As documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch discovered, the travails of a tormented child can be an examination far more terrifying than anything faced in the workaday life of an adult.
“A group of five or six guys pulled me into a bathroom, where they had run the showers and hot water to make it steam up,” Hirsch recalls.
“They were acting out like they were taking me to a gas chamber and beat me up in there. It was absolutely terrifying.”
Hirsch had blocked out the incident, which took place at his high school in Long Island, until someone posted about it on his Facebook page. He was 15 at the time.
Twenty-five years later and Hirsch is a celebrated filmmaker, but the title he is most proud of is champion of the downtrodden.
His documentary Bully, which follows five children from America who are persecuted relentlessly at school, has become a global phenomenon and has put the topic of bullying firmly back on the agenda in the US.
“I was bullied through middle school, elementary school and it’s something you carry,” says Hirsch.