Robert Sayles: Have you been bullied?

By Robert Sayles Robert

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bullying Abuse

Do you ever hark back to your school days? Afternoon tea on a Wednesday was always the highlight for me. In year one my duties were clearly mapped...

Do you ever hark back to your school days?

Afternoon tea on a Wednesday was always the highlight for me. In year one my duties were clearly mapped out; toast school bully's crumpets over an open fire whilst making sure I didn't burn them.

I recall on one particular occasion busily engaging myself to this end, only to be distracted by a somewhat animated discussion a group of sixth formers were having about an upcoming rugby match.

The aroma of burning crumpet eventually alerted me to the fact that something was seriously amiss.

Looking down, I saw to my horror that school bully's crumpets were ablaze. Well I say crumpets, at this point charcoal would be a more apt description. They were well and truly beyond salvation.

It would be fair to say that school bully was not best pleased. Following a few choice words, he reached for the cane whilst I, resigned to my fate, bent over and braced myself for a damned good thrashing.

In some ways I was grateful to school bully, after all it was for my own good, wasn't it? He just wanted to ensure I never made the same mistake again.

"Thank you for showing me the error of my ways school bully" I said once the ordeal was over.

"You're welcome" he replied. "Now get out of my sight you worthless piece of ****!"

Then began the long painful journey back to my dorm.

Ah yes; fond memories.

In year four, two new boys arrived at the school. They were big lads and truth be told, rather intimidating. From the outset it was clear they had no qualms in throwing their weight about. Nobody it seemed dared stand up to them.

It wasn't long before they began hanging around the dinner queue, relieving first and second year boys of their pocket money. The other lads would watch silently as some unfortunate victim was picked on.

It was evident that some wanted to help but were worried they would be next. After all, these two boys were so much bigger than everybody else, what could we do?

Over time these bullies devised a variety of schemes to embezzle money from us. Rumours were rife as to their motives. Eventually, word got out; these boys had racked up serious gambling debts, debts which needed to be paid.

We turned to the teachers for help. After all, they were supposed to be there to look after us but they appeared content to turn a blind eye. I suspected they felt as intimidated as the rest of us.

Things finally came to a head one afternoon as my friend and I made our way to the tuck shop. We were accosted by the bullies, forced to turn out our pockets and hand over all the money.

It was the final straw. We went to the headmaster and complained.

"Why do you allow them to bully us?" we asked. "Why don't you do something? They take all our money and leave us with nothing."

After much hand wringing and shrugging of shoulders he reluctantly summoned the two boys to his office and listened intently as they vehemently denied our allegations. The headmaster decreed no further action was necessary, drawing a line under the matter.

Over time, further complaints were made by a number of boys who had grown increasingly resentful of being constantly fleeced by these two bullies. The headmaster informed us that there was nothing he could do; after all we didn't have any evidence, did we?

Eventually, the complaints became too numerous and vociferous to ignore; the headmaster was compelled to act. The bullies were summoned to his office where they admitted that there'd been one or two problems. However, they assured him things would change; from this point on they'd leave the other boys alone.

The problem was that by now the bullies were becoming increasingly desperate. It seemed their gambling debts had mounted; creditors even came to the school demanding payment.

These lads needed to find cash, lots of it, and find it quickly. The easiest course of action was to keep taking it off the other boys in school; after all, it was so easy, wasn't it?

Away from prying eyes, they continued to intimidate, constantly appropriating more and more money from their hapless victims.

It was clear the headmaster needed to do something; these two boys would never change their ways, that much was clear.

He placated us with assurances of imminent intervention; consequently we waited patiently, thinking it only a matter of time before the bullies were reined in.

Time passed, and with no visible signs of progress I went to see him in an attempt to convey the feeling of utter helplessness that many of us felt, to implore him to do something.

Surely he could see that he was obliged to bring the activities of the bullies to an end?

I always remember the look in his eye as he assured me he was 'looking into the matter'. I knew there and then that he had no intention of doing anything.

In truth he was a weak individual; one who sought to avoid confrontation, to placate at any given opportunity. This was something the bullies both recognised and exploited.

Summoning them to his office from time to time was nothing more than an act of appeasement, a charade designed to give the impression that something was being done when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

Needless to say the headmaster never did take action.

Sure, he went through the motions, issuing numerous deadlines, these came and went with no tangible signs of progress.

It seemed to me that the overwhelming priority for the headmaster was the interests of the two bullies; our plight appeared of little concern to him.

Consequently, over time hope was replaced by an overpowering sense of betrayal. The realisation that we'd been fed a constant diet of false promises became a bitter pill to swallow.

Looking back on it now, I don't really blame the bullies; they were just a couple of thugs who didn't know any better.

To my mind the real culprit was the headmaster. From the outset he'd trusted these two boys, yet when it became clear they'd abused that trust, he lacked the conviction to act.

I was never able to fully explain his reluctance to intervene; why he chose to tolerate the intimidation, deception and blatant dishonesty. Nevertheless, I suspect this inertia was the product of one thing and one thing only, cowardice.

Looking around today, am I right in concluding that little has changed?

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