Being bullied in Primary and Secondary school left a deep psychological scar on Chanel Chan.
When Chanel Chan was in Primary Three, her schoolmates called her names and even went as far as to physically abusing her. The same group of bullies would also steal her stuff and throw it away.
On certain occasions, they would also use badminton rackets to hit her, as well as friends that tried to help her. "The reason was they thought Chanel was a funny name," the 25-year-old manager at Youth Corps Singapore said.
Unfortunately, she was forced through the same scenario again in Secondary Four - this time hurting even more.
"My Secondary schoolmates told me I 'was so ugly that when my mum saw me, she chose to die instead'. I had lost my mum to cancer when I was three," Chanel recounted, adding that the bullying was instigated by someone she had considered as a friend.
"They also threw my stuff away, hid my stuff, vandalised my stuff, kicked and hit me, poured urine on my desk in class, called me names and kept calling me fat even though my weight was within the acceptable weight range. They also laughed at me whenever I cried from the bullying." She declined to name the schools as she felt that bullying could happen anywhere and not just the schools she studied in.
So when Chanel read about the bullying case involving a group of Primary Five students at Mee Toh School last week, it brought back painful memories.
In a series of insta-stories on her private Instagram account, Chanel said going to school was something she "hated with a vengeance" because it meant she had to see her bullies. She added: "Bullying is never cool… More often than not, bullying always leaves a form of impact on the person that was bullied."
Chanel's insta-stories briefly described her experience of being a victim of bullying.
PHOTO CREDIT: CHANEL CHAN
While the bullying in Primary Three came to a quick resolve after her father intervened and spoke to the teachers in school, it left a psychological scar. She said she started playing truant and her results at school were affected. She also hated her name, and found it hard to befriend others.
The bullying she suffered in Secondary Four amplified it.
Chanel became fearful - not just of making friends, but being around others or even letting others near her.
"For the longest period of time when I was transitioning from Secondary School to Polytechnic, I didn't allow anyone to get close to me and I didn't share too much about myself, for fear that someone close might turn against me," she shared with Youth.SG. She added that she did not understand why she had to go through the experience of being bullied yet again.
Thankfully, she had a strong support system around her - something that might not have been available to other victims of bullying.
The adults around Chanel constantly reassured her at every step of the way. During the transitioning period to Polytechnic, she also worked part-time at a restaurant and her co-workers - who were also waiting for their O-Level results - helped to remind her how beautiful friendships are, too.
"It was always fun and easy to be around all of them, and their presence made it so comforting. There was never a day of sadness and darkness when I was with them," Chanel explained. "It was something so simple… and it really pulled me out of my darkness."
Chanel during her younger days in Secondary School.
PHOTO CREDIT: CHANEL CHAN
And Chanel believes that having a strong support system is what can make a big difference for not just victims of bullying, but the bullies too.
For the victims, it can be comforting to know that they are not alone in this daunting battle and that there is always a pillar of support that they can rely on when they feel like giving up. For the bullies, having someone to guide them is equally as important - especially in processing their emotions and giving them the attention they need.
She also emphasised that ignoring a bully is never the solution - despite it being the most suggested method.
"Sometimes it is quite hard to ignore because we are classmates so there is only that much I can do to avoid them," she stated. "I also remember the adults around me telling me that I should just ignore the bullies and not aggravate them. But I found out it doesn't work that way - sometimes, the more you ignore them, the more they will try all kinds of methods to get your attention.
"I personally feel this mentality is not a good approach because it is just letting the bullied know that they have to accommodate the bully even though they didn't do anything wrong. It's also reaffirming the bully that their actions are acceptable."
Instead, what others can do is to let victims of bullying know that the victims can always go to them, if they are not in a position to help.
"Let them know instead that you will be there for them. Let them feel safe when they are with you," she said. "As for the bullied, look for people you can trust and no matter how hard it is, don't be afraid to share with them what is going on. You don't have to do this alone."
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: CHANEL CHAN