D. KANYAKUMARI speaks to an ex-school bully who recounts the events that led him astray.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: So what quirks of nature or nurture lead to one becoming a bully? For one reformed former bully, it was all about power.
"I just needed to know I had some power," said 30-year-old T. Manojanan from Johor Baru, who now runs his family's agricultural business.
School was the only place he ever felt powerful.
"I was the youngest of four brothers, and perhaps it was the nature of the family business, but all of my brothers were extremely rough.
"I used to get hit a lot, and they used to threaten me to get me to do all the chores. Any sign of me trying to tell on them would result in me losing something dear to me – either a medal I got from school, or my favourite storybook, or something," he said.
Manojanan said he tried speaking to his brothers before he entered secondary school, but that only resulted in him being forced to run around his neighbourhood clad only in his underwear.
"I was traumatised, and every night I used to imagine doing terrible things to them. I was so angry at them, and I guess when I got to secondary school and made friends, it got to my head.
"These boys I was friends with, they adored me because I spoke good Malay and English, so I just had to help them with their homework and they guarded me.
"This gave me a certain amount of power over people, and eventually that led to me preying on others in school," he said.
He did not even know why he was doing it at the time.
"I feel awful thinking about it now, but at that time, I used to feel like a king. Even the older students feared me, and that was an achievement after being tormented by my brothers for as long as I could remember.
"I have done terrible things and there is no way to justify my actions. I got into a lot of trouble with the teachers, but that was not enough to stop me," he said.
As soon as he was done with his schooling, he left home to work in Kuala Lumpur.
Seeing the "outside world" opened his eyes, he said.
"Everyone has problems and that does not entitle anyone to hurt someone else; I feel awful every day for my actions then," he stressed.
Parents and family members need to look out for each other, according to Manojanan.
"It almost always starts at home," he said, adding that things may have turned out differently if his parents had taken him seriously when he went running to them.
"I am not sure, but I really hope others get the help they need," he said.
He said he was also horrified by the recent case of 18-year-old T. Nhaveen, who died on June 15 after being severely assaulted by a group of teenagers.
Four suspects have been charged under Section 326 of the Penal Code for murder, and at least one of them is believed to have bullied the victim during their schooldays.
Nhaveen was believed to have been targeted because he was gentle person.
"I am genuinely sorry that something like that happened to him, but I myself bullied a 14-year-old effeminate boy when I was about 16 years old," said Manojanan.
"No, I am not proud of it and neither am I defending these boys (the suspects), but I am pretty sure they did not just turn out that way.
"I repeat, these things start at home, and they need help too," he added.
Stop the Bullying Part 1: A long and tragic history
Stop the Bullying Part 2: The long-term, wider effects of bullying
Stop the Bullying Part 3: Reliving the horrors of hazing and bullying
Children see, children follow