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Ask HN: Do you have experience with school bullying?
79 points by nsajko 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments
In the last hour a few HN threads came to my attention [0][1][2], from which it seems that the overt kind of bullying that is known from movies and television series is actually a real thing. I am talking about repeated physical abuse from peers (but if somebody has deeper insights about bullying in general, I would not mind hearing about that too), because that is the thing that I thought mainly existed on TV.

If you have witnessed or, especially, suffered from bullying; I would like to read about it, at what education stage did it happen and where it happened. The last part is because my first thought about the beatings being real was that it is something that is exacerbated in USA schools.

As for my own experience (since I am asking others about it, I feel obligated to share my own experience); I was a socially inept introverted kid with little confidence and an outsider who could not really connect with other kids (and quite an annoying little prick, as I understand now), but despite those circumstances I was not repeatedly beaten (although a troublemaking kid that was shortly in my school during the lower education stage once tried to beat me up with two other people from my class, they failed). In high school there was even less bullying.

Now, I may have been lucky, it is possible that my schools were uncommonly nice ones in Croatia, and the fact that I was encouraged to stand up to beating attempts (on me or my friends) after reading the "Ender's game" (because of Ender doing the same ...); but really my understanding is that beatings do not happen in Croatian schools as described in those threads. Is it because of the Croatian nondemocratic socialist government heritage? Or is it an European thing? That is why I am asking this question.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21212587

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5284664

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21447459




Bullying is definitely a real thing, but I think limiting your definition of bullying to only physical acts is doing a disservice to the victims.

I've been bullied for a long time, and am glad that that's in the past now. I've never been physically harmed, I have no scars or hospital visits or even bruises.

I've been affected mentally though. Turns out that being told you're ugly or weird or stupid 15 times a day really takes a toll on your mental health. How are you supposed to be a normal kid if no one will even talk to you? How are you supposed to learn to socialize? How are you supposed to have a positive self-image if you get told you're shit at every turn? How are you supposed to focus on learning if people are constantly trying to get your attention just to say mean things? How are you supposed to play if everyone just runs away from you? Sure the adults tell you you're smart and beautiful and worth having around, but how believable is that when they don't lift a finger to stop the name calling? How are you supposed to lead a normal life if you're carrying all that baggage and there's no one who will help?

I've linked the "To this day project" video in the comments of HN often enough when the topic of bullying comes up. For me seeing that video was a real turning point. It was the point where I stopped believing all the things that mean little shits said about me years ago. I still cry when I listen to it every single time. So I'll link it again, in the hopes that it'll help someone else too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY

"I’m not the only kid

who grew up this way

surrounded by people who used to say

that rhyme about sticks and stones

as if broken bones

hurt more than the names we got called

and we got called them all"

-- Shane Koyczan


Wow. Thanks for sharing Doxin. The 'Shane Koyczan' video is beautiful. I honestly feel that reaching out to someone being bullied is the most selfless act a person can do. I hope that everyone reading this can remember that and one day, when the need arises, can step forward and just be there for another person who needs someone.


Thank you for taking the time to have a look. That video is probably the one and only time I've thought "this guy gets it". There's a lot of people in the world unaware of bullying. It gets stereotyped to this thing where people are hung from their underwear in the showers, while that's a thing that happens too I bet, it's not what happens most commonly. Most bullying is invisible. It happens when no one who cares is looking and leaves no physical marks.

I just hope to show as many people as possible this video in the hope to create awareness of what bullying is, and not what the media portrays it to be.

For those unable to watch the video for whatever reason you can find the text here[0] but it's much more powerful when spoken by the author, You can tell it impacts him deeply to tell these stories.

[0] https://genius.com/Shane-koyczan-to-this-day-annotated


Yes, throughout High School. At that point I had become socially disconnected and didn't have many friends. There were a few people who stood out from the usual put-downs and idiotic comments.

The problem is that even when something physical actually happened, for example, the time when someone sucker punched me in the face at my locker in front of an entire full hallway of students, everyone blamed me because of my size. I'm 6'10" (was probably 6'2" to 6'6" throughout High School) and the school administration always assumed I started it because I was the big and intimidating one.

It was to the point where one time, someone who routinely attacked and insulted me actually punched me right in front of the main office, where there were giant bay windows so the secretaries and administrators could see everything. I barely retaliated by pushing him away and the ROTC teacher broke it up, and because the one who attacked me was in ROTC, I was blamed and suspended.

There was literally never a single time I was attacked like this that the principal didn't assume I was the cause. I'll admit I was a troublemaker and did a lot of stupid shit in High School, but I never initiated any of the fights I got in or the situations I was put in.

The constant put-downs from people and the fact that my home life wasn't much better affected me academically to the point where I stayed back twice and the administration shuffled me off to an alternative school where I didn't actually learn anything of use because they didn't want to deal with me anymore.

I was in High School in the mid-2000s and should have graduated 2007, so it's not like this was in the 80s. The administration was just terrible and didn't care.

