Dear Ashley

Dear Ashley,

It has been approximately eight years since I last saw you. I doubt I would even recognise you if I was to walk by you in the street as I only have a very vague memory of what you look like anymore. The only distinguishable features you had were a scar just under your piercing blue eyes. However, these details are irrelevant as it is your words and your actions that I remember you for.

Throughout secondary school there have always been different groups, two of these groups are ‘the bullies’ and the other: ‘the bullied.’ You, Ashley, were one of the bullies. The reasons varied from being as vague as being ‘different’ to being as specific as being overweight. I just happened to be both of those. From the very first day of year seven, you started so subtly, the occasional name call here and a crude remark there. As I had been raised with a ‘put up and shut up’ mentality, I brushed off most of the remarks and in some strange way reasoned that it couldn’t be that bad otherwise he would not be speaking to me at all.

As the weeks of term passed by the more confident and intimidating you became. The attacks changed from verbal only to becoming increasingly physical. However, I give you your due; you weren’t stupid, always careful to strike away from the school grounds so you could not be seen and you were always careful to strike body parts that would be covered by a school uniform. I knew what you were doing was wrong and I knew I should tell someone but I just couldn’t. Was it shame? Fear? I don’t know why, it just felt easier to ignore it and just hope one day you would leave me alone. As you probably knew I was more into academia than the social aspects of school, maths being a particular favourite of mine. To get me through each attack I began focusing on the numbers. I would count each punch, slap, pinch and kick. I recall the most in one go being forty seven.

This carried on throughout year seven and well into the first term of year eight and had reached the point where the majority of my upper arms and legs were completely black and blue, all of which I had managed to hide without arousing any suspicions. That was until we came back after the Christmas holidays and had a new PE teacher who no longer allowed us to lock ourselves in a toilet cubicle to get changed. I refused to get changed for as long as I possibly could, I feigned every plausible illness I could think of. I didn’t want to admit the truth, but she started asking if I was being hit at home and that it might be necessary to report anything to the police. Well the truth just came spilling out; I had no control over what I was saying. I was sent to the head teacher’s office to make full statements about what I had said.

I was never informed about what happened next. I do not know what you were told or even if you were told anything at all. A few weeks passed by and I did not see or hear from you, so I assumed that maybe they had said something to you, and you had changed. During these weeks, my own self esteem increased and I finally felt able to go out without constantly looking over my shoulder, so I decided to go to the park with my friend and her dog. I never did get there though did I? To get to the park I could either walk past your house, or walk the long way round which was an extra two miles. Maybe against better judgement I decided to walk past your house. I hadn’t factored that you may have actually seen me. You followed me down the road matching my pace as I hastily quickened my walk. You caught up with me, grabbed my hair and pulled me down onto the pavement, kicked me in the side and then bent down, pinched my nose and then held me by my throat, long enough for me to wake up in hospital with distinct red handprints around my neck.

During my time in hospital, I told myself that this was enough; I was putting an end to it. I was not going to allow you to hurt me again. From now on I was going to be in control. It didn’t matter what I used to gain control, needles, scissors, razor blades all that mattered was if I deserved to be in pain I might as well be the one to administer it myself. Each night I made sure there were exactly forty seven new incisions, again cleverly in places that could be well hidden.

This carried on for a few years, long after I last saw you as you were removed from the school. With support of friends, family and medical therapists I have overcome my fear of you and no longer give in to the lure of self inflicted control. In fact, I have become a much better person, I am much more confident than you would have ever imagined and I am determined to leave a positive mark on every one I come across. I absolutely refuse to ever have any one who feels the same way to be made to endure the same hurt and ignorance as I once had to. I am one of the lucky ones. Thankfully I have moved on with my life, and I am making the most of what I have. And the reason I am positive? I hear you now have a little girl, please show her how she should be treated and don’t ever let her fall victim to the hands of her younger father.