Little girl isolated

Originally posted in 2012, now updated

As we hear the news that a 16-year-old Australian boy who had been bullied so much that he tried to kill himself has finally died from his injuries, and of an Ohio school student who was marginalised and bullied and who tragically took a gun to his classmates, we are again reminded of the awful dangers of bullying.

The events in Ohio are too recent and too unclear to comment upon in any detail. But we know the story of Dakoda-Lee Stainer who two years ago tried to end his own life: bullies at his Kempsey school had tormented him mercilessly for months, and on this particular day he had been accosted by a gang of teens.

He survived the suicide attempt, however was clinically dead for 30 minutes.

Dakoda-Lee suffered irreversible damage to his windpipe and was left terminally ill with severe brain damage. He was unable to speak or walk and had to eat through a tube in his stomach.

The high school student was raised in Toowoomba but moved to northern NSW in 2007.

His mother, Tess Nelson told the Toowoomba Chronicle in November: “We live every day as we can and we help him as much as we can. If his windpipe collapses it might be his last breath.”

On Valentine’s Day this year, Dakoda-Lee passed away in Caboolture Hospital. We pass our heartfelt admiration and sympathy to his carers, family and friends.

Ever since his tragic accident, his mother, has been campaigning to give a voice to her son who had lost his own.

The Facebook group ‘See justice done for Dakoda-Lee Stainer’ says “Please join my group and we can speak for him. justice must be done, criminal charges laid and compensation given. And maybe together we can help make a change.”

According to News Limited and Yahoo, Dakoda-Lee’s stepfather Bill Kelly, is suing the NSW Department of Education and Communities for damages. The family claims it breached its duty of care.

What can you do?

Re-blog this page, re-post it to Facebook, email around this article to your friends. Especially, but not exclusively, if you’re an Aussie, because on Friday 21 March, schools throughout Australia will join together to celebrate the annual National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

For more information, please visit Bullying No Way or their Facebook page.

A lifetime ago, and for many years, at boarding school near London, I was mercilessly bullied.

Brutally. Repeatedly. Continuously.

In what amounted to nothing more nor less than emotional, psychological and physical torture, I was ruthlessly teased, beaten, humiliated, and marginalised.

I was picked on primarily because I was creative – a writer, singer and actor – and unusually intelligent and sensitive in a school environment that largely mistrusted those qualities. And because the pack or the mob always seems to need a victim to unite against, and because once a child at school is accorded victim status it takes an earthquake to turn things around, this lasted from the age of about 11 until about 16.

I came from a middle class home in the south of the country, most of my classmates came from working class homes in the north.

I was obviously from Welsh stock. Not very tall, and slightly overweight. (This later helped me be an effective rugby player, playing hooker in the middle of the pack, which re-aligned my community status a little.)

I missed my home and didn’t hide it.

I also had bad breath which no amount of tooth brushing seemed to cure. (In later life I discovered I have sleep apnea and have probably had it all my life from birth due to a combination of nasal and soft palate deformities – as a result my mouth would dry out at night.) Needless to say, no social or medical intervention was offered.

Teachers can be bullies, too. You know who you are.

Complaining to teachers about the treatment meted out to me was usually met with advice to “toughen up” and “fight back”, and often a sneering assumption that I was somehow responsible for my own bullying. One teacher in particular would deliberately curry favour with my pupil cohort by bullying me himself. He is probably dead now, which is a shame, as I would like to land just one mighty blow on his ugly, smug little face. I hope he rots in the deepest most lonely corner of hell. I’m sorry that those thoughts are ignoble, and beneath me. Walk a mile in my shoes.

At stages in my life, when reacting to stress, I have struggled with both depression and obsessional compulsive disorder.

(I am reasonably well at the moment, thank you, and have been for some time.) I ascribe both, in overwhelming measure, to my school experiences. I still have nightmares: I am now 54.

That I have grown, eventually, into a moderately well-adjusted adult with a working quantity of cheerfulness, stoicism and self-esteem cannot hide the scars I still carry from this experience.

I am, for example, by nature, somewhat “conflict averse”. In a conflict situation at home or at work I will commonly either over-react with anger, frustration and fear, or under-react, with acquiescence and grudging agreement. I have had to learn, step by painful step, to assert my point of view quietly and good-naturedly in these situations, and not to take any opposition personally (as it rarely is personal), and to laugh off minor setbacks. I expect to have mastered this skill by the age of about 80, which will leave me just enough time to get on well with the bossy busy-body nurses in my retirement home, and even my killjoy gerontologist when he tells me that a road-trip grape-grazing in the Yarra Valley would probably be counter-productive at my age.

I eventually managed to bring the bullying under some sort of control by one day losing my cool altogether and belting two tons of shit out of a couple of big kids who were the ringleaders.

I surprised myself. I certainly surprised them.

This didn’t fix the problem entirely, but it ameliorated it. Needless to say, this was an antiquated, barbaric response to a barbaric problem, and it should never have come to that. It was probably fortunate that I was not living in a country with free access to firearms, or the place might have been minus a few students and at least one teacher. Perhaps two, thinking back.