But hey, 10+ years later and I have a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and things have gotten a lot better. High School is a temporary, shitty time, and it won't have any bearing on your life afterwards unless you let it.


I suppose, based on the term "High school" that you live in the USA?


"High school" is probably the most common term in English, even for people from non-English-speaking countries (i.e. it gets used as a translation). It's the main term in some other English-speaking countries too, e.g. New Zealand (we also use "secondary school").

Edit: ["High school"] gets me 2.6e9 Google results, and ["secondary school"] only gets 1.9e8.


I experienced lots of bullying. It messed me up real good emotionally. It also greatly informed my worldview (for better or for worse).

So the details about the bullying:

public north-eastern grade & middle school: physical bullying during school hours (punched, shoved, tripped etc). The occasionally roughing up outside (never anything truly violent, just some bruises and black eyes). Teachers always took the "punish both sides". Later on I was lucky to both join a group and endear myself to one of the scariest kids around. This protected me from 80% of instances and things got much better.

private all-boys school: more emotional, getting called lots of names, people ignoring you, calling you weird, laughing at you, etc. It made it very tough to be confident and as a result, I spent the first 2 years by myself.

What can be learned from these experiences? Confidence and patience are necessary in developing and managing relationships. I heavily discount the ideology of truly being an "individual" when it comes to the perception of your peers. I'd rather have them think of me as your average nice person, and then we can build our relationship past that if the opportunities arise. The current kids have it rough with Social Media, and I would imagine it adds complexity making it more difficult. You are effectively making a bet with your public-facing persona, and some of us bite off more than we can chew.


(In United States, high school, north-east, small town of 25k, early 2000's)

Got bullied, was the only girl in computer classes. Cliche, I know, but actually happened. Dead bugs on my notes when I left my desk, awful things direct messaged to my computer, shoved around, had my computer unplugged while trying to work, gum shoved over the lock on my locker... one time a guy wiped his wet hands on me and said "Don't you hate it when you go to the bathroom and get piss all over your hands?"

I stood up for myself a lot, but man, the piss on the hands thing made me cry. I did not have friends in those classes.

I was singlehandedly the reason why the computer lab got rearranged and policies were updated twice. I still ended up deciding to go for a different major in college because I never wanted to have that happen again.

Ended up always being in an IT role anyway because I learned so much from the teacher. He was my favorite, and went to bat for me a couple of times. I still send him Christmas cards, nearly twenty years later, because he was such a good teacher and I still use the stuff he taught.


I had to deal with some alpha-kids at school, but at the time, nobody called that bullying. I also never viewed that as a problem, because I was never heavily beaten and I would also hit back, I hit once a kid so hard that I broke his jaw and nobody ever touched a finger on me and I made very lasting friends after that episode. That made me grow as a person as well, but it wasn't very necessary. I'd rather have not went through this.

Other kids on my class didn't fight back and have been abused, which is quite bad. School has very similar dynamics to prisons and the earlier a kid finds it out(or has parents that explain to them), the better. I also helped a lot of kids that got bullied on school, but there is much more kids willing to bully than kids willing to help. At least that made me also long-lasting friendships.

I think those "bullying" dynamics happen similarly when you become an adult, where police is there to hit minorities and displaced people. Where those alpha-kids with good backgrounds fare very well while bullying employees and doing their own schemes, and when things go south, their banks get bailed out.

Meanwhile you as a working class have to keep pushing forward, accepting to do overtime and so on. Getting bullied forever is something humans just accept as a fate.

Some kids, just as some adults, really fail to fight back and find their own space in that system and end up in a bad position. I'd say that those who failed to fight back at school also end up failing to fight back as adults. At least in the adult world things are a bit more civilised at a times, which gives the impression "that is just life and it's working as expected". But it is still there.

My mother, even though we were very poor, since I was very young, used to tell me how it is important to have an edge/advantage over people and how society is basically made of that. The more I can get away with, the better I'm positioned and that I should pay attention to that and use that to guide me. It took me a while to understand that, but I'm very glad she took the time to teach me that.


> I'd say that those who failed to fight back at school also end up failing to fight back as adults.

I'm just that kind of person, I'm having hard time fighting back, because typically everytime it made situation worse. I can't think of good response in the time where that response is required, and trying to respond just with violence does nothing good. From what I've seen, bullies typically try to anger someone and steer them towards making actions that hurt or disgrace bullied person, sometimes even making them look like original attacker.


Yep. I wouldn't say you ARE this kind of person, you just need to practice more and understand what works. For instance, I'm no way perfect in that art. But it's a subtle thing that many kids don't even notice that exists... and unfortunately end up being just prey for dominant people.


Are you kidding? On paper I should have been a school shooter. I was bullied relentlessly on a near-daily basis by other students and even some teachers. Physically assaulted, verbally harassed, things stolen.. they even loosened the lug nuts on my car. I gave up complaining halfway through ninth grade because the only support I got was “move away from people bothering you” and “tell the teacher”. By telling the teacher I became the annoying problem.


