Sticks and stones.

Sticks and stones may break my bones.

But words can also hurt me.

Sticks and stones break only skin,

While words are ghosts that haunt me.

Pain from words has left its scar

On mind and heart that’s tender,

Cuts and bruises now have healed,

It’s words that I remember.


The power of words to build up or break down is often underestimated. Kind and encouraging words can elevate a person in a moment, and a harsh word can inflict trauma that will last for decades. 

As a child I experienced bullying at school. My years from aged 9-11 were brutal because of the manner in which my bullies destroyed my sense of self-worth and wrecked my confidence as a young child. The effects of that bullying have affected me in many ways and only at the age of 45 have I really been able to reflect on the consequences of those early years. 

My bullying was done by a handful of boys with a limited audience. When we left primary school (grade 7) and went to different high schools (grades 8-12), I thought I had left my bullies behind and started a new life. In some ways I did. They were n’t there to torment me anymore but the damage had been done and now sat with me as trauma.

The children of today don’t have the relief that I did when it comes to bullying. I never had to face the impact and widespread humiliation of social networking, viral videos, memes and gifs of my bullying. I knew who had seen the bullying and who had taken part in it. When it comes to cyber bullying, today’s children don’t have the relief of a contained situation. Cyberbullying has essentially become bullying on steroids, with wider, greater and deeper consequences for the victims.

While thinking about bullying and cyberbullying a few points stood out for me, both from my only experiences and from research: 

  1. Hurt people hurt people. The cycle of bullying is perpetuated when a bully has been the victim of bullying and in trying to deal with their own pain, inflicts it on another.
  2. The cyberbully has the protection of a screen. The screen is the avenue of the onslaught from the bully that the victim can’t hide from
  3. The bully can remain anonymous. The victim faces viral exposure.
  4. The bully gathers popularity and notoriety through likes, shares and  follows. The victim is shamed and humiliated.
  5. The bully has a moment of “fun”. The victim receives a lifetime of shame, humiliation, trauma, pain and torment.
  6. While the bully can delete the messages and move on, what happens online, stays online. The victim will never know who has seen the victimising material or how widespread it is.
  7. The bully may not fear the consequences of their actions. Fear is the consequence of the trauma experienced by the victim.
  8. The bully may or may not ever feel remorse for their victim. Owing to the anonymity and being shielded by the screen, the bully may or may not be known to the victim. The victim may or may not ever experience any sense of justice or restoration in relationship to their bully.
  9. The victim of bullying can easily become depressed leading to further personal struggles that will affect performance, relationships, dealing with conflict, development of addictions etc. 

Mental health issues (depression) can often lead to suicidal ideations. According to the Western Cape Government, 9% of all teen deaths in south africa are suicide related. Suicide is the fastest cause of deaths for ages 15-24. 60% of people who attempt suicide are depressed. 

     10. With the internet bullies have a multiplicity of avenues to attack their victim.  The victim now has to try and adapt to daily life using their devices through which they have  been victimised to function.

While sticks and stones can break bones, words can break the spirit. 

Wounds heal but trauma lives within our bodies and minds for decades. 


If you have experienced trauma of any kind, it is essential to find healing and healthy coping mechanisms to respond to that trauma in a way that will release you rather than keep you captive.

If you are not sure who to speak to, refer to our Partners page for some recommended counselors and support groups that can help you. There is hope. 

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