Every so often I think about my high school bullies and losing my best friend because of them. What started out as tit for tat harmless pranks, then escalated out of control.
I regretted my part in the pranks and stopped retaliating. Unfortunately, the pranks turned into three years of being called a bitch and worse from all corners of the high school grounds.
The bullying was persistent and unpredictable.
One of my teachers was the father of one of the bullies. He insulted my best friend and myself in class. He refused to congratulate my high marks in the same way as he did the male students.
My best friend dropped out of our high school due to the bullying. I heard she took up smoking and binge drinking. I missed her terribly, but she had shown signs of being depressed and anxious.
I mostly tried to ignore them and not let it bother me. It was particularly difficult to stifle my grief over the death of our dog from a tick bite while being called a bitch at the same time.
Two of the students stopped after awhile and moved on. They played pranks on teachers and students alike. I hoped they would grow up, but one of them continued long after the event.
The next year, I studied chemistry and Mr X. was my teacher again. The relentless sexist jokes began, always about females being inferior. There were only four females in the class in a majority male class. His jokes pissed me off but I tried to ignore them and put on a poker face. I tried to get the other females to complain, but they either thought the jokes were funny or didn’t care.
I tried to tell the assistant principal but he refused to let me change subjects. Then I went to the head of Geography and fortunately, he let me change to his class.
Later my teacher was accused of sexual harassment by an anonymous younger female student. A petition went around asking for signatures supporting his innocence. Of course, I refused to sign it.
On the final day of school, I asked my teacher to sign my yearbook. For the first time, he looked worried and uncomfortable. He’d been forced to take leave. Afterwards, I’d heard that the case didn’t end in his favour.
Since then I have confronted many bullies with various techniques depending on the situation. I’ve called the cops on a number of occasions. I’ve yelled at a neighbour committing domestic violence. I’ve spoken out when the wrong thing has been said.
I’ve learnt the importance of documenting all incidents of bullying behaviour, including the date, time and other people present.
I realised the power of words to harm and cause stress from my bullies, and that ultimately their actions can catch up with them.
I realised that what I thought of myself was a hundred times more important than what some immature adolescent prat thought of me or called me.
I do, however, wish that there was a support network in place, particularly in high schools and the workplace.
Every Australian high school and company needs a clearly defined policy and process for handling complaints about bullying. It needs to be written down in plain English and accessible online. All staff members need to be trained in bully prevention and have an awareness of the process to deal with a complaint.
There needs to be a team of independent people who you can turn to when you might be experiencing bullying. This must NOT be just a sole counsellor or a human resources person who’s going to take the side of the company.
For more information on bullying and the Dolly’s Dream Foundation visit www.amf.org.au.
The Carousel would like to thank Phoebe Bold for this article.
Photo by Joshua Sazon