I remember being the bullied and the bully. And I remember the later with such clarity that I never did it again. It remains an experience that I rather live without, however it is my immediate answer when pupils ask me if there’s anything I regret.
I remember being bullied at different times of my childhood. This is old school bullying though. Not the sophisticated technology driven methods that can penetrate and permeate our children’s world. Thankfully they were never persistent and more one-offs. It’s interesting to notice as I write that I look to explain what kind of child I was. As though it feels important to contextualise or some explanation for the bullies behaviour. The truth is that there’s nothing about you as a person that warrants or justifies suffering any form of abuse. I feel that in the times I was bullied it was because I didn’t fit in neatly to my peers’ social groups. I wasn’t a loner, I just didn’t demarcate who I spent time with as much as other children.
I remember being grabbed and swiftly enough I was pinned to the floor, face pushed against the cold wet stone step
My first memory of being bullied was in primary school. I was punched in the face. By someone who I thought of as a friend. It was unpremeditated and came very much out of the blue. I had been washing my hands in the bathroom when he walked in with maybe on or two other boys, came up to me and must have said something for me to look up. And bam. Punch to the face. I have no recall of how I reacted. Or whether I even told a teacher. I get the sense I didn’t. I do remember that memory of how the mind blacks out before the impact. That split second before the impact.
The other occasion that comes to mind was somehow getting into a fight in secondary school. I think it started from a conversation which then escalated. He was the child seen as the school or at least year bully. I’m not sure however I think that being overweight and probably stronger than most of us somehow nominated him to the role. Again, it was physical rather than mental bullying. It may have occurred more than once however I just remember this one scene. I recall that there was a group of us outside on the school steps and just chatting away. At some point the conversation must have turned as I think I made a comment that meant more to him than it did him. I remember being grabbed and swiftly enough I was pinned to the floor, face pushed against the cold wet stone step.
Perhaps, even with these relatively mild instances, there exists that core element for all those who have experienced bullying: that we feel voiceless
I can recall a bit how I felt after this, and the sensation was ‘injustice’. It felt wrong that someone could do that. That someone could dominate me. I suspect that then caused me to be angry with myself for allowing that to happen. It was the injustice that no matter my counter-argument or point, that physicaly I had no recall and that didn’t seem fair. There was no right or wrong, I wasn’t heard, I was physically suppressed. And that felt just plain wrong.
It’s the dominance that upset me more than the physical nature of the bullying. Even when the mind is free the dominance of oppression, that inability to articulate, to reply, can create the deepest wound. And suddenly we feel voiceless. Perhaps, even with these relatively mild instances, there exists that core for all those who have experienced bullying: that we feel voiceless. Unable to be heard and bereft of recourse. I can appreciate how many suffer quietly, because who can reach down inside you and unplug that sense of hopelessness?
If you are struggling with bullying, you can find advice from The Diana Award AntiBullying Campaign support centre: antibullyingpro.com/support-centre and from Childline online or by calling 0800 1111