My first memory of bullying was at primary school. I must have been about ten years old and at the end of lunch break one day a girl came over and punched me really hard in the stomach. She knocked the wind out of me and I doubled over in shock and pain whilst I got my breath back.
I told the teachers what had happened, they called both sets of our parents and we all ended up in the headteacher’s office to talk about what had happened.
So what had happened?
She slipped, apparently.
After that she’d made comments every so often and call me names. I ignored it and the following year we went off to different secondary schools.
Bullying at secondary school
At secondary school I experienced bullying that was on a whole different scale to that first encounter. From the age of 11 when I started secondary school I was picked on, constantly and consistently. There was a group of boys, 4 or 5 of them, who would make sure they would always sit behind me in class.
They’d call me names throughout the lessons and they’d kick the back of my chair, pulling it out from under me when I went to sit down. This group of boys tormented me day in and day out throughout the 5 years of secondary school.
At the same time there was a group of girls who were just as awful but they stuck to name calling and threats, they never touched me. That is until the last year of school when they cornered me in the girls locker room and poured bottles of water over my head during lunch break. Absolutely soaked for the rest of the day.
Both groups of school kids had friends in the higher years and I found that I would often get called names in the playground or get shoulder barged in the corridors by people I didn’t even know.
I turned into a recluse at school, I had a couple of friends who were also bullied by people – all the social rejects stick together at school, you’re either a reject together or you’re completely alone.
I would stick with this group of outcasts as much as possible but would still spend breaks hiding in the school corridors, reading a book and eating my packed lunch or hiding in the toilets. Anywhere to immerse myself in a world of fiction and get away from my actual awful school days.
There are a couple of times that stuck in my head as occasions when my bullying came to a head. The first was when I was 14 and in year 9 at school. I was on the bus with my best friend at school, both going home for the day.
We were sitting on the top floor of the bus, next to the stairs and a lot of older kids from our school were at the back of the bus. At that point I didn’t know who they were – you never, ever, looked at the back of the bus and never, ever made eye contact with anyone.
I became aware of them saying things about me, making the usual ginger comments, swearing and calling me names. The next thing I knew, the bus was stopping suddenly in the local town centre and everyone at the back of the bus got up and made their way down stairs in a blizzard of school uniform and backpacks.
Whilst they swarmed past they all spat on me and my friend. Big ‘gobby’ spit, in my hair, on my blazer. Everywhere. I have never felt so humiliated as I did at that point. My friend got off the bus very soon afterwards and I made my way home, a couple more bus stops and then a 20 minute walk.
When I got home I was really upset by the whole situation. My Mum opened the door as I walked up the path and said she’d had a call from my friend’s Mum. She wasn’t going to be friends with me anymore, her Mum didn’t want her getting dragged into the bullying too.
At that point I lost my best school friend.
I then went, with my parents, to speak to my head of year. My parents were adamant the bullying had to stop. My head of year listened to everything we all said and then he said something that has stayed with me for the last 15 years.
‘My wife is Sri-Lankan. She walks down the street and people call her names, shout at her. She’s used to it now, she expects it when she leaves the house, she knows that she’s different. Donna, you have red hair, you’re a redhead. You’re different to other children, you’re going to get picked on and you need to get used to that like other natural redheads. If I were you, I’d grow a thick skin, ignore it and get used to it.’
Things must have been different 15 years ago as this was how things were left. Discrimination was just accepted. The kids involved got suspended for a week and I was then picked on even more when they came back to school. I didn’t tell anyone though, I was red haired, I was going to get picked on because of it, I was just going to accept it and get used to it.
Day in and day out I had kids calling me names. I had ginger hair, braces and glasses. I stopped wearing glasses and muddled through with not being able to read the board in class and not being able to see what number bus was coming when I was standing at the bus stop – anything to give them one less thing to pick on me for. The braces came off when I was 15 too but they still had my hair colour to use as ammunition.
Everything came to a head again in my last term of secondary school before my GCSE’s started. I remember doing a PE lesson where we played badminton. One group would be on the court and another group would wait at the side.
