“Mean words can mean so much to those against whom they are spat. They may only take seconds to voice, but a lifetime to internalise. I have known numerous adults still affected by the verbal taunts and bullying they received as a child at school, twenty and even thirty years after they’ve been callously thrown at the victim. They pierce the body like a wrapping of barbwire and replay in the mind of the plagued adult like a stuck gramophone needle that stubbornly refuses to move on, spiking a sense of remembered pain.
During my life as a Probation Officer, I was to meet so many adults (mostly female, but not exclusively so), who still bore the pain of name calling they endured at school as a child or teenager. It is not unusual today to hear about the tragic death of some young girl or boy who found it easier to take their own life then have to face the verbal abuse of their peers a moment longer.
Unfortunately there will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge you. It is a fact that we all must face, but none of this makes it acceptable or easier for the person in the firing line, especially if they keep quiet about the bullying that is taking place and tries to deal with it themselves.
When name calling isn't successfully dealt with or resolved in childhood, it can mushroom into insidious threats in adult life, especially for the female. Sometimes that bullied person will retreat into themselves and become one of life's pushovers, and sometimes they may over-react to prior experiences and go on to become a parent and bully their own child mercilessly!
While often it is the boys who set the trap for bullying, girls are often foolishly used to push the victim (usually other girls) into it in a collusion of the cruelest of peer pressure.
I will never forget reading a novel by Fannie Flagg in the late 80s called 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe' in which one of the characters feared how others would see her if she did not conform to what was expected of her, particularly the judgement of men:
'She had stayed a virgin so she wouldn't be called a tramp or a slut; had married so she wouldn't be called an old maid; faked orgasms so she wouldn't be called frigid; had children so she wouldn't be called barren; had not been a feminist because she didn't want to be called queer and a man hater; never nagged or raised her voice so she wouldn't be called a bitch. She had done all that and yet, still, this stranger had dragged her into the gutter with the names that men call women when they are angry.'
It seems to be an unfortunate fact, but name calling in one's childhood can stay with the victim throughout their life and keep them constantly responding to the expectations of others. Feeling unworthy as a child can also lead one in adulthood into abusive relationships!
In today's world of instant communication and the power of social media, ponographic pictures of pleasured moments between a girl and boyfriend can be maliciously posted on the phone for the world to see by a spurned partner and previously unblemished reputations ripped to shreds in public view of an unforgiving mob. All girls and young women out there, do not fall into this foolish trap of being photographed in compromising situations, however much you like the boy or believe he'll never show another.
There are far worse things to befall a person than physical violence which is more easier to address. I would go so far as to say that it is far less cruel to deliberately break another's leg or arm than to call them a name that besmirches their character or casts doubt upon their good name. Broken bones mend with time, whereas name calling and character assassination can last a lifetime!" William Forde: May 15th, 2016.