Sorry to hear that. I hope things are better for you now.


Which country?


USA


USA.

In Kindergarten I punched a kid on the bus for taking “my seat.” I remember being surprised I had done it. I wasn’t thinking about it or intending to do it. The bus driver wrote me up, and I had a talk with the principal the next day. The talk was confusing for me and I was a “good kid” so it was a little traumatic as well. What I took away from it was that it was never okay to hit.

Well, that meant I didn’t hit back, either. I was bullied a little in elementary school after that, always physically; mostly by one guy who was older and bigger by virtue of being held back a year. There was one older girl who tried to verbally bully me when she saw me but I didn’t understand what she was saying so it never really bothered me.

Things were really bad in middle school. My parents divorced, which was devastating to me, and I was in a new school district with all new kids. And I didn’t hit back. I was bullied constantly on the bus by a big kid and his toady. I had a few more bullies at school as well, and when I moved again (same district/school) I had bullies in my neighborhood so I got bullied by some of the same kids even away from school. Everything combined put me in a place where standing up for myself wasn’t possible emotionally, and the few times I tried it made things worse.

There is a lot of truth to “just standing up for yourself” to end bullying, but that just shifts it onto the next victim; and it wasn’t something that could help me at the time.

For no reason I understand, maybe school policy, the bullying stopped being physical in the ninth grade, and for the rest of high school it stopped completely.


I was beaten up repeatedly in school. The school did nothing to stop it. This is during 8th and 9th grade. I was also stabbed with some kind of homemade knife, a pen with a nail in the tip. It hurt but the injury wasn't serious. I finally decided that I'd rather go down fighting, and I started beating up my bullies, or at least fighting back. I found that mostly these kinds of people like easy targets, so they started leaving me alone. I haven't been in school for many years, this is in the 90's. I don't know what it's like anymore but I do know there's been an effort to bring more attention to bullying.


I mainly learned about it watching Hollywood movies but didn't think it was real at all until recently. There's no bullying theme where I'm from.

I'm from Algiers, Algeria and I haven't seen bullying. Kids do fight but it's "organized". They give each other a time and a location after school (no need to involve school staff), other kids cheer the fight, make predictions, and ensure it doesn't go too far. Kids get excited by fights, and when it's done, the opponents dust it off. There is also a break-down after the fight by each kid's friends on what they should have done.

However, if the fight is unfair or one of the opponents is too weak for the other, other kids would step up and prevent it from happening. If the stronger kid insists, one or more kids would protect the weaker, and tell the stronger kid to get lost. If not, there's a fight between the stronger kid and the one preventing him from beating the weaker one. There's nothing of the sort of someone repeatedly picking on someone else, humiliating them, taking their food/money, putting them in locker rooms, etc. If a kid did that, they would be beat up usually by some other kid who becomes a sort of body guard. Kids did it for sport but would intervene as soon as something was not "fair" (either one party unwilling to participate or too weak). Even psychological abuse would get stopped by other kids (if a kid mocked another's physique, or economic condition, others would never let it slide and would go to physical violence to correct a perceived tort: like "Call him that one more time and I'll fuck you up" and they did).

That's primary school. Fights become rare in middle school and quasi inexistent by high-school.


What irks me that physical assaults, when done at school, become "bullying".

If something is not OK between adults, it's not OK between children and should be treated accordingly.


I moved around a lot and as a result was targeted by the bullies at every new school. I learned early (grade 1) that the best way to deal with them was to fight back, quickly, viciously, using every dirty trick you can think of (I almost took one bully's eye out with a rock, for example). It doesn't matter how much of a beating you take in the process, so long as they think twice about trying it again. Bullies look for easy targets, so make yourself as hard as possible, and make sure there are witnesses.

Worked every time (6 in total), but it got me into a lot of trouble with teachers and principals who disagreed with my methods. If I were a kid today, I'd be a lot sneakier, because the things I did would get you juvie nowadays.


This is something I need to write about, I was born with a cleft-pallet and was heavily ridiculed and bullied throughout my childhood.

This had serious ramifications which prevented me from finishing high school with my class, and I started using drugs and alcohol when I was 14 to cope with the verbal and physical abuse.

This was over 20 years ago though and schools today are much better about addressing these issues - however, I am in a much better position mentally to talk about it now.


I’m glad you’re out of the woods. Do you think kids can be raised to be strong enough to befriend those with differences rather than pile on and abuse them? I’d like to think yes.


With due respect, HN is likely the world's most concentrated nerd community.

Nerds are bully targets. Asking such questions here is not going to give a response that is representative of the general community.

My guess is that many of the people here on HN got bullied.

My kids have been doing boxing since age 5 and are forbidden to stop taking classes. This is specifically so they can deliver hard lessons to the bullies who will appear in teenage years.


Unless they themselves become the bullies.


Yes I was bullied (UK, middle class). The teachers were powerless to do anything if they didn't see, and few bullies are stupid enough to assault you when teachers can see.

