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january_bug | 10:45 Mon 14th Nov 2005 | News
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This has been in the news a lot recently, but with mentions only for pyhsical bullying.

Whilst I have every sympathy for those children beaten at school (recent injuries shown in the press have been horrendous) I cannot help but feel some concern that the agruably equally traumatic experience of verbal/mental bullying is being overlooked.

My questions, intended to open up a healthy and friendly debate are:

  1. Were you bullied at school?

  2. Was it physical or mental?

  3. Which (or perhaps it was both) was more prevalent at your school?

  4. Those of you who know kids currently at school - I'd be interested to hear Qs 1 to 3 as applied to them.

  5. Do you agree that mental/verbal bullying is just as damaging as physical attacks, or do you feel kids should stick to the old mantra of "sticks and stones"?

I have my own views, but, as usual, I expect some/many will disagree and I welcome all views and hopefully a debate... if anyone's interested! :-)


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Hi JB,

The answer given to this is based on my reasoning only.

1) I don't think I was bullied as I didn't let myself be bullied, involved in fights etc but I think you can only be bullied if you allow it to happen.

2) Attempted both, the mental aspect might be more commonplace in schools when I went but I stand by advice passed on to me to stand up for yourself and you will no longer be bullied in either respect. There was a much bigger lad than me in school who attempted to bully me ( physically ) but if you smack them hard ( and break their nose ) it all stops. Doesn't matter what your size, if they are a bully they won't expect the confrontation.

3) I would say mental bullying was more common, but that was due to a strict school and strict polices.

4) N/A

5) I believe it could be quite damaging ( mental ) but still stick by the mantra of " sticks and stones" , there was a lad in our class who was frequently bullied, he took a cricket bat to his bullies face. Never bullied again and now he is a criminal psychologist.

I am sure that my views will differ from others, but believe that it only carries on if they allow it to happen.

Question Author

Fair enough ICEMAN. As I said - I want a friendly debate, so I'm not going to criticise. But just so you know, I was bullied for 7 years at school and I stood up for myself every time. It never stopped. I was bullied for

  1. The fact that my Dad was a primary head and so one kid's opening line was "Your Dad's a ...." (let's not repeat it) as my Dad had been his headteacher. That went on for years.

  2. Being flat chested (that also went on until I left the school)

  3. Not having a boyfriend

  4. Being a virgin (this was during A Level classes, and when I snapped and told the guys to F.Off, the teacher threatened to send me out, even though she'd heard every word they'd been saying to me. Naturally, I walked out of the class).

I stood up for myself every time, ignoring the (IMHO) RUBBISH advice of "oh just ignore them, they'll go away" (my EYE). They never once relented.

Was it all my fault? Should I have disowned my father, had a boob job, lied about having a boyfriend, and slept with anyone that came along, just to shut them up!?

Mine was a school with almost zero phyiscal bullying, but where every class had at least two kids who mentally tortured one or more others in the class. But because we were a school of smart kids, we were deemed "able to cope with it".

I appreciate what you're saying ICEMAN, and I sort of take your point. But, I feel that what you are saying is dangerously close to saying that it's all the victim's fault. Surely this isn't true!?!

As my parents moved about in different countries and places (after every 3 year posting) I went to a number of primary and secondary schools in different countries. I was bullied in a London school the most. Very little bullying in Germany, Kenya and in Indian schools I was the one everyone wanted to be next to. The reasons for bullying in London in the 70s was

1) i was new and spoke with strange accents and could speak German, French and Indian languages fluently

2) I did not have any friends.

3) From year 7 onwards i was physically bullied, spat at, punched and shoved on the ground and laughed at (that hurt the most) and my parents then had to put me in private school (by then father was promoted and children qualified for a private education). Best thing that ever happened to me.

It was then i made a vow to myself that my children will be privately educated.

No JB, it is not the victims fault at all, and I don't condone the bullies activities. I am sorry for your experiences in the past and hope you didn't feel personally targeted due to my views. I blame the schooling and teachers, if it was to be stamped out then there would be no need to have to stand up to others as the school would provide an active deterrent towards bullying. Maybe it is different in older ages at school bullying, but when younger standing up for oneself is the key to self confidence and coping with the event in older ages.

Just to say that I went to a private school and wasn't really bullied ( a couple of very minor verbal incidents) despite being only one of around 10 kids who was not white in a school size of around 1000.

I suppose being tall, stocky and a number 8 for my school rugby team helped.

I should also point out that because I stood out (cos of colour and size) it meant that I was kind of picked on by teachers - it was easy to spot me if there were a few of us 'causing a fracas'.

