The short story below speaks of a single event, but captures many aspects of being bullied. In particular, the passivity of witnesses. The victim is left feeling abandoned, exposed, unprotected – and this can be harder to bear than the physical pain inflicted by the bully.

Whenever we can, we should befriend the vulnerable, and protect them.

Do not be a silent witness to someone else’s torment – no matter who the bully is…

She stands in the doorway, feeling exposed. Her flimsy nightie too short and too sheer to offer any protection.

He towers over her. Shouting words – accusations, threats. She wonders if he feels powerful, strong, impressive, in front of his drinking buddy who watches from the shadows.

His words have long ago lost its meaning. True or made up or exaggerated. There would be no negotiation, no discussion, no explanation. Just this shouting and then, perhaps, almost certainly, the punishment.

She wishes he wasn’t there, to watch in silence. But more than that, she wishes she was wearing something else. The fine cloth, barely covering her bottom, provides little protection from those watching eyes, and even less from the blows to come.

And it does come. Frenzied, painful, humiliating.

Afterwards she crawls into her bed. She hides her face under the covers – ashamed of her tears.

Stifled sobs catch in her throat.

Her mother presses freshly cooked pikelets into her hand. Almost too hot to hold. The butter drips onto the sheet.

She holds it as the convulsions slowly ease and then bites into it. It is doughy and tasteless and, like the apathy that surrounds her, hard to swallow.

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