One minute I was standing on court, with my badminton racket, waiting to return a serve when I was hit in the back and the back of my head with shuttlecocks. One after the other, full force. Smack, smack, smack. Dozens of them. I turned around, waving my arms around to stop the barrage of missiles and ran out of the sports hall – straight into our PE teacher.
She told me to get back in the hall or she’d be giving me a detention. I tried to explain that whilst she was out of the room I’d been put under fire by the group of boys I mentioned earlier, but the PE teacher wouldn’t listen. I ended up with not only the physical bruises but an even bigger dent to my self esteem and a detention too. Amazing.
Later in that same week I was in my design tech class. I was helping another kid in a woodworking room when one of the boys started calling me names. I ignored it and he carried on. Then he started pushing me around.
He obviously knew that this was one of his last chances to pick on me as school was finishing soon. He pushed me and I backed away instinctively and before I knew it I was backed into a corner and he had a metal woodworking file in his hand.
He started smacking me with this file and I put my arms up to block the blows. The teacher walked in and he stopped. I went to speak to the teacher, my arms throbbing, but the teacher was busy and didn’t want to know.
A couple of days later it was the last day of term. We were free apart from our GCSE’s. I walked out of the school gates and immediately realised I was being followed. The group of boys were behind me and I just kept walking.
I knew I couldn’t get the bus, I couldn’t stand still and let them catch up which they would if I waited for a bus. No-one at school would stick up for me, I was on my own, I had to get away. So I kept walking.
I used to get a bus all the way home, about 30-40 minutes and then a 20 minute walk afterwards but instead I just walked. I walked as quickly as I could and the boys kept walking too.
I got to the point where I’d usually be getting off the bus and the kids were still there. It was a completely different town, none of them lived there, they were following me and I was scared. I started to walk quicker.
The boys were walking quicker too and I had to run. I ran quicker than I’ve ever ran before and the boys were right behind me. Somehow I made it to my front door, into my house, and sat behind the door getting my breath back.
My Mum asked what had happened, what was wrong but I made something up about missing my bus and not wanting to miss Neighbours on the TV. I’d stopped telling them about my bullying literally years before – why would I mention anything now?!
That night I wrote a letter to my headteacher. told him everything that had happened over the 5 years at the school and I told him how let down I felt. I told him about the teachers that had turned a blind eye, the times when I’d had no support.
I told him about my lack of self esteem, my lack of confidence, how I couldn’t bare to make eye contact with people or talk to anyone I didn’t know. I opened up about how upset I was, how at times my school days had made me feel almost suicidal, how I just didn’t see the point in getting up in the morning and how I would dread walking through the school gates each day.
I explained how I’d got used to being picked on, I was a red head after all, and that I hoped, despite my years of bullying, that I would walk away from school with decent GCSE results and that the bullying would ultimately make me a stronger person, that I would not let the bullying define me and that I would learn from every single thing that I had experienced throughout my school years.
The headteacher sent a message to see me during my 2 day art GCSE exam. I went to his office and sat in a chair opposite him. I maintained a tough exterior, I wasn’t upset by the bullying any more, I knew I wouldn’t cry.
I was hardened to it all, I’d grown a thick skin and I knew I just had to get through my exams and I would never have to set foot in school again. My headteacher said something that I wasn’t expecting.
He apologised for the years of bullying I’d endured and he promised me that no other child in the school would suffer in silence like I did.
I’d like to believe that in the last 13 years since I left school that he kept that promise. I feel that, to the best of his knowledge, no other child did suffer. I know he would never turn a blind eye to bullying like the teachers under him had done.
But there are always going to be teachers that want an easy life and don’t want the aggravation of dealing with detentions, suspensions or even expulsions.
My school years were hell and my parents split up the week before my GCSE exams started. But school taught me so much. It taught me how amazing the english language is, it gave me a love of reading and introduced me to books I would otherwise not have read – The Great Gatsby & To Kill a Mockingbird, school taught me how to use my imagination, to dream and believe in things.
Ultimately school taught me to be the bigger person and that we are not purely a product of our past – our future is there for the taking.
