Audrey pens an open letter to her childhood friend to ask for forgiveness.
*Surnames have been removed to protect the identity of the interviewees.
“I remember snickering because we just made someone drink toilet water.”
Audrey was only 10 when she and some other classmates made Sarah drink water from the toilet bowl.
The group was waiting for school to start when Audrey thought of a “brilliant” idea to kill time. Why not treat someone to bacteria-infected water from the toilet bowl?
With a frown, Audrey said: “My friends were just as mean as I was.”
Next, they had to pick a victim, and Sarah happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The group cornered Sarah and made her watch as they scooped water from the toilet bowl into a bottle that was half-filled with lemon tea. They went on to offer her the “treat” and intimidated her into drinking it.
Alone and helpless, Sarah obliged.
“Back then I laughed, but the more I think about it, the more I feel disappointed and disgusted at myself. What if I was in her position?” Audrey said. “I feel terrible.”
In a separate interview, Sarah confirmed the incident and said: “It was the most humiliating day of my primary school life.”
A year later, Audrey cut ties with that clique and made friends with those whom she knew would not do anyone harm instead.
Consequently, she got a taste of her own medicine. Her old clique started sending her hate messages on Friendster, a social networking site she joined in 2008, and spreading rumors about her in school.
“I have no regrets cutting ties with them,” Audrey said. “I guess the only regret I have is ever being part of their clique.”
Bullying and taunting exist in schools although they are not frequently reported. According to a research by Singapore’s Children Society in 2008, girls are more likely to hurt their peers through relational bullying, such as spreading rumors, threatening to withdraw friendships and social exclusion.
Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to use physical aggression. One such episode was captured in a 25-second video and posted online in November. The video, which shows a group of Singaporean secondary school boys assaulting one of their peers at a staircase landing, has triggered police investigation.
Looking back, Audrey said it’s her need for attention that led to her bullying behavior. “I wanted to make my friends laugh. We were in the popular clique, and I realized that I did it because I wanted more people to like me,” she said.
Campus bullying can be mentally torturing for both the victims and the bullies. After 9 years, Audrey said she’s still haunted by that incident in the toilet.
To ask for forgiveness, she has written this open letter to Sarah:
How are you? It’s almost been a decade since I spoke to you. I see that you have gone on to a prestigious university and grown into your features.
I remember when we were in preschool and I forgot to bring my lunchbox, you offered to share your lunch with me. I still remember this because you were the only kid in our class to actually offer. Even at such an early age, you were so caring towards others.
Throughout the years, we drifted apart. You concentrated on your studies, and I mixed with the wrong crowd. At 10, I was doing things that did not sit well with me. I did it anyway because I wanted to be ‘popular’. The girl that everyone was talking about. I wanted to be someone, who I now know, is nothing but a bully.
With a heavy heart, I admit that you were one of the people I bullied.
Yes, it is repulsive and I am truly truly sorry for that. Every now and then, I will think about what I did at the mere age of 10, and despise myself, as I know that you never deserved that kind of treatment. I am really really sorry that it has taken me this long to admit my wrongdoing.
I’ve changed since then, I’ve cut ties with the friends who encouraged me to do it, and that being ‘popular’ means nothing. Being ‘mean’ to someone isn’t fun.
I write this letter to you, not to shame you or myself, but to apologize to you, to my ex-friends and to myself. If I could go back in time to change it, I would. However, all I can do now is grow and be honest with you.
It may take time for you to forgive me. When the time comes when you are ready to accept me back into your life, perhaps we can catch up over coffee. I have yet to repay you for the lunch you shared. You will find that I have reformed myself into the image you inspired me to be.