Stories about bullying are often informed by a writer’s experiences whether they are aware of it, or care to admit it, or not.
All our stories, including our stories about bullying are also frequently influenced by the experiences of others. Sometimes we witness events that we never stop thinking about – until we write about them and sometimes it can be the experiences of others which affect us profoundly. Bullying is something we have all seen even if we have been lucky enough to avoid the experience.
For a writer, an unforgettable experience can provide the roots for a story, though that story may not seem directly linked to the original event. On a personal note, I was once told a story that stayed with me for a long time and which I am sure informed my ‘The Tree Hugger’ story which is about a girl who hates the bullying she sees happening in her school but doesn’t know what to do about it.
The story that influenced me was told to me by a student when I was teaching in a college some years ago. This student had a severe disability that affected his mobility and he had to use a wheelchair. He wrote and spoke openly about the bullying he endured at school and I was shocked to hear just how intense and sadistic his bullies had been.
His parents had done their best to protect him by moving him from one school to another but the bullying continued throughout his school life and culminated with him being dragged from his wheelchair, stabbed with various implements and having his chair thrown into a river. Unfortunately, I have since learned through reading a book called ‘Scapegoat’ by Katharine Quarmby, that this was no isolated incident. People with all types of disabilities are enduring horrendous bullying, sadistic assaults and torture every day.
This was just one of the stories about bullying told to me during my years as a teacher of creative writing but it was one of the most upsetting. What was even more shocking and upsetting to me was the response of the teachers in whom he confided.
One teacher questioned whether he could cope with the ups and downs of school life and another one suggested that he was too much of a ‘goody-goody’ and should try to be bad for a change. Just what form of ‘badness’ the teacher wanted this boy to get up to wasn’t clear but from discussing this incident with other students it appears that this is typical of the glib response received by those who are bullied when they ‘tell.’
All children should reach safety when they ‘tell’ and it is clear how important it is to deal with bullying early before it grows into more sadistic and damaging behaviour.
This was certainly true when I was a child. Growing up in the inner city of Liverpool as a quiet, shy and ‘swotty’ kid I certainly experienced bullying. Sadly, I remember some of the teachers as being the worst bullies of all. The violence, both physical and emotional, that they inflicted on the children in their care was repeated in the playground, with children learning by example that hurting those who are different, or with whom you disagree is okay.
From time to time I meet people who went to school during these times and sometimes they say things like ‘well it never did me any harm.’ It makes me sad when I hear this, especially from people with untreated mental or addiction problems who have never had the support to make the connection between the violence of their childhood and the problems in their life. All I can say is that it never did me any good.
Looking back I can remember quickly learning not to complain. I knew I would be blamed. – it was a tough, working class area and you had to be taught to ‘hit them back’ in order to survive. I understand the thinking now but that doesn’t mean I agree with it.
I had hoped that things had changed since then but sadly it hasn’t. There are new and worse stories about bullying in the media every day and today’s bullies enjoy a new range of tools, using the Internet and social networks as a way of making bullying go ‘viral.’
AFFILIATE LINKS AND RESOURCES
I wish to be open and honest in my work so I am letting you know that I am an affiliate for ‘Scapegoat’ by Katharine Quarmby.
I am a reader as well as a writer. I am only an affiliate for books I have read, enjoyed immensely, learned something valuable, or both. Any books I link to are ones I have no hesitation in recommending. I
In my opinion the Scrapegoat by Katharine Quarmby should required reading for professionals, in schools and anyone else who cares about bullying.