Research showing that bullying victims recall their feelings and sense of humiliation years after the event comes as no surprise to me. Bullied at primary school in the mid-sixties, I can still remember the sense of hurt and alienation. Even now I fear seeing the face of a tormentor in the crowd if visiting the place where I grew up. The effects, for me, are heightened when I remember the inaction of those supposed to protect me. Teachers then handled complaints of bullying by doling out the routine advice 'don't let them see it upsets you'. In other words, they expected the victim to modify their behaviour, rather than challenge or confront the tormentor.
A few years ago, I saw how things can change for the better. Now a teacher myself, I found a Yr. 8 boy crying in the cloakroom. A sensitive and intelligent child, he told me he'd been bullied by another boy. I mentioned this to a senior staff member, who asked that, as there were 'pastoral' issues surrounding both boys, would I mind writing a short note for 'the record'? Remembering my own humiliation from decades earlier, I agreed, but asked that she take my comments onboard. Her response was swift and effective: both sets of parents called, bully confronted, and effects of his actions painstakingly explained.
We have learned something in the intervening half-century. It's not the victim that has to hide their feelings or the bully that's allowed to carry on unchecked anymore.
And Richard, if you ever get round to reading this, the kid you used as a punchbag in the cloakroom at Beckett Park Primary School in Leeds back in 1966 hopes you somehow learned to change your behaviour on the way to becoming the director of an electrical contracting business. If you didn't, you must have cost the business thousands in compensation claims by now. You see, your primary education failed to prepare you in much the same way that those charged with providing it failed to protect me. Either way, it did not allow us to grow into fully rounded people, capable of empathising with, and relating to, those around us.
But there's another face I fear glimpsing in the crowd, and that's your's, Chris. Because every victim can turn on another they perceive to be weaker or different to them, and that's what my senior colleague saw from my report: the victim had turned on a quieter boy, a victim of his own, to visit revenge of a kind, for the humiliation he'd suffered at the hands of others. Which is what I'd done to Chris - one who struggled at school, who now would have been identified as having needs to be addressed so he could make the most of the education he needed. Yet back then, he was singled out by the teachers and his fellow pupils, made to sit at the back with much easier work than the rest. They might as well have painted a target on him.
The bullied can bully too. I did, though thankfully not for long, because a deputy head intervened, but the harm I could have done shames me as much as the hurt I suffered.
Bullied children still suffer at 50 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27063715