Nigerian parents have narrated the things bullying did to them as kids, teenagers.
Bullying is the use of violence towards a victim involving aggressive behaviour. Violence is a part of bullying and it involves a power imbalance between the bully and the bullied.
Lisa Kelechi is in her late 20s, but she is still traumatised by her experience with childhood bullies. Kelechi told DailySun that she was bullied a lot while she was growing up because of her petite body and stained teeth.
The Abuja-based fashion designer recalled that when it first started, she thought it was something that would last a week and then stop.
She added that when it continued for over a month, she resorted to crying and enduring the mean things the bullies in her school said to her. But when she got into secondary school, she said that she decided to fight back and paid the bullies she encountered in her school back then in their own coin.
“When I got into secondary school, I encountered some girls who started teasing me and calling me names because of my teeth. But instead of crying and hiding from them as I did in primary school, I decided to fight back.
That was how I became the bully. It is funny how being a bully brought me peace, but the downside is that I don’t have friends. This is because I get defensive whenever anyone tries getting close to me.”
For Shade Ogundele, a mother of two, the one place that should have been her safe haven was the place where she was bullied for years. She stated that her family members bullied her throughout her childhood. She said that she was laughed at and mocked for her appearance, her body shape and her weight.
“I was always given names and told not to wear tight jeans or skirts because I looked like a broom. I was called skeleton so much that I even became accustomed to the name.
I was bullied at school too and developed low self-esteem. It was as if I couldn’t catch a break at home or school. My teenage years broke me. I was always afraid of what would happen to me because of bullies.”
She revealed that she tried boosting her low self-esteem by working to be appreciated by her teachers, but she became a target for the bullies in her school instead.
She added that because she was never appreciated at home by her parents, siblings and family members, she worked twice as hard to gain the approval of her teachers and this infuriated some girls in her class.
“When I started getting into the good books of my teachers, many of my schoolmates and classmates targeted my body in order to ruin me more.
I would put my hand up every time a question was asked in class in order to get recognised but I would hear whispers at the back saying I liked to think I knew everything, and that they would deal with me during break time.”
She recalled that they would take her food and hide it, and then pour juice on her body which would stain her school shirts every time. She said that remembering what bullies did to her in school makes her shake with fear.
Ogundele added that she is now suffering from borderline personality disorder and depression because of the bullying she suffered. But she quickly added that she is getting better because she’s getting professional treatment.
Twenty-four-year-old Jeanie Obioma said that she was bullied by many people in her childhood because she has speech problems.
“When I decided to stop speaking altogether, they still bullied me and called me a snob, saying that I was too proud to associate myself with them. I’m an adult now, I don’t talk much. I don’t have friends even though I really want that. This is because being bullied made me dislike people so much.”
The Mass Communication graduate from the University of Lagos recalled a bullying incident she would never forget. She said that while she was in secondary school, a boy and his friends started picking on her.
She added that they would deliberately block her way and taunt her and it continued for weeks. Obioma said she reported the boys to her class teacher and they were punished but they decided to deal with her for daring to report them.
“One day during a quiz competition, these boys and some girls insisted that I must participate and speak for my group. I refused initially because I don’t speak well but they said that if they fail the subject, it is my fault.
During the quiz, they started laughing at me while I was talking and making funny sounds whenever I mispronounce a word. The whole class started mimicking me and laughing at me.”
Obioma stated that when she was being laughed at, she didn’t know when hot tears started flowing down her face but she continued with what she was saying.
“While they were booing me, I was talking. The more they booed, the more I spoke, I didn’t stop. Even though I felt bad, I didn’t want to give them the pleasure of seeing me defeated. My class teacher shushed them and when I finished, she gave me a standing ovation. I didn’t know when I started smiling while my eyes were full of tears.”
Nina Ebuka said that she wasn’t bullied as a child because of her jovial nature but she was bullied in her workplace as an adult. She said that it was new to her that someone in a position of authority would bully her for doing her job well.
“Two years ago, I started working with this branch manager that made me feel like the odd kid in the schoolyard. In fact, she bullied me until I prayed for God to separate us. Luckily, I got pregnant and went on maternity leave which means automatic transfer from the branch upon resumption.”
The mother of two said that when she resumed work, she made up her mind not to accept being bullied by anyone in her workplace. She added that she honed the skills of becoming the office terror because she wouldn’t allow anybody to put her through that unpleasant experience again.
Theresa Obi recalled that while she was in primary school, she loved going to school because she enjoyed associating with other children. But she noted that one of her classmates marred her beautiful childhood experience by bullying her.
“Waking up and going to school every day was something I looked forward to. We sang and played, so school was interesting. There was this boy called Uche who didn’t like me. He was my seatmate. He started bullying me in primary three.
He started by looking at me scornfully. He never liked that I could answer some questions right. He hated the fact that I was driven to and from school. He didn’t like that I had my other siblings to defend me. He just didn’t want me to be happy for any reason.”