Nobody ever taught me that I had a right to defend myself. That is what is missing from bullying education. If you have kids, teach them that they have a right to hit back!

This was in primary school. By the time I got to secondary school I had learned to fight back and although some bullies tried to mess with me, ultimately they went looking for softer targets. Sadly I later found out that one of my friends was getting very badly bullied in secondary school - tell your kids to tell a reliable friend if they are getting bullied, I would have been able to help if I had known.


"Never start a fight, but if one starts, don't lose." is what my father taught me when I started getting bullied.

Worked both times I was physically bullied, people stopped pretty fast when they saw that I didn't fight "fair", I fought to win. Eyes, ears, genitalia was all fair game from the start with no regard for "fairness".


> "Never start a fight, but if one starts, don't lose."

That's really good motto. Don't lose doesn't mean win, just make sure to show you are not a victim and they will have to pay some price for fucking with you.


Guy from Germany here. I were with my twin (both guys) in the same class. Im also a Christian who really belives in the Bible (Really rare in my area). In short: I were an outsider (but together with my brother). Nonetheless bullying wasnt really a thing. In the beginning some kids gave it a try, but the achieved nothing. Generally the time was really great, we had a lot of fun. Our class was awesome and stood together. We had the typical Groupes and often little figths, but it never got physical. If a new kid came in class he had some starting problems, but generally new friends were made quickly. Bullying happend, but on a minor scale and never physical, just the stupid stuff kids say if they want to be cool.


I attended a small primary school (ages 4-11) and witnessed no bullying.

Whilst in secondary school (ages 11-16) I witnessed various attempts at bullying of the psychological kind- very little if anything physical. It only came to my attention recently (thanks to a former teacher) that I had avoided bullying because they had "tried" and I didn't realise and didn't care about them, which is a death knell for psychological bullying.

Whilst in 'sixth form' (16-18) I observed significant bullying of the TV/film kind. A kid who associated with the "high performing idiots" group was thrown into a hedge outside the school practically every day. The staff were aware but never witnessed it, and the student being assaulted never reported his 'friends'. He was also repeatedly the butt of psychological bullying.

In my view this occurred because the school repeatedly failed to disrupt the friendship group that had an unhealthy dynamic. After talking to teachers I found out that a common technique is to ensure the friends aren't in the same classes, and when they are to disrupt their seating. Their friendship should dwindle and they will form relationships with others.

In the sixth form case these students had persisted as they were all high achievers - schools are incentivised not to move children out of "top set" classes, and to let them stay together as they were more disruptive to other students apart.


I grew up in eastern Europe in the 90s and 00s - the whole conversation about bullying is really foreign to me and it really stands out how common it seems to be in the US and to a lesser extent in the UK.


So you never ever witnessed bullying while growing up? I doubt it. I also grew up in a post-Iron Curtain country and have a vastly different experience than yours. I was bullied since kindergarten right to the end of my education. I've seen people bullied both in a small city and a bigger one. Both verbally and physically. Most times it were the poorer kids who did it.


No, bullying is just a US (and UK) thing. Everything in the US and UK is bad. Everything in Europe is good. We don't have bullying, or smart phone addiction, or family breakdown, or populist leaders, or racial tensions or drug and alcohol problems. We all live harmoniously in Europe, you guys (Americans) can learn a lot from us. </sarcasticcomment>


Got bullied in high school because I was "the slim tall guy" and because my mother was a teacher in middle school of some of these bullies so they thought they could try their revenge on me.

They heavily verbally bullied me but never tried physical contact. Going back I think I would physically react early to stop the abusing because it prolonged for a very long time (3~years, until I was big enough that they probably thought risking my physical reaction would end very very bad for them)

As some other users said: teach your kids they have the right to defend themselves.


Dealt with some bullying, always verbal, mostly in elementary school (I was a weird kid, I suspect from lack of socialization) and in middle school, although at that point I start fighting back and ended up getting in lots of trouble and often finding myself at the other end of bullying.

High school was different. By high school I just wanted to keep my head down and do what I had to graduate. Didn't have a whole lot of friends, but wasn't bullied either. I was mostly amicable with everyone I interacted with.


USA

"Good" Public Elementary School (ages 6-11): Little to no bullying

Small Catholic Middle School (ages 12-14): a decent amount of physical/verbal bullying. I escaped most of it by being a bigger kid. But it definitely seemed like an issue in the Catholic schools in the area (I saw the same pattern at a summer school at another school).

"Progressive" Private high school (ages 15-18): Little to no bullying. But lots of pressure to succeed. We had a pretty bad suicide problem, considering the size of the school.


I'm not at all surprised that bullying is real. I'm not sure if my own experience counts as bullying; I have been targeted at times: teased, called names, excluded; once even by the guy who I up to that point thought was my best friend. But in my primary school there was also a very awkward boy one year older who was definitely universally bullied, and I regret to admit that I once wrestled him to the ground, which won me some temporary respect from other kids (and private shame later in life).