-- answer removed --
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Dom Tuk - thanks for your views, and also sorry to hear of the negative side of your childhood experiences.

Iceman - I agree it's partly the fault of the teachers (not the schools necessarily, but individual teachers) but I feel the parents should not be allowed to escape here.

I apologise for the fact that what follows is something of a personal rant, but I'm trying to make a point. As usual, I may be labouring the point, but feel free to skip this post if you like.

There was one guy who my school would not punish, because he was on for straight A*s at GCSE (and got them) and then straight As at A level (and got them in 5 subjects). He went on to get a 1st from Oxford, was offered a place to train with a prominent sports team but instead chose to work for a top London investment bank. I never fancied him (don't even think he's good looking) - but he IS/WAS good looking too. What do you say to a guy like that when the school thinks he's god and he's pretty much untouchable!?!

I got the same grade as him at economics, but he still made me feel thick as pig poo in this subject - yelling at me in class once that a total retard could understand elasticities supply and demand, why couldn't I !?


Question Author
My point (self-pitying rant over! I promise!) is that, in my experience (at a top 5 grammar school [at the time], sorry if that's a problem) smarter kids can REALLY hurt you with words and this sort of pain lives on for years afterwards. The guys who laid into me, day after day after day, did so intelligently and eloquently. They worked out exactly where to hit me, and did so repeatedly. It was highly intelligent bullying, but it didn't make it any less painful. I'm not saying that the kids who are beaten aren't also yelled at, I'm just saying that I think verbal bullying also deserves some limelight.

The girls so awfully attacked this week are likely to feel underconfident about their looks for years. However, they're not the only ones. Some people feel ugly well into adulthood because of the words of bullies and it wrecks relationships and career prospects etc.

I just wish the media could focus on this too and make it clear that NO form of bullying is OK. Perhaps they could also highlight where schools ARE doing the right thing and tackling the problems well. It might act as a beacon of hope (cue the tiny violins, sorry!) for victims of bullying and their parents. Perhaps Children in Need will highlight some of these things.
Question Author

Vic & 10Cs - took so long being self-indulgent in order to make one tiny point, that I didn't see either of your posts until I'd posted my own!!!!

I think you both make good points. Thank you! :-)

I do agree with the policy to some extent, that you can't rely on others to fight your battles for you, and this is a lesson that should be learnt at an early age. ButI also agree with your implications that this is, to some extent, the schools sticking their heads in the sand.

I was bullied dreadfully at secondary school by a group of girls and I was targetted initially because I had long titian hair and a tall gangly frame. However, I'm convinced the bullying persisted because I was a shy girl and somewhat withdrawn.
My two younger sisters and brother never experienced such attacks because they are gregarious and lively characters.
I was slapped about the head and face, but it was the verbal abuse that cut me to pieces. The worst related to my hair colour and menstruation and it still makes me shiver when I think about it, today.
I have two daughters, but fortunately, they have my ex husband's optimistic and cheerful personality. My younger daughter is refusing to play the Angel Gabriel in her school nativity play because she sees it as a boy's role. (See question in myths section) I wouldn't have dreamed of confronting my teachers at 16, let alone 6, but I am grateful she's not shy like me.

There is something primal and instinctive in a bully's selection of victims and whilst I don't believe the victim should be blamed, I agree with Iceman that my own passivity prolongued my suffering.
However, I also believe schools should be required to take a firm stance on this issue and bullies should be expelled after two written warnings and their parents not given rights of appeal to ever higher authorities.

There have been numerous examples of children committing suicide as a result of bullying and sadly, I foresee the day in this country, when a victim of bullying takes a gun to school and ends his/her turmoil in the most final of ways. I know I would have been tempted to do so,if access to firearms had been as easy in Hackney then, as it would appear to be now.
Question Author

Drusilla - thanks so much for your post - and again, I'm sorry to hear of what you experienced. As with everyone here, I hope I haven't brought up bad memories, and if so, I am sorry! :-)

Drusilla again - if you don't want to answer this, that's fine, but I was wondering if you were bullied by girls or boys? Mine were boys, but then I felt equally let down by the girls who sat back and let them do it. I know girls are meant to be as nasty as boys, but for me, as I said, it was the boys who were so hurtful.

Perhaps it's 50-50 when all said and done across the country and across the years.

Hi JB. I actually said in the second line I was bullied by girls. Whenever, I talk about this subject, friends tend to say it's because the bullies were jealous of my height and looks. I was always tall (6' ) and skinny, but by 14 had grown podgy and still have issues with food today. Whereas I used to be a British size 10, I feel fat at 12 and I'm sure the emotional scarring of bullying has lingered to this day in this particular area of my psyche.
Question Author

I'm sorry Drusilla - you DID clearly say "by a group of girls" - I didn't read properly obviously! oops!

