Sue Thomas recounts her gripping and moving personal journey through darkness. She writes: “Guilt had stalked me as a predator for years. Barely a day would pass without me cringing at the memory of what I had done.” The punishment is intense. But there is light at the end. And the light is good. This story’s dedication is very good.
Special Dedication: For all those who have been bullied.
Guilt had stalked me as a predator for years. My failings, great and small, constantly reproached me; but worst of all was my bullying of a girl when I was fifteen. Barely a day would pass without me cringing at the memory of what I had done. I tried to track the poor girl down to apologise … to grovel. I had no success, so I wrote my confession to a national anti-bullying charity and accompanied it with a substantial donation; but obtained no relief. Then one day, on the way home from work, it came to me that what I needed was to be punished and the only punishment I could think of, that was at all possible or realistic, was corporal punishment. You may think me strange for arriving at that conclusion but try coming up with a sensible alternative.
My problem was how to receive corporal punishment as an adult without it becoming silly or sexual. It was by chance that I discovered that there are disciplinarians out there who provide these services. A little further research led me to a London based man who gave himself the title “The Punishment Master”. My decision was made when he sent some security tips “……whether you come to me or not”. An appointment was arranged and I began to prepare. He had suggested that I might find it helped if I dressed as the school girl I was when I carried out the bullying. I got out my old blazer and found that it still fitted nicely so I went out and bought some uniform to go with it: plain knee length grey skirt; white blouse; striped tie to match the green blazer; white socks and knickers and sensible black shoes. I packed the uniform into my bag, throwing in a box of tissues at the last moment, and caught the train to London Victoria, picking up the Underground before arriving at Wimbledon Station.
I became more nervous with every step of the walk as I followed the map the short distance to his house. It was an old Victorian detached house in a quiet residential road. The ground was cut away on each side of the smart black front door to reveal a windowed basement. I hesitated a long time before knocking, wondering if I was utterly mad. The man who opened and greeted me by name was very reassuring. He was a professional looking man of about sixty. His medium height and build was dressed in conservatively cut, good quality slacks and sports jacket, white shirt and striped tie. He was relaxed and friendly but had about him an air of authority.
He made me tea and chatted to me about himself: his background; his interest in corporal punishment; how he came to be providing this service; and what his boundaries were. I guess he talked until he felt I was relaxed enough to discuss the real reason for the visit: my punishment for bullying my classmate. He picked up a pad and pencil and noted details of my story. Poor Sandra was the brightest girl in a school noted for its academic success. She was undoubtedly heading for Oxbridge as her work was everything: she had little time for anything else. I picked on her unmercifully; orchestrating a whole series of unpleasant tricks, criticizing everything about her and making sure that others joined in. I cut classes to plan my tricks and neglected my own work to write her nasty notes and bring others into my schemes. The result of all this was that she lost confidence and did badly in her exams. She didn’t join our Sixth Form but left for some much poorer place, only made it to a third rate university and then dropped out. He wrote it all down and sat back thoughtfully.
“Yes,” he said “you do need to be punished and I was right about taking you back to when you were fifteen and sixteen to connect your punishment with what you did then. I am sure that you deserve a severe punishment but I am also sure that it will free you from your past. It will close the book on the whole matter. Bring your uniform and come with me.”
He led the way to the basement which was a revelation: it was entirely given over to his role as “The Punishment Master”. There was the Headmaster’s Study beautifully furnished in the style of the late 1950s; the Justice Room with benches and a huge range of straps, canes, birches and whips; a Waiting Room that could have been found in any institution and was deliberately bleak; and finally a shower room with changing facilities and several mirrors. He left me in the changing/shower room instructing me to get changed into my school uniform and then go to the waiting room. “I shall go to my study and I will call you when I have finished some paperwork. You must wait patiently. I don’t know how long I shall be.”
I changed everything except the plain bra I was wearing, brushed my hair and tied it back simply and then looked in a long mirror. I was shocked by what I saw. I looked so much like my younger schoolgirl self that it took my breath. Perhaps the nervous, frightened look on the face helped me to look younger but my age seemed to have halved. I walked to the waiting room and found that I couldn’t sit in one of the plain chairs but only pace nervously. I started to bite my nails.