In secondary school, there were two kids who kept picking on me for years, but I eventually learned to ignore then and feel sorry for them. When I was somewhere between 15 and 18, a girl who had been in my class in primary school and apparently knew me as a potential bullying target called me a crybaby out of nowhere, and I was mostly baffled that someone would be so incapable of growing up. I'd grown pretty much immune by that time.

But what I often wonder is whether the stereotypical American TV-show bullying is something that really exists: wedgies, stuffing people in lockers, that sort of thing. On American TV, it seems to be the universally accepted standard form of bullying, but it sounds a bit too outlandish to me to be based on anything real.


I was lucky enough to not suffer much from bullying. I was introverted and nerdy, but I also liked sports and was lucky enough to look athletic enough that people wouldn't start fights with me. I'd get the occasional bit of verbal bullying, but again I've been lucky enough to be able to brush it off and not let it bother me. Sadly, a lot of my friends at the time didn't have the same luck, and I watched a lot of people get picked on for years.

Not standing up for them was one of my biggest regrets as a kid, because I watched it destroy some of them. The common stereotype of nerds growing up to be successful and having character, while the bully rots in some run-down area is far from the truth. It might happen, but I've seen plenty of assholes from my school days have decent lives while old friends from school have gone from zero confidence as a kid to zero confidence as an adult.

It's one thing that I shared with many of these kids. I had very little confidence in myself as a kid, but thankfully I've managed to find some thanks to a mixture of a decent career, keeping fit, and being involved in combat sports. For the past few years I've done BJJ and some MMA, and despite being an adult that hasn't had a "real fight" since I was a kid, the confidence I feel from being able to defend myself enough to run away/escape is life-changing.

It's probably the kind of advice you'd get from a boomer, but I'd recommend enrolling a kid in a combat sport like BJJ or Kickboxing, if not to teach them to fight, then to instil some confidence in their ability to defend themselves from someone attacking them or their friends. Confidence in something/anything is key.


While it's been 20 years since Columbine, I recall that Jon Katz started a discussion on Slashdot that generated thousands of personal reports from across the country (and led him to publish the book 'Voices From the Hellmouth'. The school's state was far from unique (going back a long time before it). I wonder whether that widely-reported tragedy resulted in much change.

>"Voices from the Hellmouth is a sensitive and brutally truthful account of the pain and alienation teenagers go through when deemed "different" by their high school classmates. [0]

[0] https://www.linuxtoday.com/developer/2000042001806pr


(I'm from U.S) I was bullied from 6th grade to 12th grade. I didn't experience physical bullying only mental bullying. Due to anxiety & depression (Diagnosed by psychiatrist), it was reinforced/made worse due to my assumptions. I'd always assume people were thinking a certain way about me, which did make me upset. Throughout school we had all forms of anti-bullying mediums shown/broadcasted throughout the school (On TV's, as well as literature). The only time there was physical bullying was when kids were doing things they weren't supposed to be doing (Going to class, not provoking others, etc). Over the years of being bullied, I've found multiple ways to cope and I "grew thicker skin." One way, was to skip cafeteria and head to the library and read/browse the web. I always thought it was kind of insensitive to tell a victim of bullying to grow thicker skin. This doesn't apply to everyone, but I feel if I wasn't bullied/put through mental torment during school, I would be a lot weaker mentally. It shaped me into becoming a stronger person. Best way to combat verbal bullying is to not show any emotion towards the bully and they won't gain any satisfaction. Plus, it's best not to value what they say if they're just insulting you to insult you. I've felt insulted while in my early teens for constructive criticism, which I should've used to improve myself, instead of ignoring and taking it as an insult.


Yes, in elementary school, relentlessly. Lots of verbal abuse, being excluded but also regular physical abuse. Fist fights were a daily occurrence at my elementary school, often to the point of real injury (i.e. bleeding). Fights didn't just involve bullies and people being bullied either.

All this was in the Netherlands. Past elementary school I haven't seen much bullying. My elementary school was particularly bad but friends who went to different schools also confirm that this kind of thing wasn't unusual.


I live in Italy.

Being a giant all my life (190cm now, 188cm age 16), and a taciturn good boy, I was continuously bullied until say 18 years old.

This guy I want to talk about, kept teasing, challenging, bullying me for three years until I just snapped, lost control of my actions, and woke up 10s later holding him by his neck 40cm above the floor against a wall.

We became friends a couple hours later.


I am curious if there are people who don't have experience of some sort of school bullying.


PSA: if your kid is being bullied in school, it is totally OK to knock the shit out of the bully exactly once (after gathering sufficient evidence of bullying). It will resolve 99% of your kid's problems.


I hope you meant for your kid to do it ...

I imagine parents roughing up minors would have a host of bad results, possibly including prison time?