If you’d like to read more, I’ve written about how much I dislike National Kiss a Ginger Day, why I can’t just get over my childhood bullying, why bullies bully and when bullying is a police matter.
If you are being bullied or are trying to come to terms with bullying that happened to you at some point in your life, visit Bullying UK for more information. They have helplines for bullying and there is always someone that can help.
75 thoughts on “My Experience of Ginger Bullying”
I am a redhead and hated school growing up and hated myself. I was bullied for being a redhead and made to feel like I was a complete alien. Boys used to ask me out, and I so wanted it to be real, and then they would mock me and laugh at me and say we would never go out with a ginger. As I got older the worse it got, but then I started to fight back, boys or girls, and I ended up in loads of fist fights. I got in trouble even though I would be defending myself and so on. It took a few years for me to pick up my self-esteem, and gain my confidence, but I was determined too. I started off with small things like making myself look people in the eye when talking to them, a simple thing that I found so hard. Growing up at school my saving grace was my best friend, from the age of 2 we became friends, and to date 33 years later we are still as close as sisters. I dread to think how it would have been without her there, sticking up for me, telling them to leave me alone.
P.S when I got to the part where you sat down and wrote that letter so bravely, I sobbed – your legacy that probably saved other children from being ignored by being bullied. xx
I can relate to the boys asking you out bit. I ended up getting a boyfriend at 16, the first boy to show an interest in me purely because he wasn’t from school, he didn’t know that I was a victim and he actually liked me. I wish in a way that I had been able to ‘pick’ my first boyfriend, have some say in it, rather than it being the first boy that came along.
I still now have issues with confidence, find it hard to meet new people, get nervous, stumble over my words and can’t hold eye contact – I push myself to do things though or I’d never leave the house! x
I can identify with the bullying and the intensity of it. My heart goes out to you, it really does. I was bullied most of my school life and, like you, my best friend turned away from me when I needed her most. That’s when I realised that she was no friend at all.
I was so angry when I read what the headmaster said to you. NO child should EVER have to put up with it! But I agree that some teachers seem to want the easy life. Some of mine certainly did. I saw that as weakness on their part. They have a duty of care to every child. Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching.
You’re a beautiful lady with a beautiful family. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this but when I do read stories like yours, it helps me to know that I’m not alone. So thank you for sharing. x
Thanks so much for reading and I am so sorry that you had to go through bullying too. I wasn’t sure whether to post this and waited 2 months before I did. Now I am so glad I had the nerve to click publish as it seems like so many people can relate x
Oh Donna, that made me cry. Why should anyone have to ACCEPT they will be picked on because of the colour of their hair! I was bullied at school when we moved from Surrey to Oxfordshire. I moved from a good school in a good area which I loved. I had had lots of friends and was happy. When I started my new school at 14, everyone already had their group of friends and I had a rather ‘plumy’ accent – they decided I was ‘posh’ and made my life hell for 2 years. It was such a tough time, being 14, moving away from everything I knew and facing bullying for the first time. My little brother used to walk me to and from school to ‘protect me’. School did nothing, I truly hope things have improved since I was at school, but I fear it’s just moved to ‘cyber bullying’ instead.
I too hope things have improved but I think things just evolve. Your Brother was so cute – Brothers are good like that, I bet you were glad to have him! My Brothers were a lot older than me unfortunately.
I hope we didn’t go to the same Surrey school! 😉 x
I’m so sorry you had to go through that, it must have been terrible. As a teacher I am completely disgusted by your schools response, how any teaching professional can ignore a child who is trying to tell them about some of the incidents you endured is shocking.
Kids can be so horrible at times, I really hope your bullies are sitting somewhere and are thoroughly ashamed of themselves!
I hope they are too but I doubt it, I really don’t think they were that bothered by it at all and would be surprised if they even remembered me!
