Were You Bullied as a Child?

We want to know.

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15 November 2011, 8:00am

This week is Anti-Bullying Week. It would be nice to think of EVERY week as anti-bullying week because, after all: no-one likes a bully. Not even bullies like bullies. Not even a bully's Mum likes a bully. Especially if she is also a bully. And it's unlikely that she'd decide to bully for just one week a year.

As you can see, bullying is a dense and complex issue to tackle, and this week more than any other it is important to do so. So, rather than fail, we decided to go out and talk to some of the world's people about their experiences with bullying. Here are the ones who didn't break down in tears:

Paul.

VICE: Hi Paul. Have you ever been bullied or bullied anyone?

Paul: Errr... no.

You don't sound too sure about that, Paul.

Honestly, I haven't.

Have you ever witnessed bullying?

I've witnessed it at work and school. Only verbal bullying really. Not physical.


Why didn't you stop it?
I guess you don't want to be a snitch. It's peer pressure isn't it, really? But going back to when I was at school in the mid-80s, it was teachers that were bullying. I actually got hit on the head and the same teacher once locked a teacher in a cupboard for an hour.

Was this person disciplined?

No, no. And I'm sure it still goes on, among pupils, though. Kids are different these days... I mean, part of the riots must have been down to bullying. It's easier on the internet as well now – it's behind the scenes. Ricky Gervais is pretty up-front with it though, isn't he, with his "mongs" and that Karl Pilkington guy. I don't think he knows when to stop. It's just ego.

Emma.

VICE: Hi Emma, have you ever been bullied or bullied anyone?

Emma: Yeah, at school I did.

What went on?

A lot of girls would gang up on this other girl. They called her, ummm.... the "slug".

OK.

They said that her face looked like a slug's face would if you picked it up. It wasn't really direct, it was more behind her back.

Was she aware of it?

I think she was. I don't want to be harsh but she was quite unfortunate-looking and aware that people called her names.

Do you think it affected her?

I think she was actually quite a confident person, probably more so than her tormentors. She always seemed to take it in quite good spirit.

Have you seen any bullying in the workplace? 

Yeah. It was at my old work, at a bar. The manager was quite a weird guy. He would punch us all the time. He thought me and my friend Gemma were into all the banter and hit us really hard. He only stopped hitting us after my friend had purple bruises all up her thigh – she took a photo of it. Her boyfriend went mental.

Right. Did you consider him a friend, though?

Hmmm, I don't know. Once I broke down and he drove out at 3AM to help me. My friend just thought he was a bit of a dick.

Mario (left) and Jason.

VICE: Hi guys. Have you had any experience with bullying?

Jason: I've witnessed it.
Mario: Maybe I bullied someone when I was, like, ten.

Why did you bully them, Mario?

Mario: Well, to make my position strong within the class, you know? To prove I had power and I'm cool to my friends. I stopped when I moved schools, I grew up.


Jason, you said you've witnessed bullying, did you intervene?
Jason: No, I didn't. It's a thin line, it was more verbal than physical. We weren't allowed to play football at my school, so we would just stand in a circle trading insults for fun. But then there were a few people who took the brunt of it.

Why them?

Jason: Well everyone took it, and everyone gave it. Maybe they couldn't give back as good as they got.

What is the worst instance of bullying you have encountered?

Mario: Well I remember one guy in my class, when we were 11 or 12, somebody put an ice cream in his ass.

Jason: What!? He must have had trousers on right?

Mario: No, they pulled them down.

That's pretty messed up.

Jason: That's terrible. The worst I heard was something like: "You played hide-and-seek with your dad and he never came back."

Lacy.

VICE: Hi, Lacy. Have you ever been bullied or bullied anyone?

Lacy: Yeah, I've been bullied at secondary and primary school.

How bad did it get?

It came to violence. But I had quite a lot of people in my school who would stick up for me. Whenever it got to fighting, they would say "She's not fighting, you gotta fight me first" and they would back off.

Once a group of girls said to me "You can come out with us, but you're not allowed to talk because you're too loud and embarrassing." I said "If you're going to be like that, then I don't want to." So, they sent 20 girls round my house...

That sounds like a pretty unreasonable course of action. Did you call the police?

Yeah, 'cause there was 20 girls downstairs waiting for me.

Of course, sorry. How did you make it stop?

I left the school and once I started standing up for myself it stopped. That would be my advice: stand up for yourself and tell someone. People will say it makes things worse, and it will to start with, but then you won't be bullied any more. Simple.

What would you say to someone who thinks they might be bullying someone else?

What goes around comes around. My mother got bullied by this girl at school. She pushed my mum off a moving bus and was really aggressive to everyone. That girl, later in life, got in a fight and now she's paralysed from the neck down.

Anonymous policeman and former teacher.

VICE: Hello [name redacted]. Have you experienced bullying?

[name redacted]: I was bullied at school, yeah. It made me ill, I didn't want to go to school. I was never 'beaten up' but I was hit and slapped and kicked. At school, I remember, I must have been about seven or eight, a line of students just taking it in turns to hit me.

Has that affected you as an adult?

It's made me more compassionate to people in the same situation. My profession is looking after people who are vulnerable. 

Do you think people who are bullied at school are more or less likely to suffer or carry out bullying later in life?

Speaking from experience, I learnt not to be a victim. So for me, it stopped. I've worked a lot in schools and I would say that a lot of teachers are bullied by the students because students can get away with it.

Do you see teachers being bullied by students as a recent thing?

I think the propensity to bully has always been there. I think what is more recent is a society where gratification is the most important thing and if I feel like doing something I'm encouraged to do it. The kids don't have the emotional maturity to empathise. Later on, people are quite embarrassed by and sad about the way they behaved when they were young.

Other than young people, where do you feel the problems are most acute?

I think some instances of domestic abuse I have seen. It's so clearly an exercise in power. It's also clear that the people who perpetrate deep down feel quite worthless and feel they need to affirm themselves. I also live in an area where there is a lot of gang-related activity and I know many of the gangsters do it because they're terrified that, if they don't, they're going to stick out, and possibly killed because of that.

Is it a way out of not wanting to be a victim, taking on the role of the perpetrator?

I would hesitate to say it was an easy way out, because I think these people have a difficult life and they don't see their choices that clearly. Occasionally they find a motivation to get them out of that cycle; it can be martial arts, church, a job, a relationship... I've learned to walk confidently when I'm terrified, and you become unafraid because of it. When you're unafraid, people leave you alone.

For more information about Anti-Bullying Week, please go here.