I'm a 28-year old man living in the south of England. I consider myself to be a decent human being. I'm the kind of man who stops to help an old lady or to stroke a cat. Generally speaking, a nice guy. But I have a dark side. I have anger, resentment, shame and fear. I get violent impulses, a desire to strike out, to externalise my pain. I believe that this dark side to my nature was created or at least amplified by the abuses I suffered at school.
I have a condition called dyspraxia. It's similar to the more commonly known dyslexia in that it impairs the sufferer's ability to read, write and communicate. In addition it affects physical co-ordination especially simultaneous co-ordination of hands and feet.
I was "useless" at nearly everything, both academic work and sports. I was labeled, "lazy," "stupid," "uncooperative" and many other negative adjectives. In other words I was a natural victim for the school bullies. I was ridiculed and felt frustrated by my inability to respond in kind. I resorted to violence and would then be beaten up by 3 or more of the other boys.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 8 years old, largely due to my mother's efforts. Even after the diagnosis, the teachers still regarded me as lazy and stupid and did little or nothing to stop the beatings at the hands of my contemporaries. On the rare occasions when I managed to gain the upper hand and hurt one of them worse than they'd hurt me, I was punished. The message I was getting was that it was OK for someone to hit me but not for me to hit back.
At 11 I was sent to a boarding school for children with specific learning difficulties. I had hoped that my problems would be over but they only intensified. The school was for 11- to 16-year-olds -- years that include puberty, so the disparity in terms of physical strength between me and my new set of tormentors was far greater. I tried to tell the teachers about my problems but they seemed to think it was my fault. Perhaps it was, but that didn't excuse them from the responsibility of protecting my physical and mental wellbeing. There was also an attitude of denial: "There is no bullying at this school." It didn't help that some of the teachers were really quite stupid.
Again, I was getting the message that it was acceptable for people to hit me, and as I went though puberty, I became increasingly violent in response. I'd respond to the slightest insult with my fists. When I was 15 there was an incident where I hit another boy. I remember being amazed when his feet came off the floor and he landed 8 feet from his starting point. I'd split his face open along his cheekbone, a wound that required several stitches to close. It was then that I realised that I had to control my temper or I was going to seriously injure or even kill someone.
I haven't hit anyone since. My darker nature is under control, but I'm forced to wonder what effect corporal punishment would have had on me. If violence at the hands of my peers has had this negative effect on me, what would have been the effect of violence at the hands of my parents or teachers? I weigh 215 pounds and can lift over a quarter of a ton. Think about it
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