Anti-bullying week is over.
Thanks goodness for that.
Another fifty-one weeks where no-one gets bullied, until next year, when the majority of the world remembers that bullying happens once again.
For a select few, however, bullying is not just a theme of a week of fundraising, charity work and poster design. For some people, bullying is the only predictable thing in their life, day in, day out; year in, year out.
I was bullied. It probably doesn’t take much to tell that – either you went to school with me, or you know how weird I am. It took three days from the start of secondary school for my form to identify me as their target. Suddenly, I was partnerless, genderless and helpless.
Obviously I haven’t published a list of people who bullied me at school. That would take far too long. Ha.
What I don’t understand, and that I have never understood is why? Why would a group of people watch somebody cry and still refuse to touch anything that she touched; grab hold of her crotch to feel for a penis; pass a text from one person at school to the next, until everybody was whispering in every corridor that she were pregnant? It’s easier for most people to be nice to somebody than to break them: why would you go out of your way to do that? Does that make you a horrible person?
I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t cool. Never have been; don’t want to be anymore. I didn’t have any friends when I started secondary school because they’d all gone elsewhere, but I really wanted to make friends. I tried to be nice to people; helped them with their work; brought them presents back when I went on holiday. I tried not to get them into trouble by not involving anybody else, but when it became almost unbearable, I did. They found out and told me that I was a horrible liar and that I should tell our form teacher I’d made it up so they didn’t get into trouble. They ruined my coat when I was eleven; wrote my name on the toilet walls when I was fifteen, something that I still have nightmares about.
Actually, all I wanted was to sit in the library; read my book and do my work. I would much rather have been ignored than bullied.
In the end, it was an open secret: I am sure that all my teachers knew what was happening, but nobody ever tried to do anything. I won a fairly prestigious prize every year that I was at school, and I’m still pretty sure that I hadn’t done anything except put up with being bullied without complaining.
For five continuous years, I was bullied for being who I am. The scars still throb: I struggle, and fail, to believe that anybody likes me; I walk into a room and still try to find the least conspicuous place to sit and I can’t bear meeting people when I’m out in the real world in case they shout things at me.
Usually, anti-bullying posts end with a message to people who are being bullied, but I don’t think people who are being bullied should have to do anything. It’s not their job to change. If you’re being bullied, you’re perfect as you are. You don’t deserve to be hated, or isolated, or made fun of. Tell someone and tell them loudly. And don’t stop telling until it stops. It’s not you who needs to change.
The people I really want to give a message to is everybody out there who has bullied someone else; purposefully gone out of their way to make them feel uncomfortable, or ashamed, or that they shouldn’t exist. To those people, I want to say: you should be ashamed of yourself. Your behaviour was vile. One day, I hope you’ll realise that what you did was utterly and completely disgusting, and that you’ll be livid with yourself. I hope you understand the days and days of pain you caused, and that you were part of destroying somebody from the inside out. What seemed like fun to you at one point has probably changed somebody else’s life. It’s never too late to say sorry, but it does become too late for other people to begin repairing themselves. What I hope you never experience is bullying: I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Ever.
If you bullied me, despite everything that I have written above, I forgive you. That doesn’t give you permission to forgive yourselves.