preventing Negative Interactions

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    Travel in groups of two or more. If you're traveling alone, you're often an easier target than with a group of friends or relatives. Groups of teens often are more inclined to act out when in a group. Their group is their security, and they may want to show-off in front of their peers. Find ways to travel more often with someone you trust, particularly at night or in areas where you know there's been trouble.[4]
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    Dress and act with confidence. While this may not come easily, it's important to see that increasing your self-esteem will allow you to act and behavior more assertively. Try to dress and do things that don't draw attention to yourself in a way that may lead to ridicule. Bullies often find ways to make others feel more vulnerable, so blending in may be helpful.
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    Learn self-defense such as martial arts, or take a self-defense class. By participating in a class, the act of taking action will lead to greater self-esteem, and in turn a greater sense of strength. Most martial artists will tell you that the first day you start a martial arts class is ironically the last time you ever fight. With the use of discipline as taught in martial arts, the ability to walk on past a group of bullying teens will seem much less intimidating.[5]
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    Try having a positive interaction with them. If there's a group of teens who aren't actively provoking you, but just acting a little suspicious, try breaking the ice. Consider having a brief but positive conversation with them, rather than assuming it will be negative.[6]
    • Sometimes loitering teens just want to have a purpose, particularly if they're hanging out in the same spot regularly. Consider engaging them in a useful way, like being a look-out for other suspicious activity.
    • Or just simply introduce yourself and make small talk. See if being "neighborly" reduces the negativity.

Part 3
Finding Help

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    Find out if other community members can help in a constructive way. There may be parents, relatives, teachers, local store owners, neighbors, or others that are familiar with the teens who are bullying, or harassing people on the streets. Ask if they can help by talking to the group in an assertive, non-violent way. [7]
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    Talk with people you trust to find solutions. Your family, friends, teachers, or mentors may offer advice that has worked for them, or helped them to be more confident. Engage with others, rather than feeling singled out as a victim. You're not alone.
    • If you are fearful of running into bullying teens every day, or on a routine basis, it's important to work together as a community, and see what can be done. Seeking help will often reduce your anxiety immensely.
    • Many neighborhoods have community or church groups that can facilitate change, like the Neighborhood Watch Program. [8] Ask a parent, counselor, friend, or mentor about how you and others can get involved.
    • Bear in mind that many people have had negative encounters with bullying or abusive teens. Some teens are not emotionally mature, and hide behind insults and ridicule as a way to cope with their own negative experiences. [9]
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    Keep a log or diary of the events, and if incidents continue over time, inform the police. No one should feel unsafe walking in their own neighborhood. Bullies and thugs of any age should not be allowed to take over the streets.
    • If the harassment is more than just insults, and leads to physical violence, consider making a report to the local police.
    • If you are a student, you can also talk with your school counselor about any incidents in your neighborhood, even if those incidents weren't on school property.


  • If all is lost and you can't use any other way out, another method could be to do something seemingly insane. Start talking gibberish accompanied with wild gesticulations. This last ditch technique can turn the tables and make them afraid of you.
  • Don't allow yourself to be surrounded, and never have your back to a wall. Stay on the outside of the group with your back to an exit or destination. If you find yourself being circled, back away quickly, and if necessary, run towards an area with a lot of people.


  • Do not be overconfident when interacting with bullying teens, as they may see this as disrespect.
  • Under no circumstances should you try to "stare down" or "mad dog" the offensive group as it will be seen as a challenge to them, and they may likely attack.

Article Info

Categories: Dealing with Bullying | Self Defense