I tell myself that schools have changed in 15 years, that teachers would never treat a child like that now but sadly I think in all professions there are a minority of people that like to take the easy route rather than the right one. Thanks for reading x
Reading this has brought back some many memories of my own school experiences. I was never physically bullied but I was subjected to years of tormented by a group of girls that I believed were my friends. It carried on until I snapped in my final GCSE year and refused to take any more. Like you, not one single teacher helped me, with one telling me that it was a shame as we were such good friends! I am disgusted that those paid to protect you did nothing but you should be incredibly proud of your strength to speak up. I hope that sharing your experiences have protected others from having to go through such physical and emotional pain x
I really hope sharing this has helped someone too – It helped me to write it. I’m so sorry that you experienced bullying too – It’s a lot more common than I ever realised x
Oh Donna I’m absolutely covered in goosebumps this post is incredible. You are so so strong and such a wonderful person for turning all that negativity into something positive. I’m so sorry you experienced all this torture. I was bullied a fair bit in school and know the dread, self loathing and helplessness that comes with it all. This post is something that anyone being bullied should read, you truly are an inspiring lady xx
I left this post in my pending folder for two months. Writing it made me feel better but I wasn’t sure there was any point in publishing it – The response has been amazing and overwhelming, I’m so glad I shared it x
Oh Donna this made me cry. Why are children so bloody awful to one another? You sound like you had a very tough time, and what horrible memories to look back on. But they make you a part of who you are, and from reading this blog and talking to you online, even just a small part of who you are I can tell that you are a kind, considerate lady who is a fantastic Mum. So kudos to you. You ultimately won in the end.
It makes me so sad to think of the possibility of my little girls going through tough times at school, I was never bullied but I had periods where other children were mean. School is so hard, and I wish I could wrap them up and protect them forever.
Sorry it made you cry Katie, I completely agree that I want to wrap A and T up forever and not let the world anywhere near them. I will do everything in my power to make sure that they never experience even a fraction of what I went through. Thanks for reading and commenting x
I was very moved by your post. I was under attack in my first primary school. Every day was nightmarish and there was no one to turn to at home either. It’s heart warming to hear how you turned it around for yourself.
I’m so sorry you also experienced bullying and that you didn’t have any support from home either. I often didn’t speak to my parents about it, but they were there. I’d also go home, fling myself on the bed and cry into my cat! Things were rocky after school for a few years but ti all worked out in the end x
This is a very brave post to write, and is so well written. I was bullied a bit through school – nothing horrendous but there were times and days that were horrible. I was glad to leave school, and have never looked back at that time with very good memories. I don’t think I could write about it though even now – you are brave.
I found it quite healing to write. It’s glad to get it out of my system finally but I also am glad I never have to go back to school x
What a brave post to write!! You beat the bullies in the end as you are such a strong, lovely person!!
I was bullied throughout school not physically but verbally and in the last year at school I ended up getting suspended for standing up to the main bully and smacking them right in the face….The bullying stopped! I’m not condoning violence but maybe if I’d done it in the first year at high school my school experience might of been totally different for me….
My Dad and I often had arguments where he’d say ‘Just hit them, they won’t do it again!’ and he’d get angry at me saying I couldn’t do that, I just couldn’t. I’m still glad I didn’t resort to hitting them but I do know that it probably would have stopped if I’d stood up for myself. Thanks for reading and sharing x
My sister was bullied for being ginger too – they poured vinegar in her hair in the school dining room 🙁
My little dude is ginger as you know but he’s so proud of his “special red hair” – I just hope it stays that way! A friend of mine has taught his daughter that her ginger her makes her strong and she loves it.
I hope that our children don’t have to suffer like you did. I am sure it will make you all the more concious of it when you’re children are at school x
I’m definitely going to make sure that LP doesn’t go through any of what I did. I love that she inherited my hair colour although it was my main worry during pregnancy – I was really concerned that the baby would come out ginger, I didn’t want to inflict that on anyone. As soon as I saw her, with her lovely full head of hair I realised I needn’t have worried. She will never experience what I did x
Nobody should have to endure what you went through. I’m pleased your head teacher listened and apologised.
Wow, this was tough for me to read. I could relate so much, my school years were similar but I was lucky enogh to move schools when I was 14 to one that was better. You have a much better attitude towards it than I do though, the lack of confidence and the mistrust of others has never left me. Well done for being strong, and writing that letter…I wish I had done something similar.