Heh Heh Heh

If once doesn't work, move on to their parents next? ;)


Really depends on the school, luckily the public high school I attended was high ranking and it was in sort of a company town. Despite that, I recall one week in 9th grade when two upper-class football players tried to shake me down for lunch money several days in a row. Since I played dumb and told them that I brought my lunch (a lie) they lost interest after a few days. I didn't report it, and I'd been exposed to enough stuff in middle school that I didn't dwell on it.


I used to routinely get beaten up by the Principle of the schools, Jock son.

My self defense process was to laugh at him for it. "Just what do you think you're proving beating up a the class nerd?", Are you so insecure that you'd beat me up for talking to your girlfriend?" etc. Probably made things worse for myself but its how i coped.

Jokes on him, he grew up to be academically successful (briefly) hit drugs hard then die in a fiery drug fueled car crash in his low 20's.

I'm mid 40's decent job, house 2 awesome kids and fantastic wife.


I've been on both sides of bullying.

In one context (school), I was somewhat of a bully. I was bigger than the rest of my class, and I often attempted to assert my dominance, usually by making jokes at people's expense. In another context (competitive sports outside of school), I was typically the primary outsider who was bullied in just that manner.

I don't know where (or if) to draw a causal line, but I do know that memories of both sides of that equation seem to involve deep-seated insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.


I remember somebody who hassled me often at high school met me by chance in the pub in later years. I told them what a wanker they were to me at school and this made them agitated. When they asked. What they could do to make amends they didn’t like my verbal response. So suddenly they got aggressive and the aggro started right there. Some never change when they’re mask slips.


Dutch guy here. Yes I was bullied in primary school and secondary school but not physical. It was just because I wasn't wearing the "right" shoes, etc.


Yes,mostly older kids picked on us younger kids on the bus ride home. My school was pretty strict though so someone was suspended for couple of days from school for such activity.


Coming into year 7 I went to school with a bad atmosphere and some really bad people it. Management also had some idea that they'd break up all the prior groups, so I got placed with only one guy that wasn't really a close friend for classes. For the first year it wasn't very personal. Senior students would loudly mock me, and a lot of non-aggressive pupils, usually for some thing to do with personal style or alleged sexual perversion, in front their peers, sometimes someone would sweep my leg, or break stuff, mostly like expensive mechanical pens or textbooks/notebooks. The younger jackasses in my cohort would do things like light spray deodorant on fire and use it as a flamethrower and sweep laser pointers against peoples eyes (and at the time it was still rumored that can give permanent eye injuries). Year 8 I had dirty pond water thrown at me and a classmate by a group of bullies blocking a path. They scattered and ran when I started towards them, but after that it was personal. I guess rumors travel quickly in those circles and I had about a year and a half of personal hell as they marked me (always in groups, the fucking cowards) in recess and lessons with weak teachers. First followup I got soaked through with water the assailant said she'd taken out of the toilet. Not too long after two guys cornered me with a clear aim at breaking my musical instrument and beating me up. They didn't succeed, I evaded, but the ringleader was known to have beaten a guys face bloody against a brick wall, so the threat wasn't idle. In practice the physical violence was limited to getting pushed roughly into lockers and getting hit i the back of my head once when one of them managed to catch me unaware. They broke my vehicles twice, one of them in a way I'm just lucky didn't kill me in a traffic accident. But the constant threat of much worse violence and their ever-present jeering about my alleged sexual deviances, mocking my dialect, calling me crazy, and so on, that really took its toll. I had days when I couldn't hold any food. I'd just throw up frow the stress. As for the crazy, they were just being assholes then, I was simply a sensitive kid with too much belief in pacifism and going through the system. But that one they kind of managed to make come true. I have struggled for decades now with depressions and a sense of hopelessness. I can't connect with friend groups, I've been in to shitty shape to get a partner and I am fighting the suicide impulses less and less for my sake and more for the effects on my relatives. And I won't say the bullying alone did that, but it was an indispensable beginning for it.

For your statistics, this was Sweden.


I'm really sorry to hear what you had to go through. Thank you for sharing your experience (and to the many others who have written here). I wish you all the best in finding friends and a partner, which you definitely will. Please be good to yourself! Your nuanced writing shows your sensitivity is still there, and that's a good thing.


I'm Polish, from a small city of 100 000 people in the north. To me bullying and violence was such an almost everyday occurrence, that I'm surprised that someone could think that bullying is not part of school life.

I wouldn't be able to recount how many times I have witnessed bullying. I witnessed bullying of people who were just not good at responding to bullying. That included not only other kids, but teachers as well. One of primary school catechesis teachers (catholic teacher before baptism) was bullied. People would throw paper balls at her, laugh in her face etc. I don't know what happened to her. Then on my very first day of junior high the teacher responsible for my class had a mental breakdown and started to cry because of a conflict with one of girls in the class. She, the teacher, beefed up after that and tried her best to make anything out of the class. I think it was her last class assignment before she retired and I'm really grateful to her for trying. In the same junior high class, bullying didn't spare even "alpha males". One of alpha males and bullies was reduced to an underdog, because he was suspected of cooperating with police. He would be beaten if he tried to wait for classes in physical proximity of a classroom. After some time he was moved to some other school. The same happened to another guy.