I realise now that he kept me waiting deliberately. Partly it was to increase my nervousness but also the long wait in school uniform took me back and I felt increasingly like a teenager again. It was the weirdest experience. I was near to tears when finally I heard the study door open and a stern voice call out. “Sue Mary: come in please.”
The study was very attractive. A large window looked out into the courtyard and upwards at the retaining wall where ivy hung down looking pretty in the pale winter sunshine. The wooden floor had an expensive Persian carpet, the walls were lined with books and there was a large leather topped desk behind which he sat reading some papers. “I am most disappointed in you, Susan,” he said sadly. Immediately I hung my head and felt so young and ashamed: I had genuinely ceased to think of myself as a grown woman. “I have a long letter here from your tutor that I find quite shocking. I believe that you know what the letter contains. Do you have anything to say?”
“I am very sorry sir” I found myself stammering ,“but it is all true. I have been horrible to Sandra: really horrible. She has done nothing to me.”
At this point he could have launched into my punishment but he instead he began to cross examine me, making me re-live every detail. It was not enough to say that I wrote nasty notes, I had to say what was in them and what I was thinking when I wrote them. Explanations were demanded about why I had cut classes and what classes they had been. How had I failed to keep up my studies? He probed ruthlessly and all the details came flooding back even those I had thought forgotten. I gave my answers through tears that streamed down my face. He laid bare the real reason for my behaviour that I had not understood over the years: I was jealous. I was good at so much and a bright pupil but I was not Oxbridge material and I desperately wanted to be: if I couldn’t go there then neither would Sandra. Finally he laid out my crimes for me to understand: I had neglected my work; wasted class time by writing notes; cut classes; engaged in cruel teasing; played dangerous and unpleasant practical jokes; and finally destroyed the confidence of another girl with my appalling bullying. Only a severe punishment would suffice. I could only nod my agreement because speaking was beyond me.
He said that he would punish me first for my own neglect of studies and for that he would use a slipper. “We have your lack of effort to consider, the passing of notes and cutting classes. For the neglect of your own studies I am going to give you six with the slipper. Remove your blazer and hang it on the peg over there. Then come and bend over my desk.”
I did as I was told and approached the end of the desk bending over it and reaching out for the far side where I was to grip the edge. I was stretched right out with my bottom in an easy position to chastise. The first wallop, when it came, surprised me with its force and immediately I felt a deep stinging. The subsequent wallops followed so fast I could scarcely take them in: the stinging grew worse and worse until by the end of six my bottom was hot all over.
“Stand up Susan but do not think that I have finished. I must now deal with the matter of writing notes while in class. Raise your skirt, hold it up and then resume your position. The next six will be across your underwear.”
The blows were as bad but each wallop stung much more with only my knickers for protection and the embarrassment didn’t help. I hung on to the far side of the desk and prayed that I wouldn’t make a fuss. By now my bottom was so hot I felt that it could get no worse. How wrong I was: my punishment had only just begun.
I then felt his hands on the waist band of my knickers. To my huge embarrassment he pulled them down to around the level of my knees. He then said “Now the matter of cutting classes. For that you will have another six.” Never imagine that six with the slipper on the bare bottom is an easy punishment for that is not so. My poor stinging bottom was now inflamed by six heavy wallops. The sound of my bottom being smacked by the slipper was almost worse than the blow or the sting. I hung on without making a sound. After the sixth wallop I stood up and started to pull up my knickers when a sharp voice cut in.
“Susan Thomas, did I give you permission to stand up?”
“Well pull your underwear down and get back. I’ll tell you when I have finished”
Hardly had I done as I was told then another enormous wallop hit my bare bottom swiftly followed by another. I gasped. “Well Susan do you understand that you must wait for instruction?” I foolishly failed to give a simple yes instead I said, “I think so, sir.” Wallop and wallop again. The burning stinging of my bottom just got worse. When asked again if I understood I replied immediately in the affirmative but he still gave me another two to ensure that the lesson was driven in. Finally after a total of twelve with the slipper on my bare (and now very hot and sore) bottom he told me stand. Although my skirt fell back into place I wisely decided not to pull my knickers up until told to do so.
