These days bullying is, in theory anyway, taken more seriously. More than a million children a year are affected by it, and, according to research in Norway, 25 per cent of seven-year-old bullies grow up to be criminals. It is statistics like these that have made the school system and society in general sit up and take notice. Being bullied is no longer seen as a sign of weakness - the problem is so widespread that to blame the victim would be ridiculous.
The National Resources Centre for the Study of Bullying, founded in 1995, recommends a "whole school" approach to the problem. Everyone, from the head teacher to the school meals workers, should be on the look out for bullying and report it. All allegations should be properly investigated and both victim and bully counselled. The public shaming of the bully, by a partnership of teachers, parents and pupils, drives home the message.
More than anything else, however, children want to be able to face down their bully, to have evidence, once and for all, that their size, strength or popularity is either illusory or temporary. Impossible in real life, but not in Real Life. In this report we have matched two bullies to their victims, now adult, to give each one a chance to tell their story and to discover whether, ten years on, the balance of power has changed.
Andrew, by the way, did eventually get his comeuppance. A week after his expulsion for tying wire across the school cross-country course, he marched into school to show off his new ninja weaponry and knocked himself out with his own nunchukas. He wasn't seen around much once he was discharged from hospital.
A TALE OF TWO BOYS
'I spent evenings scared shitless his demands would escalate'
'I was sent to a young offenders institution and that changed me '
Stuart, 25 and Alan, 27, went to a comprehensive school in Somerset. Stuart now compiles crosswords for a puzzle magazine and Alan works as a part-time waiter.
STUART: My family moved down from the north half-way through my first year, but for reasons I still can't fathom I was put in the second year. Because I was the youngest and new I was shy. That labelled me a "gay", in Alan's vernacular, and so he bullied me for four years. One bizarre example was when someone snapped his pencil in woodwork and he kept shouting: "Gay must buy me a new pencil." I ignored him until he started breaking my pens, then ripping up my exercise book, then crushing my pencil box in a vice. Stupidly, I bought him a pencil, but when I gave it to him the following week he hit-me and said it had to be a retracting pencil.
It sounds pathetic now but I spent evenings sobbing, scared shitless his demands would escalate until I left school. I have got a lot to thank him for, really. My self-esteem became so low I spent all my time working and ended up at Cambridge.
Alan got his name in the paper when he was 19. He broke into a house and stole five shotguns before blowing away half the road signs in Somerset. They caught him after his Dad found the guns "cleverly" hidden under Alan's bed. He got 18 months and I hope they pissed on his food.
I saw him working in a really scummy American "diner" recently and I went in. He didn't even recognise me. He just scuttled off with loads of dirty plates, saying: "Sorry sir, I'll get someone to come over." I have heard a rumour that he is living with his gran.
ALAN: I honestly can't remember ever hitting Stuart. I'm not saying I didn't do it, it's just that Stuart wasn't a very memorable boy. But I admit most people thought I was a wanker. I didn't have a psychological problem. Bullying people was just funny. We'd do stuff like set up a desk and call it "the operating table". First years were wheeled in for "fist surgery". We also invented a game called "mugging" where we beat people up.
I feel bad about some of it. There was a boy called Roy who didn't wear socks and played with himself in classes. Now, I'd say he needed special help but at the time, well you can guess. We used to make him clear our plates away at dinner or else he'd receive "extra rations" - which usually meant a kicking. He stopped coming to school and the rumour was he'd killed himself. I saw him a couple of years ago and said "All right" but he ignored me. At first I thought "rude bastard" but I guess he had his reasons.
I was sent to a young offenders institution a while ago and that changed me, forced me to grow up. The first night I had a fight over some fags. It was fine after that but my ego was different. I'm not too unhappy. I've got some qualifications, it's just hard to get a decent job for the obvious reason. I hope Stuart's doing well. If I saw him in the pub I'd shake his hand and say, "No hard feelings."
A TALE OF TWO GIRLS
'It was more than just physical abuse. She would tell lies about me'
'A few fights and name-calling hardly qualify me as bitch from hell'
Faith, 22, and Susan, 23, went to an all-girls state school in London. Faith is now studying for a PhD and Susan is an actress.
FAITH: Susan and I both liked running so we became friends in the first year. One day "for a joke" I read her diary. I had got to "Dear diary, Why does Faith hang around us all the time. Doesn't she know we hate her," when Susan walked in and hit me in the face with a brush.
She hated me out of jealousy. I was better at running and cleverer. I'm not being arrogant, she's a thick pig. But that didn't stop her making my teenage years a misery. It was more than just physical abuse. She would tell lies about me. When I walked into a room everyone would leave, for some reason holding their noses. Strangers would walk up and scream at me to leave their boyfriends alone. I was even told by a PE teacher that I wasn't allowed to go on a school trip because I "only wanted to get pregnant". I know that was Susan's work.
Her favourite speech was how I was never going to achieve anything, whereas she was going to be a great actress and already had an agent. Then, during a party at college someone put on a porn video and up she popped, dressed in lace and masturbating wildly. She sounded very bored. My flatmate turned it off saying it was too gruesome. She left a message on my answerphone last year saying she wanted to talk to someone. In my heart I feel bad for not replying.
SUSAN: A few fights and a bit of name-calling hardly qualify me as bitch queen from hell. I stood up for myself, that's all. What was I supposed to be jealous of? I had the friends and the social life. Why would I waste my time with her? I'm not saying those things didn't happen to Faith but I didn't instigate them. If people treated her like dirt that was their decision. They knew how much Faith upset me and acted how they wanted. There's no smoke without fire.
I probably sound like I hate her but, to be honest, I haven't thought about her for ages. I did phone her up but that was when I was pissed. I phone a lot of people when I'm pissed. I started doing the films after I left school. My family aren't exactly loaded and I didn't want to be one of those saps who run up a million-pound overdraft. I get paid up to pounds 300 a day, plus bonuses.
They're actually not that awful to make. It's not the ideal place to have great sex, in front of a bearded man with a camera who keeps stopping you half-way through. But I'm just playing a role. It's not my career for god's sake. I want to be a television journalist. I am a bit worried I'll be interviewing someone famous live on telly and they'll suddenly say, "Hang on. I've seen your tits." But that's unlikely.Reuse content