I was myself on reviving end maybe 4 times. I was humiliated for example by pouring a soda on my head. Although, one time when I was in primary school, it was more an assault with pneumatic rifle than bullying. I had no money, nor anything really valuable, so those two guys stole from me a knoppers (snack-bar)... Brothers of these two guys ended up in the junior high class with me.

Twice I ended up being part of a group that was bullying. Once in primary school, I wandered off after school with group of my class mates and they ended up bullying our another class mate. I was never very social so if I recall correctly I didn't even register that we were not just wandering around, but that they were planning a "setup". Another time I was at a birthday party. It was when I was in high school. I more or less knew what could happen, because certain guys were bragging about similar things. What happen was that colleges of my classmate decided to randomly assault pedestrians just for the thrill of it; they were not trying to steal anything from them, they just literally wanted to beat random people for fun. Me and the birthday guy had to force one guy to let this random guy escape. He was kicking that poor guy around head while the guy was on the ground. But again, bullying is not a good term here, it was a brutal assault. The guys should have ended up in prison. I should have reported it to police. But as I wrote, bad things were happening to people who were getting involved with police.

Mind you, I don't think I was in bad schools. My primary school was very much an average school. The junior high was in the same building, with the same classrooms, and with the same teachers as the best high school in the city. My high school was not the best, but the third best in the city out of maybe 20 other schools. Although, I think, my junior high class was an exceptionally bad class.


I went to a school in south-west Poland. My experiences were not too dissimilar to those described here, so I think this account is entirely plausible.


Yes. Went to a Catholic school. Was horrific and life altering.


I’m afraid to ask, but is it possible this is more common as a U.S. phenomenon?


I have seen and experienced bullying in both small and large cities in Poland. It gets worse every year, especially nowadays with social media.


For me some bullying received and some shitty behaviour intended to secure other than the lowest rung on the dominance hierarchy... I was for the most part withdrawn child through high school...

Today I have sons I have watched them go through beginning adolescence. Noted that there is a fair amount of friction that builds up when boys (and sometimes girls) hang out and play. When it is ok we call it "rough housing" when it crosses a line bullying. Even with each other there is a kind of play which starts as a tickle fight and ends up with WWA moves. Aggression is a natural behaviour and in itself is not bad. It seems crucial to focus it and give it an outlet. In their grammar school they would get week long bullying programs but nowhere in that is what to do for exploding energy they feel inside.

I thought of BJJ, they idea was if they were going to act like young Randy Coutures they should know how not to hurt each other. It wasn't really for self defense or confidence. After a few years in it I am happy in a number of ways. One is that I followed them in - it looked like so much fun I started about 6 months or so after them. It is not a striking discipline so there are no punches or kicks. It comes out of judo but there is less standing and throwing. And after a good class you feel wrung out. Like most of the muscles in your body have been activated. It's weird to say this but there is something about nonsexual contact with others. It is relaxing. I have noted when I am on the NYC subway after class - I do not mind the jostling and bags jammed in the back quite as much. (A lot of the joke names for BJJ note this: "involuntary couples yoga"; "pajama wrestling"; "the art of folding clothes with people still in them".) You break through a barrier with strangers that you would not normally breach. And afterwards you are not strangers.

I think my boys are calmer and more relaxed. Also around girls as there are a few girls in BJJ that can legitimately kick ass. When I watch their classes I see how the teacher actively pushes them to take care of each other. The general idea is you don't hurt your training partners so they will be around tomorrow to do it again. Train hard and safe. It can be done and is a core ethic in BJJ. My younger son came home in tears as he had one ofhis stripes taken off his belt. He was submitting another kid and they refused to tap. My son continued and hurt the kid (luckily nothing broken). Teacher yelled at my son insisting he understand how to stop before the opponent gets hurt.

I realized that BJJ might be good for bullies. Not the 0.01% of actual budding psychopaths but the rest of us full of energy needing to be expressed. We think of martial arts for the bullied - and they can be. But something like BJJ might help some folks not be bullies.

I would never say "everyone should do BJJ" nor anything for that matter. But I wonder how much excessively bottled aggression and energy could be focused into something like BJJ that teaches you how to express it in a way that is not about humiliation and dominance. BJJ is humbling. There is someone out there that is 50 pounds lighter and a few inches shorter and they can put you in difficult positions. Then you scratch your head and try again and maybe get a little better. These are good lessons for kids to learn. Wish I had learned them.


Yeah, but pretty mild. Left some, but no significant effects.


It seems that not everyone grows out of that role.


Some tried but it didn't went as they expected.


I was a victim of many serial bullies, and worse, from grade school through high school.