I wish I had changed schools but I think my parents believed that teacher to some extent – I should just get used to it, and would be bullied wherever I went. I still have confidence issues, I hate meeting new people, stumble over words and get incredibly nervous. There are some effects that will stay with me forever. Thanks for reading – sorry it brought back memories for you x
A great blog post Donna. I would be so ashamed of my children if they ever bullied anyone.
I’m married to a red head and when I found out we were expecting, his friend said to my husband “I hope your baby isn’t going to be ginger and suffer all of its life like you”. My response to his friend was quite simply F…O..
I did worry throughout my first pregnancy that my baby would come our ginger. Then LP was born, with a mop of red hair and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I didn’t worry after that – I will never, ever let history repeat itself and she will never, ever suffer the way I did xx
Oh Donna, this is awful. No-one should have to put up with bullying at any age. But most of all, especially as a teacher myself, it makes me angry that none of the teachers at your school did their job and looked out for you. I really hope that the headteacher kept his promise.
I really hope he did too. I googled him last night, I felt like having a conversation with him, wondered whether he remembered me, my letter and our chat in his office. Unfortunately he’s just stood down as head teacher due to poor health. I like to think that as he was in the job for 15-16 years that he was good at it and that things changed. Thanks for reading x
Wow. As someone who also spent a lot of school hiding in the loos, thanks so much for writing this. I hope the bullies who tormented you could also read this, to understand just how much damage they cause.
Thanks for reading, and sharing. Lunchtimes were definitely the worst, that hour would drag! I hope they read it too, it messed me up for a few years afterwards but it all worked out ok in the end x
I was bullied very bad as well. You are brave
I’m sorry you experienced bullying too, thanks so much for reading x
What a brave post. How terrible you had to endure that at school but amazing that you grew the thick skin, taught the headmaster a lesson and blossomed into a brave woman with a gorgeous family. Way to beat those pathetic bullies!
Thanks so much for reading – I definitely came out on top after a rough few years in between x
Such a powerful and moving post. Bringing back a lot of memories sadly. I never suffered quite so badly but my confidence and self esteem was thoroughly destroyed. I’m sorry you went through so much but today you seen a wonderfully string woman and mother x
So sorry that you experienced bullying too. My confidence was destroyed too – Even now I’m not great at meeting new people, I get incredibly nervous and am always worried about what people will think of me. I’m 29, it shouldn’t matter! I got a job in Woolworths at 15 and that really helped build my confidence, forced me to talk to people that I didn’t know. I definitely have my working life to thank for being able to lead a normal life! x
you went through hell Donna. No one should have to go through that. Its a disgrace that the school turned a blind eye to this. You often hear of kids turning to suicide as there only way out, and that just shows how bad things get for those poor people. I’m just glad you came out the other side and now have a gorgeous family and happy life. xxx
Thanks Bev, I’m so glad I came out the other side too – life couldn’t get much better at the moment 🙂 x
Donna, I read this earlier….it really upset me. I know teens can be a horrible breed at times, but to read such a personal and honest story really did worry me…..What if things haven’t changed and there are teachers they turn a blind eye and give out appalling advice, similar to that you received. What if one of my children turns out to be one of THEM and make another person’s life so sad?
I was never bullied and nor was I a bully, but I saw it happen. Looking back I wish I’d had the courage to stand up for others but I guess in some respects I feared they’d attack me too.
I am so sorry to hear the detail of your experiences but thank you, profoundly, for sharing. As a parent and a decent human being I will do my utmost to make sure my girls aren’t bullies, but perhaps even more importantly encourage them to be the friends that stick around.
Thanks for reading Hayley. Out of 35 comments you are the only one that has worried about their child being the bully, everyone else has worried about their child being bullied. But you’re right, someone’s child has to be the bully – As I’m sure bullying still exists.
I can why you wouldn’t stand up for others. so many people saw what was happening to me and just didn’t want to be associated with it – They wouldn’t even sit with me to eat lunch for fear of being tarred with the same ‘victim’ brush.