“Susan I am not satisfied with your attitude: I do not think that you have understood that you are here to be punished. That means that for the period of the punishment you are not in control: I am. I expect you to place yourself totally in my hands and that means waiting for instructions the whole time. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir. I am sorry, sir”, I whispered.
“I am going to add a little to your punishment to reflect about why you are here. You will leave your underwear down and stand in that corner while I complete the punishment book. Go on Susan….. and when you get there put your hands on your head.”
Although my skirt kept my modesty intact; to stand with my knickers around my ankles and my hands on my head was the most extraordinarily shameful experience. As I stood there, my bottom burning, I realised that he was right: I had not surrendered to my punishment but was in fact rather pleased with myself for doing it. I had to remember why I was here and that I had nothing to feel proud about: I should be ashamed of every well deserved wallop and whack. He left me in the corner for what seemed an eternity but turned out to be only ten minutes.
“Now then Susan I want you to pull your underwear up and come again to my desk. I am going to give you six with the cane for teasing Sandra.”
The cane he held was not what I expected. It was about three foot long and about a quarter of an inch thick. It did not have a crooked handle but was straight with a black grip about nine inches long. It looked vicious and I became afraid. I bent over the desk as before and immediately knew that this was different. Although he tapped my bottom a couple of times I heard, or felt him take several steps back before running forward and bringing the cane down on my bottom with an almighty blow. It landed right across the centre of my bottom and I gasped with pain: I had five more of these to go and there was more beyond that. I felt my right leg start to shake. Each blow was delivered with a little running step and his accuracy in striking more or less the same place, was high. The pain had me on my toes gripping the desk hard. My leg was shaking violently. I can’t describe the pain easily. There was heat but also an intense line of a cutting pain that ran across the middle of both cheeks. I was in tears when the last of the six had landed. “Stand up young lady. I can assure you that we are by no means done yet. I want you to take off your skirt and go and place it on the chair by the wall”.
I am a modest person and to remove my skirt and then walk across the room clad only in my knickers, with him watching, was something I found deeply humiliating. Suddenly I understood: he was doing this for my own good. Humiliation was a part of the punishment. The walk across the room was very uncomfortable. I folded my skirt on the chair and then decided to take my shoes off as well: it simply seemed foolish to be standing in my underwear with shoes on. When I was once more stretched across his desk my punishment for all the nasty tricks began.
Once more the little run and then the impact: I screeched with the pain of that blow and half stood with the sheer awfulness of it. He curtly told me to get down and somehow I did but each blow drew the same reaction from me. I screeched, writhed and jerked my way through all six until finally it was over. I lay sobbing, hoarse and breathless across the desk and still my punishment was not over.
He waited for me to get back under control and then told me to stand and face him. He spoke quietly but with considerable authority: this man had no need to raise his voice or bully. “I want you to remove your panties and go and put them with your skirt and return and face me”. I now knew that this humiliation was a part of the punishment. The walk across the study was harder than before; each step tightened the skin across the cheeks of my bottom and inflamed the pain that throbbed there constantly. I walked with short careful steps. I stepped out of my knickers and as I walked back felt as if I was completely naked.
I stood knickerless in front of him, reluctant to look him in the face. He showed me a different cane he intended to use for the last part of my punishment. It was longer and thicker than the other one although otherwise the same in appearance. He told me that it was of the type formerly used in borstals (a sort of prison for young offenders that had been feared).
“Susan, your actions destroyed Sandra’s confidence which in turn damaged her educational opportunities and life chances. You must be punished for that. I intend to give you six of the very hardest strokes I can with this Borstal cane. Do you have anything to say?”
I was exhausted with the pain and emotion of it all and I knew that this would be the worst of my punishments. His methods had brought me to the point where my motives and actions were fresh in my mind and as clear as crystal. This was no time for guilt it was a time for repentance and punishment. “Please, sir,” I said, “I have a request.”