I guess you'll agree with me then that the mantra of "sticks and stones" is easier said than done. I don't see that I'll EVER feel confident about my looks, as the words of those people contiually echo in my head, and no amount of compliments or praise ever seems to get rid of them.

I'm sure you ARE gorgeous, but I totally understand that there are times when you don't feel it, and when you wonder if it's those girls, still inside your head (so to speak!). :-(

they must have been hurtful JB, just looked at your mingle ville post and you are really quite stunning.
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Cheers hun! Still feel like I need a LOT of surgery though! It's a pain, cos I don't take compliments well, much as I LIKE them! My ex used to get SO mad at me for it!

But thank you all the same - it's very flattering of you to say that. :-)

no problem :-)

1. Yep, I was bullied. Basically, I became part of this group of girls in my first year of secondary school. This psychotic b***h became 'leader' of the group & we became the school bullies. I left pronto because I am definitely not a bully & the group was becoming very racist. Leaving the group was seen as being unforgiveable so I paid for it big time!

2. The bullying was mainly mental which made it hard when it came to reporting them. They did things like tell a group of men who were sitting in a car outside the school (it was a school for girls & a magnet for weirdos) that I a **** who'd do anything. So, I ended up walking home whilst a gang of 30 year old men tried to pull me in the car.

3. Bullying was very common at my school. The cruelty that takes place in girls' schools is astonishing. A girl in the year above me had a breakdown after a group of girls held her down and stripped her naked and then invited 10 boys to come & look/touch her.

I personally have found that telling the teacher is useless & often makes it worse. I thought it would be better nowadays, but my cousin is being bullied and the school is useless.

I don't agree that you can only be bullied if you allow it to happen. I do think there are people who are bully-magnets. I think anyone who finds themselves being bullied in every school/workplace they attend should look at what vibes they are giving out & maybe get some assertiveness training. I know a girl who has been bullied all her life & she does seem to walk around with 'kick me' written on her head.

But most people are bullied simply because they are different. Girls at my school were bullied because they were intelligent, beautiful, fat, Muslims, Christians, slept around, were virgins, or were simply unique in some way. Basically you either pretended to be someone you weren't or you were bullied.

Question Author

God that sounds AWFUL!!!

Makes what I went through sound like a doddle!

I wonder whether those girls are still evil b1tches or whether they've seen the light and feel bad for what they did. I hope it's the latter, and that they feel VERY VERY guilty!

God, some of these posts are quite awful but fortunately from what I can see, those of you that have been bullied have managed to remain well balanced and happy(ish) individuals.....I hope so anyway! I was'nt bullied at school although everyone is subject to a certain amount of teasing! I also went to an all girls school but as far as I remember none of my friends were ever bullied......having said that it was rather a long time ago and I suspect that nowadays it is more common, or maybe just more widely publicised. My sons never seemed to have a problem with bullying either although I do know that there were occasions when it did happen - luckily though their school took a very dim view of it - did'nt try to hide it and dealt with the bullies firmly!
I�ve found that one of the problems that separate physical & mental bullying is that as we leave school & get older, the physical side generally stops - but the mental side often carries on into the workplace. The bullies realise that there�s no physical evidence in mental bullying � it�s all 'your word against mine'. It made them feel good as kids so they continue it to feel good & powerful as adults
There�s also the behaviour of those who, throughout school who managed to 'fly under the radar' & weren't bullied - because they stood behind the bullies in support - these people join the 'safety in numbers' brigade & join a clique & focus on another individual. They know that if everyone bullies this one person, they are safe, almost a mob mentality or lynch mob.
Trouble is, in the workplace, bullying is much more subtle, a disparaging word to the supervisor here, a sly dig there, a snigger, a sneer, a well-placed sigh, a tut, a head shake, a snort etc, all go to make people feel small & worthless & victimised � it�s also much harder to deal with as there�s no evidence. As adults they�re much better at hiding what they're doing & if you complain, you�re a moaner or just being over sensitive.
I have been surprised a few times at the behaviour of colleagues, that they haven't grown up yet & think its fun to bully the new boy or the quiet one etc.
It�s sickening that this is how some adults are - with children you can say they don't understand or realise the harm they�re doing - but adults have no excuse, they are just scum.
So I think you are right JB, we all know that the physical side will stop with age (mostly) as we�re all aware of the legal aspects of assault, but a child getting into a habit of raising their self esteem & gaining respect & power by bullying, often continues for many years after, sometimes for life � we�ve all heard of 50 year old bullying bosses & managers...

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