Your last comment, teaching your girls to be ones that stick around brought tears to my eyes. The whole of my bullying experiences would have been more bearable, not quite so bad, if I’d had a friend by my side. I was incredibly lonely as a teenager and that is definitely the best things your girls can do – Stick around. Thanks so much for the comment, it means a lot x
And seeing your reply has now brought tears to my eyes! People can be so cruel. I’ll try to make sure A&E aren’t, above everything else. X
Emotional reading, you have huge respect for telling your story. I had to take my daughter out if secondary school aged 12, as bulling was so bad she started running out if school( although they never stopped her or seemed concerned!). Like you, her best friend deserted her, if was heartbreaking.
No other school had places, so I home educated her ( while being a mum to 2 teen boys and a newborn!) and the difference in her was amazing. Then we moved house, got her into a school that looked friendly & smaller, she came home on her 1st day with 5 new friends who took her to the cinema. I cried! She gained enough confidence to carry on to college and is now at university. Her old head teacher told her ( & me) that she needed to change her personality to be a better person.. And this was only 9 years ago! I work in a school and would never, ever dream of ignoring a child’s call for help.
Oh I had tears in my eyes reading about your Daughter. How I wish I had changed schools and got new friends. The thought of going to the cinema as a teenager would have been amazing for me. A dream. I am so, so glad that your Daughter was removed from the situation and was able to flourish and make new friends – And didn’t change who she was. You must be so incredibly proud of her. Thank you so much for reading x
What a horrid experience school was, can’t believe how much you had to endure.
The teachers acted shamefully, and I do hope the headteacher, albeit too late for you, took action against any bullying.
You certainly come across as confident, I hope anyone experiencing bullying who finds this post is reassured that they neither have to suffer in silence and they will come out of it a stronger person.
When I wrote the post it was purely to get it out of my system, tell a story that I buried long ago and feel better for it. I had no idea how many people could relate to it and I didn’t even think of people reading it and it helping them – especially if they are experiencing bullying. I too hope it helps someone x
Such a brave post, and also incredibly upsetting. I’m disgusted by the teacher’s responses and in awe of the letter that you chose to write. I worry about my kids, too, when I think about bullying, as I’ve no doubt you do. I’m sure you have come out of it stronger, but no child should have to endure that. This must have been so hard to write, but so powerful to share xx
I had it sitting in pending for two months, it was very healing to write but I didn’t think it would do any good sharing it – How wrong could I be. I’ve had such an overwhelming response in comments and Twitter, I’m so glad I chose to publish it x
Oh Donna, what an upsetting post. It bought back a lot of memories for me. I was picked on at school for being the ‘fat’ one and although I never endured physical abuse, I still bare the mental scars of it all. Very thought provoking, big hugs xxx
Thanks for reading Emma, I hope it didn’t bring up too many awful memories for you – I’ve numbed myself to all this over the years but it still felt quite therapeutic writing it xx
Oh Donna this made me cry.
I can identify to an extent, during primary school there were no real groups and everyone generally got on, I don’t recall witnessing bullying or receiving it. Likewise in my first secondary school in Year 7, I was lucky enough to be a part of a more popular crowd but I don’t recall witnessing any bullying at all. For me, things changed the Summer that I finished Year 7 as we moved, so I entered Year 8 into an all girls school. Not only was I new, I was a “good girl”, short with big eyes and I was bullied. Name calling a lot. Occasional physical attacks. Much like you my mum went to the school, perpatrators were “punished” but nothing really changed. My experiences however, pale in significance to yours.
I truly hope your ex headmaster kept his promise. Xx
I’m sorry you were bullied too, this post has made me realise how common it is, sadly. I really hope he kept his promise too x
What a fantastic post, Donna. Very brave! I had to deal with bullying in school too but it wasn’t anything like this level, and my real problems were closer to home. It is hard to tell your story sometimes, so well done for sharing yours! Also, well done for writing that letter all those years ago.
I am so sorry to hear about the bullying you encountered and saddened to hear of the teacher’s reactions. I wish I could say I was more shocked but dispensing advice to “grow a thick skin” sadly used to be a more popular solution for teachers, than dealing with the situation properly. I am glad that you have come away with your love of the english language from school though.. you write so eloquently in this post.
I really hope your headmaster did his best to keep that promise.