While I experienced numerous traumatic experiences during my early childhood the worst bully was my school. My school refused, repeatedly, to take any action whatsoever against a child in my grade that would reenact or act out in regard to beatings, rapes, and murders, he witnessed in his home country, on me and the other poor souls stuck in the project with this tortured soul. His parents refused to acknowledge his bad behaviors publicly, but in private they would beat him worse than I was beat. When I acted out in school I was put in solitary confinement in a room resembling a prison cell. My memory is foggy but it feels as if I spent more time in that prison than in class. The school couldn't bring themselves to deal with a broken migrant family straight from a war zone. in their weakness they caused immeasurable harm to me. They're lucky my parents moved me to a different district before this kid could kill me. He came close a few times.

The next school wasn't any better. Again, there were multiple perpetrators in this time period, but the most egregious was the school and their refusal to clean their house. I experienced years of daily physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of a woman a few years older than me, until again I was moved away from these perpetrators. School social workers dismissed my experiences and blamed me.

In late middle school I started acting out in ways that the school could not ignore. I distinctly remember reporting directly to school administration that I was being bullied at recess and being laughed off. The next day I struck the bully. At first the planning officer (detention teacher) was talking expulsion, no tolerance, blah blah blah. When I told him that I reported the bullies behavior the day prior and no action was taken I was let off with a warning. This incident bought me a relatively healthy amount of peace and quiet for the rest of the school year. Though things quickly escalated out of control in high school once I realized I could stop many bullies in their tracks with my greater strength. At the time I didn't realize that these bullies parents could strong arm the administration into overlooking their children's terrible behavior while punishing me.

Not long after this all blew up I started filing dozens-hundreds of official reports outlining virtually every abuse I suffered with the help of social workers happy for the hundreds of billable hours and a long list of diagnoses to bill against. Not a single * one was investigated by child protective services. Then I finished school and spent years and years bouncing around, vainly looking for community, and a place to heal my wounds and come to terms with what I've experienced.

I'm obviously still pretty raw about these parts of my life, but if I can help shed some light on how shitty it is to grow up with constant abuse, from peers, neglect from caretakers, and parents completely unable to stand up against the organized incompetence of small city education then feel free to ask me questions. I'll put my email in my profile in a bit.

Sorry if my thoughts are disjointed or the formatting is bad. On my phone.


I have been the bullied, and the bully, in US elementary schools during the 90s. Never on a consistent basis, like you hear about in US popular culture.

All my memories since 3 years old are of feeling like an outsider. Strong cliques were present even in kindergarten. I suppose this is because my elementary school was in a dense neighborhood, so kids from there were more likely to share social bonds both in and out of school. The further away your home was, the more socially disconnected you were, and the outsider feeling was probably a consequence of that.

It was always after school, when hordes of kids went mostly unsupervised on the campus, when the bullying happened. I was usually alone. I liked to draw pictures. The bullies called me names, stole my papers and pencils, and hit me when I wouldn't give them away.

I had friends at school, but most of them were picked up by their parents soon after school ended. I had to wait on campus in "after school" for hours until one of my parents drove from work to pick me up. Maybe it was my fault for not wanting to join in with the other kids. Maybe it was because my parents told me all the time that I was special that I thought I was better than everyone else, and couldn't waste effort on being with them.

Eventually, I figured out that bullies leave you alone when you hit them really, really hard. In halls where no teachers watched, there were fights. By the end of Elementary School, the kids who all bullied me were shorter than me. I began to play rough. I confronted one member of the in-cliques in the middle of the cafeteria, knocked the wind out of him, and just walked away. No one stopped me, and no adults were present to intervene. I wanted people to believe that I was dangerous, and succeeded at that.

Some time after that, during after school, there was a kid who seemed smart and interesting to me. Learning about him, he mentioned that it was dangerous to hit him on the head, because he was "epileptic." I had never heard of this "epileptic" thing before. I wondered, what would happen if he was hit on the head? So I hit him. He exclaimed something like "Noooooo! Don't hit my head! Don't do it!" To which I thought, "Hah. You had better try to stop me then." So I hit him again, and again, and again. He didn't do anything to stop me physically, so I kept doing it. After a dozen times, it started to bore me, so I finally left him alone. Later that afternoon, I felt guilty about what I'd done. I don't remember if I apologized to him or not, but I hope I did, because I'm pretty sure this counts as bullying.

It's an incredibly intoxicating feeling to put your own amusement above the needs of others, especially when you can justify it. ("Oh, I was just trying to learn about epilepsy, and he's also weird.") Exploiting the perceived weakness of others to be in control of the situation makes you feel powerful, even more so when you've already experienced the same thing the other way around.

Becoming comfortable as a dangerous outsider gave me a reputation of being an annoying ass who nobody wanted to be around. Socially, I was stunted, and it's taken a lifetime of personal development to break through some of that.

To address your question "Is it because of the Croatian nondemocratic socialist government heritage? Or is it an European thing?" I cannot speak to Croatia, but I did go to the Netherlands for a few summers as a kid. It seemed like the kids on the playgrounds there were consistently mean to me too, and sometimes I would act threateningly to show them that I wasn't to be trifled with.




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