Obi stated that suddenly, going to school was no longer fun for her. She said she dreaded spending time with him in school and any day he didn’t come to school, she would be happy and free. She added that he would push her off the seat for sitting too close to him and break her pencil.
She also recalled that he would hit her because she was happy and joking with other classmates. She added that he would fight her almost every day because he was physically stronger than her.
“I reported to my class teacher severally but nothing was done and he hated me more for reporting him. Every time we fought, we would be punished and flogged. That made me not fight back sometimes and just give in to his demands. I just didn’t know how to get him to leave me alone.”
Obi said that as the days went by, she became more defensive and full of rage. She narrated that one day, he came to bully her thinking it was business as usual.
She said that he wanted her seat space because there was a protruding nail on the side he sits on, but she refused. Her saying no, she recalled, infuriated him and he pushed her real hard and she fell, but she was determined to show him the other side of her. She added that there were no tears or pleas for him to leave her alone.
“I stood up, dragged him to the front and pushed him to the ground. I kicked, bit and punched with all my might. I shoved him to the wall and it was bloody. Finally, we were separated, but the damage had been done. He was rushed to the health office and never returned to class that day. He was taken home and I felt like a victorious gladiator.”
Feeling triumphant, Obi said she wasn’t punished for fighting him back because her class teacher knew her history with him. She said that he came back to class after four days and was allocated another seat. She said that he never spoke to her again and she enjoyed peace at school finally. Obi continued:
“I became free. Bullying makes you lose your self-esteem and self-worth. I don’t ever want to be bullied again in my life again. Parents and teachers should be more active and attentive when a child complains about being bullied because most times, they don’t recover from the trauma.”
Bullying from a psychologist’s point of view
A clinical psychologist at Ekiti Teaching Hospital, Dr Adedotun Ajiboye said that bullying is a continuous thing and a bully may be older, may have privileges or be in positions of authority. He said that bullies can be individuals or a group of people.
According to Ajiboye,
“Bullying behaviours come in different forms. Spreading rumours or lies about an individual is bullying. Bullying doesn’t only occur when you beat somebody. When you impose something on somebody or when you punish someone because you have power over them, you are bullying them.
“Threatening someone if they don’t do what you want is also bullying. Social exclusion is also a form of bullying. When you don’t want someone to get involved in what you are doing or you don’t want them to be part of a relevant social gathering, you are bullying them.”
Ajiboye said that physical intimidation is also a form of bullying. He added that it occurs when someone physically intimidates a victim by word of mouth or threats. He added that cyber-bullying is prevalent now. He added:
“For example, if somebody is bothered about somebody and instead of you encouraging the person, you ask them if they are the only one in this world who has problems, that can mentally affect the person and lead to depression or anxiety.
“Physical bullying can involve hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing, or attacking others. Verbal bullying refers to using words to harm others with name-calling, insults, sexual or bigoted comments, harsh teasing, taunting, mimicking, or verbal threats.”
Ajiboye stated that relational bullying focuses on excluding someone from a peer group, usually through verbal threats, spreading rumours, and other forms of intimidation.
“Reactive bullying involves the bully responding to being a former victim by picking on others. Bullying can also involve an assault on a person’s property when the victim has his or her personal property taken or damaged.”
According to the psychologist, signs and symptoms of someone who is being bullied include missing belongings, unexplained injuries, having a limited number of friends, declining school grades, or being self-destructive.
Mental health complications of bullying
Ajiboye said that being bullied can lead to depression, anxiety or anxiety disorder. He added that it can also lead to long-term damage to someone’s self-esteem. And when somebody’s self-esteem is damaged, inferiority feelings will set in, he stated. He said that bullying could make victims have suicidal thoughts.
“Bullying can lead to substance use disorder. Some people use substances to medicate themselves after bullying episodes for them to forget the experience. This is because bullying involves violence and they want to forget what they are going through. This is the wrong way of coping with a problem. It is a negative coping mechanism.
“And when these victims start using drugs, they may not want to be addicts but because these substances are addictive, they get hooked. Even if the bullying has stopped, the addiction is still there. It poses a serious mental health problem which is difficult to treat.”
Ajiboye also stated that bullying can also lead to physical injury which can lead to death. He said that when this happens, the loved ones of the victim might develop mental health issues while trying to cope with the demise of the victim.
“In this society, we focus on raising girls and it is not helping us. We should balance the raising of children. As you take care of girls, take care of the boys also. If parents don’t raise their boys well, they can turn out to be bullies tomorrow.
They can rape and assault girls if they are not taught how to handle rejection. If they are not taught how to cook and clean, they might think everything in the kitchen is their wives’ responsibility and that is bullying too.”
Ajiboye said that if parents don’t raise their sons well, they will grow with the mindset that they are boys and can do whatever they want. He added that doing this will reduce the incidents of bullying since boys are physically stronger than girls.
“Boys should be nurtured so that they will have emotional intelligence, learn how to relate with girls and won’t become bullies in the future. All stakeholders should be involved in reducing bullying. Parents, teachers, traditional rulers, church leaders and citizens all have the responsibility to fight against bullying in our society,”