I really hope he did his best to keep his promise too. Thanks for reading and I’m sorry you were bullied in school too x
Oh Donna, I’m so sorry. I had tears in my eyes reading this. How can anyone be so bloody nasty. I adore red hair, it’s such a shame that for some reason it makes people a target for such horridness xxx
I don’t understand it either, I adore LP’s hair and am so glad she has inherited it – I just hope she doesn’t face the same awful things I did! x
Oh that is truly awful Stacey! There were times when my parents nearly involved the police but thee were reasons they didn’t want to go down that path. The bullies definitely make us stronger! x
Oh I love your way with words! A-hole is an understatement. I’ve googled looking for him a few times but can’t remember his first name, didn’t get very far – Would love to have a conversation with him.
Writing this was definitely therapeutic, I’ve been sitting on it for a couple of months waiting for the right time to post, I realised there was never going to be a right time so just posted it – So glad that I did, the response has been overwhelming – I really didn’t realise how many people have experienced bullying in their lives and part of me is terrified that my little mini-me could go through the same thing x
Thanks for reading, before publishing this I didn’t really realise how common bullying was. I felt so alone and isolated growing up and felt like the only one experiencing it. The response has been overwhelming and writing it helped me a great deal x
Thanks Kelly, Bullying really does stay with you for a long time, I know I still have some of the effects of it – I get really nervous and lack confidence in so many situations – The thought of BritMums is terrifying! BUT I have to push myself to do these things or I’d never do anything! Thanks for reading xx
I am so glad I never have to go back! Thanks so much for reading x
Donna, thank you so much for writing this. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Bullying is absolutely horrid, I’ve been there, and the mental scars are still there 20+ years on, as much as I’ve tried to move on. I kept quiet about it too, since talking about it just made it worse. This is such a brave post. Much love to you.
This is an amazing post!
My husband was bullied in school after taking a long time off after having a serious case of glandular fever… this was apparently a valid reason to make someone’s life a living in hell. At the age of 31 he still can’t make eye contact with anyone that isn’t close family or one of the two friends that he has had ‘forever’ (funnily enough, not from school, from the street he lived).
I hope these horrible teenagers grew up and are riddled with guilt to this day. However, I doubt they would have the intelligence to do so… fingers crossed they are being bullied by someone just as mean as themselves in jail!
Thanks so being so brave and sharing, and I hope you continue to be the wonderfully confident mum and human being that you are.
Much love x
thank you for this post, it was brave and amazing that you were able to share this with us. I cant believe that this was only 13 years ago,. You have come through this and i bet you are a really understanding an emphatic person. I felt for you so much reading this post. I wonder what these bullies are doing now, I wonder of they regret it. it doesnt matter though, you are an amazing person, mother and I love your blog. I am also seething with anger at what they put you through…
This has brought a lump to my throat. It has brought back memories of how my sister was bullied badly at school, she went through hell all through her school years. My mum, many times reported this to the school but they did not seem to care.
On my sisters last day of school, the bullies pushed her to far and she just turned and hit them. ( I am so proud of her for this) It was then that the teachers openly applauded her for eventually standing up for herself. I cannot understand how they can say this but ignore how much damage this was doing through my sisters school years. For many years after leaving school she has been deeply affected, and developed anorexia, very low confidence.
My sister is 48 yrs old and about 5 years ago, her school bully contacted her and asked for forgiveness. Les refused to accept this and explained what hell she was put through and how it had affected her life. Thank fully she never heard from her again but it made my sister feel good telling her straight what she had done to her.
I worry for my little boy, and hope that he never has to go through what my sister and yourself have gone through. Children can be so cruel. Thank you so much for sharing this
Thanks for reading Anita and so sorry it brought back such awful memories for you. I hope you sister is happy in life now and it hasn’t effected her too much x
I was bullied. I was never ginger, I was curly, and no-one was curly in the 70’s until suddenly home perming became available, and Dollar hit the charts and suddenly everyone 13 or over was curly. It’s amazing what you put up with, heartbreaking really, and having older kids than you, we’ve had to go in and sort out situations where ours have been bullied. It brings it all back each time. It did make you stronger though, and I know it did me. I see repeatedly that horrid people attract horrid people, so they are welcome to their spite and nastiness filled lives. We get to call them on it publicly now too. We win.
