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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Beat Bullying

When I was at school I experienced some bullying. The first significant time was in Junior 3 (Year 5 in new money, age 9-10) when a girl in the year above pushed me and a friend around fairly regularly, and called us names. It never crossed our minds to tell anyone or do anything about it, but one day our class teacher announced to the class that this girl had been found to be bullying various people, and had she done this to any of us. My friend and I put our hands up and were made to stand up in class and say what she had done, how often, for how long. This was pretty embarrassing and fairly humiliating (which is, of course, a feature of bullying itself), but thankfully we never had any more trouble from her again.

At secondary school I was regularly bullied, particularly by two girls. I never really acknowledged that it was bullying, and tried to ignore it, to not dignify it with a response. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn't seem to stop it happening.

The bullying left me feeling vulnerable, humiliated, scared (of getting on the bus, of going to certain parts of the school, of encountering them at all, of others joining in) and also full of a self-hatred which left me even less able to protect or stand up for myself.

It wasn't horrifically violent, or severe in the ways you hear of some children experiencing it, but it was really, really horrible and unpleasant and didn't help my teenage development - already a complicated process - one bit.

Children can be really, really cruel and there are many other incidents coming into my mind as I write that I realise now could also be classed as bullying. Like my whole class completely ignoring myself and a friend, being very obstructive and mean to us, constantly criticising us. I'm not sure if this was bullying, or more just a very cruel response to an argument we had had. I don't want to downplay bullying by describing any and every cruel behaviour as that, but equally it is something which manifests in many behaviours and it is important to acknowledge that.

Children have to go to school every day of the week, most weeks of the year, and for way way way too many children, school is a place characterised by ridicule, violence, shame, self-hatred, isolation and misery, all due to bullying. To be put in that situation every day, is unbearable and leads to depression, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviours, truancy and suicide.

It is entirely and totally unacceptable that so many children are terrorised in this way, and I was so so glad to hear about The Million a Week Campaign, run by and for young people, and who state,
A million young people a week are affected by bullying. The message from the young people of beatbullying is:
enough is enough!
They have a petition for people to read and sign here. I reckon you should go do it.


Anonymous said...

I'm of mixed feelings about this bullying issue since it's popularization of recently. I was bullied in elementary school, and the story behind it is quite long, I dont want to bore you with details. But I did end up taking matters into my own hands.

One of the bullies was permanently injured (eye injury) and two others received a beating they will never forget. That experience without question shaped the person I am today and I suspect theirs too.

Without that experience I don't know who I would be today.

(and no, I don't regret what I did one bit.)