“I shall not spare you, Susan. Your punishment will be severe and I should be disappointed if you wanted it otherwise.”
“I understand that, sir. Please may I have nine strokes and not six?”
He smiled and nodded approvingly, “Well done Susan. Yes you may have nine. Now please resume your position across my desk.”
I lay across the desk and made a vow, almost a prayer, to Sandra. I had read that screaming or yelling both reduced the pain of a beating and tended to cause the person inflicting it to reduce the severity. I therefore silently vowed to Sandra that I would make no sound: that each blow, each smart would be for her. I did not feel my ‘almost prayer’ was silly but that somehow she would help me to keep the vow. “Even if you can’t forgive me,” I thought, “please take my pain as a gift.”
Everything went into a strange slow unreality. I felt no fear. I could hear every movement and see every detail of the desk and the wall opposite. Reality returned with the most awful stroke of the cane. The blow seemed to drive me into the desk and the pain was as if I had been cut right through to the bone. I did not scream but the Borstal cane made me grunt with its severity. Such was his accuracy that the next stroke was laid almost exactly on top of the first: my breath was expelled through my gritted teeth with a hiss. It was the third that nearly made me break my vow. He caught his foot on the carpet or something and his little run up went slightly wrong. The blow came with the same force but it caught me low down on my left cheek and placed most of its force just below my right cheek on top of the thigh. I gave another grunt and tried hard not to cry out. He stopped and examined me but I only found out why later.
The next six were like torture with each blow adding to and compounding the pain I already felt. I lost count and began to panic that about how many I had left: there was no certainty that I wouldn’t cry out or worse. I lay across the desk my grip on its edge like iron and did not realise the punishment was over. Finally I heard him say, “You can get up now, Susan, its over.”
Although I stood up I was weak and exhausted and utterly unable to collect my thoughts and do anything. He took my arm and gently walked me over to my school uniform. In the end he gathered them up and led me back to the changing room. “You best get changed now, Susan,” he encouraged gently. I started to undo the school blouse but my fingers were weak and trembling and in the end he asked “Would you like me to help you?” I nodded and he undid my blouse and took it off. I, the most modest and shy of women, stood with only a bra and socks on in front of a man I had known only a few hours. He literally dressed me, packed my bag and helped me up the stairs.
He gave me hot sweet tea and cake and gradually I recovered. He looked relieved when I started to thank him. “Well, Susan,” he said, “I am afraid there is one more thing to do; and that is sign the Punishment Book.” He handed me a flat book that had its longest side along the top. It was a beautiful book and each pair of pages had a thin shiny sheet to conceal one side or other when open. Each of my punishments was listed and I had to sign and make a comment if I wished. I have tried to duplicate it from memory and here is the nearest I can get:
|Name of Pupil: Susan Mary Thomas||Sent by: Form Tutor||Date: 24/1/2005|
|Punishments||Reason for Punishments|
|1. 6 with the slipper||Not making a proper effort with her work|
|2. 6 with the slipper, skirt raised||Writing notes in class time|
|3. 6 with the slipper, on the bare||Cutting classes|
|4. 6 with the cane||Cruel teasing of another pupil|
|5. 6 with the cane, no skirt||Playing dangerous and unpleasant practical jokes|
|6. 6 (plus 3 at pupil’s request) on the bare||Extreme bullying|
|Pupil’s comments and signature: I deserved every part of my punishment and I am really very sorry that I did all those things. Susan Thomas|
When I arrived home I looked at my bottom in the mirror. I had without doubt been thoroughly chastised. The whole centre of my bottom (in what was almost a rectangle so accurate had he been) was a deep solid purplish red colour. What was worse was that there were thick ridges from the caning that stood out from my bottom like furrows. They were hard to the touch. There were two small cuts on my bottom and where the cane had hit the top of my thigh a nasty weal with broken skin that had bled a little down my leg.
I thought about Sandra and felt that my punishment had been deserved but now it was over. I still felt regret at what I had done but no more guilt. I was free at last.