Bullied MP Chris Elmore 'mentally tortured' as a child

By Lucy Ballinger & Ashleigh Crowter
Wales Live

media captionChris Elmore describes the "torture" he endured as a teenager

He was punched in the face, kicked down stairs and mentally tortured so badly he had three breakdowns.

It is the stuff of every teenager's nightmare - to be bullied so badly you feel under the control of others.

And for Chris Elmore, who was bullied over seven years while a teenager, it was not until he was assaulted so badly the police were called he spoke up.

Now, 20 years on, MP Mr Elmore is heading a parliamentary group to address bullying through social media.

"If I'd had social media when I was going through what I was going through I don't know how I would have coped," Mr Elmore told Wales Live.

"I don't actually know if I would be here now because I am not sure I would have coped with that level at home as well as when I was out of the house.

"I experienced everything from cruel jokes to physical abuse. I have lots of memories of being kicked under a science lab table until my shins bled."

"I was punched in the face, I was kicked down several flights of stairs when I was in school, that became quite a regular part of being there."

At one point Mr Elmore was ordered by the bullies to stay on a rugby pitch while the bullies stood by and, afraid to leave until they said he could, he stayed there for hours.

By this point he had soiled himself and was petrified.

"They thought it was hilarious," said Mr Elmore, MP for Ogmore. "They had achieved their goal because I was simply too terrified to leave the pitch. I can remember walking home and then trying to wash my clothes myself so I didn't have to show my parents.

"So things like that you can't just say, well forget about that and forget it ever happened. That was the weekend, then I had to go back to school with them on Monday morning and just pretend like nothing had gone on."

He added: "Life is complicated enough when you're a teenager you're going through lots of change and you're trying to figure out who you are as a person, and when you add bullying to the mix that makes it even more difficult.

"You feel someone could control you to such a point that you are too frightened to do anything which makes you low and isolated."

When he spoke about his experiences in an impassioned speech in the House of Commons last year it hit a nerve. He has since been asked to become chairman of an All-Party Parliamentary group on young people's mental health and social media.

"The digital world is a whole new level of bullying because you can transfer it into what you are consuming and there is no real escape from it," said Mr Elmore.

image captionMr Elmore spoke about his experiences publically in the House of Commons

"It does intensify the level of bullying and can also lead to larger scale bullying because people will see you as being weaker and they can target you via social media so there is a more intensive experience of bullying."

He experienced this himself when one of his former bullies posted on social media making light of what had happened in their school days.

"One of them made a joke of it on my Facebook," said Mr Elmore. "But he was called out on it by friends and constituents. If they haven't moved on from it then that is up to them. For me coming through what happened has made me a better person."

Mr Elmore hopes the group will be able to help people like Connor Strange, 23, who was intensely bullied on social media.

"I got some really offensive messages telling me to go kill myself, telling me I was worthless, telling me I wasn't good enough," said Mr Strange. "I felt really demoralised, I felt like a human shell, I didn't feel like myself anymore."

image captionConnor Strange suffered from depression and isolation after being bullied on social media

"Social media can affect your mental health really badly and can have ultimate consequences at the end of the day if you get really bad comments."

Mr Strange was subsequently diagnosed with depression, anxiety and emotionally unstable personality disorder.

Mr Elmore said he hopes the new group will help bring cases like Mr Strange's to the government's attention.

He said: "Even now all these years later, if I bumped into one of those who bullied me I know that I would freeze and it would be a very difficult situation for me to deal with mentally.

"I hope the government realise that there is a problem and they need to respond to it."

* More on Wales Live tonight BBC One Wales at 10.35pm

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