Everybody is talking about Jimmy Savile. Because of this I’ve elected not to give that odious perversion of a human being any more attention than he’s already getting, so… moving swiftly on…
Although, having said the above, the tragic suicide of a fifteen-year-old Canadian teenager just six days ago was caused by a monster just like him. The difference? Amanda’s reason for suicide used the internet to degrade her and ruin her life:
RIP Amanda Todd, you beautiful girl. How awful that somebody out there took your trust and your naivety and used them against you in such a terrible way.
I, too, have been the victim of bullying – and, even though it seemed as though the world was ending at the time, I feel that I got off lightly. There was no internet or mobile phone back then. Nobody could send me threatening emails and texts. Within my own home I was safe; I could hide.
However, being able to go home in the knowledge that the bullies could do nothing to me outside of school hours didn’t mean that I didn’t suffer emotionally.
The reasons for my bullying? I was bookish – a “swot” who wanted to learn. I was undiagnosed autistic so I was always “the weird kid”. I had naturally blonde hair, blue eyes and high cheekbones, and so other girls would call me “ugly” (which – looking back – I realise that I most certainly was not). I was a geek who liked Doctor Who, Star Trek and computers, and disliked “girl stuff”. I excelled at swimming, hockey and basketball, as well as academic subjects such as English, history and religious education.
So how did the bullying affect me?
The short answer to that is badly. I dreaded going to school and would fake illness as often as I thought I could get away with it. I cried myself to sleep most weeknights, and became wary of the few friends I actually had.
I mutilated all of my pretty dolls by chopping off their hair and drawing scars and injuries on their faces. I’d cut their clothing into rags, to simulate the hand-me-downs that I always had to wear.
I would smear my dressing table mirror with Nivea Cream so that I only had a hazy reflection of my face. I would often think about disfiguring myself and self-harming, because I thought people wouldn’t pick on me if an injury was the cause of my perceived ugliness.
Sometimes I would get a pair of tights and wrap them tight around my throat, but I was never brave enough to choke myself as I’d intended.
I married the first man who asked me, because I truly believed that nobody else could possibly want me. After my inevitable divorce I sought validation through sex; I thought that, if I were sexually desirable to most men, that would mean that I could move on.
Of course, I was wrong. I’ve had far more lovers than I’ve experienced actual love.
I basically abused my body with cigarettes and alcohol. I became anorexic because I thought I was fat.
Do I still suffer?
Yes, I do. I have very low self-esteem and dislike leaving the house in case somebody picks on me. I know that this won’t happen where I live now, but large groups of teenagers still frighten me and I hate walking past them. It isn’t their fault – it’s the fault of teenagers who made my life hell when I was fifteen.
I was too frightened to go on to further education, and my family needed me to work anyway because money was tight. Too many of my bullies were going to college and I just wanted to strike out on my own.
Bullying didn’t exactly ruin my life – it brought me to where I am now in many ways – but it certainly didn’t enhance it.
What would I say to bullies now?
Bullying can change the course of a victim’s life. It isn’t funny and it isn’t clever.
One of your victims could become the next Amanda Todd.
Think about it.