A multitude of articles have been written about bullying. Countless studies have been conducted. Less explored and rarely acknowledged are the long term effects school bullying can have on adults. The repercussions can last a life time. They are helping people who are currently being bullied but little thought is given to those who have suffered in the past and are forced to live with the consequences.
We tend to be wary of labelling people ‘victims’ because it could affect the way in which they see themselves. It is said that people can be incapacitated by that label. Indeed the very word ‘victim’ can be used as an insult and frequently is. Acknowledging one’s pain is necessary to enable people to move on but many people get stuck in that stage and never progress beyond it.
I am in that stage and I wish I knew how to move on. I have built walls around myself. I can’t get out and no one else can get in. And I’m sure there are many others like me.
What consequences does bullying (particularly school bullying) have for society as a whole? How much potential has been lost? How much talent wasted? How many people fail to fulfil their academic potential? How many people wind up on psychiatric wards or resort to self harm? How many people are unable to hold down a job? All because of bullying.
Unacknowledged pain is the worst kind of pain and many people are reluctant to admit they were bullied. They are ashamed. ‘There must be something wrong with me,’ they tell themselves. ‘or they wouldn’t have done it.’ The ‘bullies’ must have had their reasons is the rationale.
I told people what was happening to me at school but they either wouldn’t believe me or seemed to think it was my fault. I was chastised for having the audacity to complain. They told me it was all a part of growing up. They made me doubt myself and my own perception of the world. And decades on I am still paying the price.