Sunday, 10 January 2016

Bullying - Why it Can Never be Ignored - Eve Ainsworth

I get the opportunity to talk at lots of schools and to discuss the themes in Seven Days. I always start by explaining why I wrote the book and why bullying is such an important subject to be discussed.

I also talk about my own experiences as a teenager. How I was spat on for having ‘frizzy hair’. How I was followed all the way home and tormented for having an old fashioned name. How I was picked on for having the wrong shoes, clothes and even voice. How I was threatened that I’d be ‘beaten to a pulp’ because my bag was from a charity shop. Two years of my secondary school existence were lonely, frightening and pitiful. I hated myself and I hated being a ‘victim’. Looking back, I still detested the stigma that being bullied has left with me.

Talking to other authors, it seems I’m not alone. Many others share an experience of being bullied that still remains with them today. It’s interested how many people have had their lives touched or harmed by bullying.

Sheena Wilkinson –

When I was 13, I was bullied on the bus by a girl from another school. She used to shout things out about me in a really loud voice. She was a friend of my best friend Elizabeth, so I suppose she was jealous of us being in school together. I don't remember anything she said but I remember being terrified to get the bus. I don't think I did overcome it, because I avoided her: my morning was spent juggling bus times to ensure I didn't get the one she was on. I used to arrive at school ridiculously early, but I never told anyone why. When I wrote a novel about bullying (Too Many Ponies, 2013), I gave the boy a lot of the feelings I'd had. On a happier note, Elizabeth and I are still great friends and Too Many Ponies is dedicated to her!

Sheena Wilkinson is the award-winning author of several novels for young people. Her most recent book is Name Upon Name, set in 1916.


Caroline Green -

I basically spent secondary school in a state of fear! There were so many scary girls, but one in particular, would sit and hiss nasty things at me in Maths lessons for months and months. She kept saying she wanted to fight me, which was a horrible prospect, even though she was physically smaller than me. It culminated with her trying to start a fight outside the Maths block one day. I pushed her away and hurried off, trembling with terror and humiliation. To my amazement, she didn't follow me but spread a rumour around our year that she had beaten me up. People soon moved on and so did she. Weirdly, I never told a soul that this was happening to me at the time.

Caroline Green is the award winning author of four Young Adult books, including Cracks and Hold Your Breath.


Emma Pass -

I was born with a mild form of cerebral palsy which meant I had to wear a cast, and then a brace on my left leg almost the whole time I was at school. With such an obvious 'difference' I found it hard to make friends, and was teased and called names – primary school was particularly miserable. I was too ashamed to tell anyone what was happening – I thought it was my fault and that I deserved it somehow – so I retreated into a world of books and stories to help me cope. As soon as I could I fled my home town, never to return! I'm lucky to have good friends now but I still remember those overwhelming feelings of fear and shame. If I could give one piece of advice to someone who's being bullied, it would be to TELL SOMEONE. No one deserves to be bullied for any reason, and the bullies themselves are often unhappy and need help themselves.

Emma Pass is the award winning author of YA novels ACID and The Fearless, both published by Random House in the UK, and Delacorte in the US. She lives with her artist husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands, and when she's not writing she runs writing workshops in schools and community settings.


Byrony Pearce -

I struggled with bullying in school for years, from the age of 9 to about 15. When I was almost 12 the popular girl really took against me. She had the entire class chanting 'we hate you, get out of the classroom', the teacher did nothing - I sat alone in lessons, I sat alone at break and lunchtimes, except for when I was being hit, kicked, verbally abused etc.
This went on for quite some time, but fizzled out when the next thing came along and distracted her. A few months later I thought high school would be a fresh start, but she told everyone from other schools that I was a gypsy and lived in a caravan (I wasn't). I was buried in sandpits, called names (it didn't help that my mother didn't approve of buying new clothes, or shaving, so I had hairy legs and wore thrift shop outfits, and I was a straight A student). I was 'gorilla', 'frigid', 'hairy legs', 'gyppo' ...
I was sexually assaulted in lessons by a boy who kept putting his hands up my skirt, I was beaten up on the bus -it seemed never ending.
Eventually I learned to fight back - literally. I beat the hell out of the 'leader of the pack' and she didn't dare come at me, or let her mates come at me, again.
In sixth form I made a huge effort to reinvent myself, I forced myself to make friends, to be outgoing, I faked it till I made it and by the time I got to uni had made some true friends.

