Letter: Words hurt as much as sticks and stones

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The Independent Online
Frank Furedi distinguishes those subject to name-calling, gestures and "rough and tumble" from the "genuinely terrorised" and asserts that the former, having "negotiated pain and unpleasant experiences" will learn to cope and may "learn compassion".

He fails to realise that bullying is a continuum. As a (too) bright, small, timid kid with a big nose, I had my arm twisted repeatedly until I fainted, had urine-soaked toilet paper stuffed in my mouth, and was regularly, bloodily beaten up. I would say that this happened to perhaps 5 per cent of pupils at my school. I don't call this rough and tumble but torture. When the torturers made gestures, or called names, that implied to me (correctly that they were going to do it again. That was terrifying. I remember the "Will they, won't they today?" as being almost worse than the physical stuff.

The silent majority of pupils did nothing: perhaps one had brought it on oneself and besides, how "pathetic", as Ferudi puts it, to tell someone, when 90 per cent of it was verbal and gestural. I expect those who observed thought I'd learn compassion.

Perhaps I have now. But at the time, I and another bullied kid picked on the one in the class weaker than us, and bullied him. He, in turn, was often off ill, having correctly interpreted our attitudes and gestures.

Ferudi, unintentionally no doubt, is on the side of all those, in every social situation, who use force, threats of force and power to screw up others' lives. He should be ashamed.

Brian Smith

Berlin, Germany