Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Musings about bullying and victimisation

There has been much talk lately about cyberbullying. And with good reason. I suspect that the feelings people have when they are bullied are the same, regardless of whether the bullying is conducted in the physical or the virtual, by snail mail or text message. What follows is a description of my own current experience.

Over this past weekend, the whole family was indoors when a large clod dirt suddenly hit the window ledge and shattered. We raced outside to investigate, only to have to duck as several more followed. My husband called out for the perpetrators to stop. We stood on chairs to see whether we could identify the assailants, who began to throw rocks at us. One narrowly missed my elder son's head. By this time, I had picked up the phone and dialled the police. My son called out to the perpetrators that this was the case. Another barrage of rocks answered.

The policewoman on the phone asked me who was doing this and why. She kept insisting that we must be able to describe the people, but of course, we were too busy ducking rocks to get a proper look, and between volleys, they were too careful not to be seen. We were able to see which house the rocks were coming from, were unable to identify the address, since the house is in a street that backs onto ours. This, too frustrated the policewoman who felt we should be able to provide this information.

When we bought this house almost two years ago. Many who knew us read into the purchase the decision to set down roots in the UK. Perhaps they were right, but since we moved into the house, I have had cause to call the police several times - something we have not had to do before.

Some of those times, I have already posted about. In addition, there have been other incidents of stone throwing; there has been the theft of bicycles; eggs being thrown at our house; my car being "keyed;" my younger son being threatened and harassed on his paper round. The only time the police have actually come here was after the happy slapping incident (see link above). This is because the others have been petty crimes and no-one has been hurt.

What I can say, though, is that many of these minor crimes add up. They wear a person down. While I recognise that many of the incidents are random, there has been a veritable campaign of egg- and stone-throwing. After this last incident, I informed my husband, "I don't want to live here anymore." He asked whether I was referring to the house or the country, and to be honest, I don't know the answer to that one. I feel victimised, singled out. I know in my head that the police have bigger fish to fry, but I feel abandoned and unsupported. And if I were to run away from the problem, where could I go where I could be sure that it wouldn't be just the same... or worse?

I imagine that all victims of bullying feel this same sense of helplessness and puzzlement. Why me? Why us? What have I/we ever done to them?

Note: we were subsequently able to identify one of the people as a boy from my sons' school who, together with his father, plays cricket with my husband and elder son for the local village team. And of course, I am agonising over what we have done to him to warrant this kind of treatment - there has certainly been no sign of acrimony during the long Sunday afternoon cricket matches.

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