Bryony Pearce writes books that she would like to read herself, supernatural thrillers, dystopian adventures and science fiction aimed mainly at teenagers (but she welcomes readers of all ages). She enjoys running school visits and events and can generally be found reading, writing and ferrying children from place to place. For more information visit her website


Keren David -

I was bullied on the school bus - some boys from a different school thought it was hilarious to shout about sex and me, very loud so the whole bus could hear. I was 11, very sheltered and innocent, had no idea what they were even saying half of the time, but didn’t know what to do or say. I remember the awful feeling of shame and helplessness, and other (older) girls commenting 'Oh, it's a shame' and 'She doesn't know what to do' as though I couldn't hear. There was an adult escort on this bus, she did nothing. Horrible. It made me want to be hard and tough and able to cope with anything - I remember when I was working for tabloid papers thinking 'I could deal with those boys now, I'm in their world.
Keren David started in journalism as a teenager, and worked for many national newspapers and an international photojournalism agency. She is the author of six YA books including her award-winning debut When I Was Joe.

Rhian Ivory


I moved primary schools when I was 6 into a class where there were only 5 girls. I became the 6th girl. There was a leader and all the other girls followed what she said and did. I didn't. We clashed. She bullied me for 5 years until we moved to another area. She would send me to coventry banning the other girls from talking to me, she made fun of my red hair and freckles, she made fun of my mum's makeup and my 'happy little family', she punched me in the stomach daily taking care not to leave any visible marks on me. She pushed me into the school pond and got me sent home from school in disgrace covered in frogs spawn and weeds. She would whisper in my ear during church terrible things about my mum and dad who were sat in the congregation. She cut my hair, she pinched me, she scratched my arms and denied it when anyone confronted her. Even when we moved away she still sent me letters threatening to come and visit me and find me. She ended up in prison which made me a feel a bit better but I'll never forget those years and how she made me feel and it was all because I wouldn't blindly follow her like the other girls did.

Rhian wrote her first novel during her first few years in teaching.
She got her first publishing deal at 26 and went on to write three more novels for Bloomsbury. She took a break to have three children and during this time taught Creative Writing and also a Children’s Literature course for the Open University. The Boy who drew the Future is her fifth novel. She is a National Trust Writer in Residence, a Patron of Reading and a WoMentor.

As painful as these stories are, I hope that they show just how the scars of bullying never really go. I’d also like to thank all these authors for volunteering their experiences.

Bullying may be isolating. But we must keep reminding the targets that they are never, ever alone.



Eve Ainsworth is the author of 7 Days, a novel that explores bullying from both the bully and victims perspective. She regularly gives school talks and runs workshops on this matter. Her next book, Crush, will look at toxic and controlling relationships.  7 Days has recently been nominated for the 2016 Carnegie Medal.


Emma Barnes said...

These are really painful to read. Thank you all for sharing your stories. I don't think anyone reading them could fail to realise how much suffering is caused by bullying - so often ignored or belittled by adults in the past (hopefully things might be better now?)

Nick Green said...

God. There were bullies at my all-boys school but nothing like that bad. Do you think girls tend to be worse?

Eve Ainsworth said...

I've seen awful bullying between boys too. In fact one of the worst cases I dealt with was a boy.

Ngọc Nguyễn said...

Thanks your posts ! This great !!!!
Thiet Ke Nha Dep |
Thiet Ke Nha |

Becca McCallum said...

I was bullied at school when I was four or five years old. I was the the smallest (although not the youngest) in my class. The other children thought it was great fun to chase me around the playground every day trying to catch me, then pick me up and spin me around. On one occasion they spun me so hard that my head hit off the playground wall and cut and bruised it. I don't remember them ever being punished for this, but I switched classes, and the year after I changed schools. Years later I met the ring-leader (a girl who shared my name) and she greeted me like we'd been friends. She had no idea that her actions had caused me so much mental anguish.

Later on in primary school, my 'best friend' suddenly stopped talking to me and went off with another group of girls. I have no idea why she did this, but I went from being a well-adjusted school pupil with lots of friends to being a loner practically over-night. I don't actually remember this, but my mother brought it up when I was talking about finding it hard to trust people. Thankfully I never had to deal with extreme bullying, or physical harm from bullies, but it just shows the extent to which seemingly small events can affect children, even later on in their lives.