Sometimes bullying is violent and obvious and harrowing and you can see the bruises afterwards, there is something to tell the teacher.

But it is not always so overt.

When I was at school, I was never beaten up, not really called names – no more than anyone, really, there was nothing you could put your finger on. There was nothing you could call bullying, nothing you could go home and tell your parents about.

It was more a sort of atmosphere. It was the way you never got to hear the gossip. Or the way you weren’t ever really invited round to people’s houses. It was the way people didn’t seem to want to be your friend. It was being the one nobody wanted on their team in PE. The one nobody wanted to sit next to in class, always the one alone on a desk until all the others were full. A whisper here, a giggle there, a silence, a walking away, a turning of backs. A good deal of just plain being ignored and left alone.

Why? A little too unfashionable, a little too fat, a little too clever, a little too independent. Never fitting in. Never having quite what it took – what does it take? – to be accepted. It meant loneliness, and misery, and self-loathing. Was I miserable because people didn’t like me? Or was it that people didn’t like me because I was miserable? Am I being stupid about this? Is it my fault?

I’m in a better place now, but I still bear the scars. I still hurt. Trust comes slowly. My working assumption is still that, while grown-ups may be more polite about it, nobody really wants to be my friend. I still hurt.

And my parents say – why didn’t you tell us?

What was there to tell? That I ate lunch on my own again today? That somebody sniggered when I put my hand up in class this afternoon? That nobody talked to me at the bus stop this morning? What was there to tell? And would it have been any better if I had?

More importantly: How am I supposed to let my daughter go through this? How will I know she is safe? How can I be sure that in thirty years’ time she will not be scarred the way I am?

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