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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Bullies breed cycle of violence
Bullies
Over half of children surveyed said they had property stolen at school
Most people remember the school bully who tripped them up in the playground before pocketing their lunch money.

For some, it's a memory which ranks alongside the three-legged race, just one of the experiences which makes them the person they are today.

But in these days of iPods and mobile phones it tends to be more than 1.50 and your favourite comic which is snatched.

A study by the Howard League for Penal Reform reports that almost half of all children have had property stolen at school.

The charity claims that almost all - 95% - of those surveyed have suffered some kind of victimisation.

Their findings coincide with research by Victim Support which suggests that victims often go on to commit violence themselves.

For others it can flip and then they become offenders
Catryn Yousefi
Howard League for Penal Reform

So, is childhood victimisation just part of growing up, or can it create long-lasting problems?

Catryn Yousefi from the Howard League said young people are very keen to talk about even minor incidents like playground fights.

Big impact

She said: "They are low-level things, the kind of things which most of us growing up would have experienced, but it is not to be treated as part of the growing-up process."

Experiences in school can have a long-term impact on people, she explained.

"We all deal with things in different ways.

"Some children deal with it but for others, while it is a small thing, it has an effect on them and for others it can flip and then they become offenders.

"We shouldn't just take it for granted that it's a small crime and rather than ignore it, we should deal with it in the school environment."

The organisation believes that children should be taught how to mediate and resolve conflict, lessons they could use throughout life.

Victim Support has released a report called "Hoodie or Goodie" which suggests bullying can spark serious consequences, even pulling the victim into a cycle of violence.

Judith Edwards, research manager at the charity said: "A level of violence is accepted by some young people as the way to deal with it as they don't expect to get help from anyone else and adults won't help them."

This is more likely to happen if the victim is socially isolated and lacking in confidence, she said.

Knives

In some cases violence can actually see the victim joining up with the offender, to protect themselves.

"But if you get in with the group you are likely to become weak in the group and to prove status you have to go and get involved with a violent act yourself.

"Part of the culture which is going on the streets is carrying out what others in the group want you to do. This carries the risk that someone will want to get back at you."

The influences around such young people are key to the problem.

"If your parents, friends and siblings all have the attitude that you don't let anyone walk over you, if someone does something to you, you look for the chance to get them back, no question of reporting it or seek help, that will affect how you deal with it."

And while it isn't known whether levels of crime have changed over the years, the problem suddenly seems far more serious.

Ms Edwards said: "Now young people are carrying knives so what might have been a punch up could now have more serious consequences.

"It is a big problem with young people. We're seeing it more and more, young people being hurt everyday, saying 'he did it to me so I went to get him back'."

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