Many school bullies, interviewed later in life, express bitter regret at their behaviour, and talk of how they too felt isolated and frightened, and how they fell into leadership of the pack and a cycle of poor behaviour that they felt unable (or unguided) to leave. Some of them report carrying those behaviours over into adult life, causing themselves and others great sadness.

The victims of bullying frequently take their own lives, or suffer the torments of hell trying to re-establish the self-esteem and sense of safety that should never be stripped away from a child.

So what can you do?

Make the world a better place. 

At the very least, click now and get behind Bullying No Way in your school community: as a start, ask what your school is doing to participate. Consider in what ways the principles involved could be utilised in your family and workplace, too.

If you are overseas and reading this, ask your school or education authorities whether they should be running similar programs.

And above all – above all – if you’re a parent – ask your child if they are ever bullied. Including “online” bullying, now, a horrible new phenomenon. And listen to their answer with fierce attention.

Or find out if they bully anyone else.

And if either is true, do not ignore it, or hope it will go away, or brush it off and dismiss it. Work out what action to take to correct the situation. Get professional help if necessary.

Because sooner or later, bullying is a problem for all of us. And it maims – and even ends – lives.

  1. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Like you my school years were hellish, it took years for me to learn to stand up for myself. Like you I also still fight some of my reactions (fight or flight).

    The situation in Ohio is still being sorted, however it appears that the young man was not a victim of school bullying. He was a loner and his home life was less than ideal, violent and dysfunctional, this is a different a likely much more difficult problem.


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  5. HOW did this story BECOME “All About Stephen Yolland?”

    i.e.: “…He is probably dead now, which is a shame, as I would like to land just one mighty blow on his ugly, smug little face. I hope he rots in the deepest most lonely corner of hell. I’m sorry that those thoughts are ignoble, and beneath me. Walk a mile in my shoes.”

    As WELL as:

    “It was probably fortunate that I was not living in a country with free access to firearms, or the place might have been minus a few students and at least one teacher. Perhaps two, thinking back.”

    And at age54, you CONTINUE to “seek acceptance” through TOTAL “strangers” via the Internet.

    What is YOUR CHILD doing at “this moment?” (While YOU bask in your Retirement Community?)

    SHARE (make as “public”) your Credentials for suggestions to those of us who “read between the lines;” BOTH your formal words, and “delinquent solutions.”

    At age 11, (1992) MY SON would have pulled me off to the side, during one of your “episodes,” and SUGGESTED,
    “Mom? I don’t like that guy. He’s nuts. Come on. Let’s go get a Funnel Cake and ride the Ferris Wheel.”


  6. INSTILL/TEACH YOUR CHILDREN “Self Esteem” and “Self Confidence” and NO ONE or NOTHING can BREAK them… Their STRENGTHS in their “decisions” (upon themselves, and others) BEGINS with their UPBRINGING.

    YOUR OWN ISSUES lie upon YOUR whom ever “raised you.”


    • I do not have issues, Johnny’s “Mom”. Certainly not in the way you suggest. I take issue with a casual response to bullying that is epitomised by your comments. That I survived the experience of my school is essentially down to the very characteristics you mention installed in me by my mother, and through my own guts and determination. But if you think that “Self Esteem” and “Self Confidence” are the only weapons needed against sustained bullying you are sadly mistaken.

      People who are bullied need support and intervention, and so do those bullying them. And remember, also, that bullying doesn’t just happpen at school, it happens in workplaces, in the military, over gender and sexuality issues, and in families.

      I do wonder, however, at why your responses are so uncaring, and thoughtless. Were you bullied? Were you a bully?


  7. For heaven’s sake, what an intemperate response. The only one I have received from amongst dozens of supportive ones, by the way.

    The story became “all about me” because I was trying to show, from my personal experience, how bullying is much more than a transient and facile problem – which clearly you think it is from your shallow comment about how your son would have dealt with my “situation”. Or maybe he was lucky enough never to have really been bullied.

    “I don’t like that guy”? I was in a boarding school, my widowed mother was a hundred miles away. I was frequently physically and psychologically assaulted by crowds of boys – 20 … 30 … at a time – with no responsible adult within a mile.

    I have “Approved” your comment because I do not censor others who comment on my blog posts unless they are defamatory. Your comments aren’t defmatory, they’re just ignorant.

    And I love the way you assume knowledge of my currentl life based on what I wrote. For your information, my child is not only well adjusted and well loved but also a highly successful 20 year old. And I am not in a nursing home yet.

    And thanks for the advice that I get some help. You will note, when you read the article more carefully, that my psychological state is now well enough to write about the experiences of more than 30 years ago. When I read replies like yours, it is even more obvious why I am right to do so.


  8. I just shared this on my facebook page. I volunteer in a first grade class and it breaks my heart the level to which bullying has escalated. I was born with Cerebal Palsy and survived my fair share of mean kids. I would not want to be a young person in today’s world.


  9. Nicholas says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, and l love your site layout. It’s nice and clean.


  10. Anonymous says:

    I can now trully say that i have been converted into a loyal fan!


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