We do! x
Donna, thank you for sharing this with us, it’s truly hideous what ‘children’ are capable of. I didn’t experience anything to the extent you did, mainly name calling that sort of thing, but even that alone can make school years exstremely uncomfortable.
It genuinely scares me to death about what my children may experience at school at the hands of other children.
Just read this Donna and thanks for sharing your experience… .I, like you, was bullied for years for having ginger hair. It started at upper school mainly from boys and really destroyed my self esteem. Sorry to hear you had to endure the same ;-( I wonder what those people are doing now and how they turned out? I managed to make it to university where I decided to dye my hair (gave in i suppose, thinking I wouldn’t be accepted) and to my surprise the colour of my hair didn’t matter to anyone! I felt free then. My daughter has red hair too, I hope she doesn’t go through what I went through… hopefully not but at least I am prepared for what could happen. I call it “colourist” we just need to teach our children that different is great and somehow made them brave to be different!
Hi Helen, thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it and I am so sorry you have been through a similar experience. I actually contacted one of my bullies and part of me wishes I hadn’t but I wrote about it here https://whattheredheadsaid.com/why-are-children-bullied/ and I wrote another post in response to someone telling me that by now I should just get over my childhood bullying – https://whattheredheadsaid.com/bullying-i-cant-just-get-move/ – No idea if these help at all but, my daughter has red hair too and I think as long as we instil confidence in our children, tell them how beautiful they are and teach them that there are mean people in the world but it isn’t a reflection on them that they will turn out ok x
What a brave and amazing piece to read. So grateful to you for sharing. I’m having sleepless nights worrying about what may happen to my two year old redhead when she starts school. I’m 45 and was bullied at school. Despite going on to have a successful career, and doing ‘well’ in life, I’m still floored by those awful memories. I carry my bullying story like a dirty secret that I feel so very ashamed of. In 2016 I sent a message on FB to one of bullies after being so moved by Lucy Alexander’s open letter following the tragic death of her son Felix. It was a short note just asking her if she remembered me. I had every intention of following up with some kind of emotional ‘dump’ of how her bullying had impacted me my whole life. But her response was so unexpected. Turns out that as an adult, this attractive, popular bully’s life had been littered with tragic events (cancer, a life changing riding accident, divorce etc). I was utterly amazed, and still am, that I felt absolutely no desire to respond. It felt as though she’d somehow been paid back. I kind of realised that I’ve gone on to achieve my success in spite of, and most definitely not because of, the bullying, and that just somehow helps, a little.
Sorry for the long post. So cathartic to write this. Just wish the worry for my two year old would go away. It’s sad, and maddening, that I’m pre-empting her going through the same.
Oh Ruth, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. My daughter was once that two year old. She’s nearly ten now and although I still have the niggles at the back of my mind, I don’t really have anything to worry about. I tell her constantly that she’s beautiful, that her hair is different and special and, so far, no-one has ever said anything negative about it.
We had one issue with a child being unkind a couple of years ago and I spoke to the teacher about it – and they sorted it out. But, talking to that teacher was so hard, I ended up crying in the playground and felt like a complete lemon. All the anxiety over her getting picked on and all my pent up upset about my own childhood came flooding out. I know that if I ever have to talk to teachers about issues again, I’ll still get upset. But, i’ll be prepared for it next time!
Athena is off to secondary school in just over a year and I hope that she has the foundations to get through it unscathed – unlike me! I’m sure your daughter will be just fine too xx
I went through the same thing all through primary and secondary school simply because I had had red hair and I identify with pretty much everything you experienced, the really sad thing is that not much has changed in the intervening years regarding the way teachers and schools in general deal with bullying, my own two children went on to be bullied, mainly in secondary school and any reports we made of this to their school fell on deaf ears most of the time which really saddens me. You hope that time moves on and the way these things are dealt with is much more serious, but no, it never changes and the bullies only learn that they can keep getting away with it, it’s shocking and wrong!