real life

BEC: 'At 19, I did a terrible thing. So I'm saying sorry now.'

Rebecca Sparrow.



I have thought about writing this post for six months.

I have anguished about issuing this apology for 20 years.

Because I did something when I was 19 years old that is, in truth, the great regret of my life.  One of those events that I was involved in that has left me with embarrassment and shame and guilt.  That may sound a bit dramatic, I guess. A bit over-the-top but for me, this – what I’m about to tell you – is probably the one real moment in my life where I feel true remorse for how I behaved.

So.  I’m going to tell you today. And I’m going to use this post as an apology.

While I was at university I was involved in a group assignment where we had to shoot an interview with a subject. It was part of a film and TV subject I did. Or maybe it was one of the journalism ones … I don’t remember. What I do remember is that we found a woman who was willing to be interviewed about our chosen topic (sport) and my three group members and I and our crew (a camera man and a sound guy) met her at her office to spend an hour filming her talking to us on camera.

Let me point out that uni  students can be deeply annoying with their requests for interviews. The ‘grown ups’ who give their time to be interviewed for these assignments are really doing it out of good grace. Because it takes up valuable time during the day and generally you agree to do it out of kindness.


So this generous woman who had agreed to let us film her on camera in her office came in to say hello and then left to visit the bathroom while we were setting up the camera and trying to get the right angle and props and generally stuffing around.


And when she returned and turned to sit at her desk we realised that she done what every woman has nightmares about. She’d tucked her skirt into her undies. Significantly.  Not in a small, hardly notice kind of way. In a big, oh my god there are her granny knickers kind of way.

And instead of us telling her, instead of one of us taking her aside and quietly whispering into her ear — we laughed.


Laughed is an understatement.

We sniggered and giggled and looked at each other and burst out laughing.  And we said not a single word to this poor woman (who was perplexed to say the least about why we were laughing).

We behaved like brats.

No, we behaved like mean girls.

And at the end of the shoot – when we had taken up this lovely woman’s time – we let her leave her office and walk off down her corridor none the wiser.  Well, until someone with a shred of compassion and decency, took her aside and let her know.

For twenty years – more than twenty years – I’ve thought about how that woman must have felt when she realised.  Humiliated. Mocked.  Belittled.  All of the above.

And I can’t believe that I took part in it. That I behaved so utterly appallingly.  That I willingly allowed a woman to be humiliated.

I don’t know this woman’s name. Can’t remember it. And really, if I did, would I have the courage to get in touch with her and apologise today? The truth is, I don’t know.  I’d like to say yes but maybe I wouldn’t.

Often when we think of bullying we think of Facebook slurs and kids getting beaten up and school yard exclusions.

But bullying, if you ask me, is also about standing back and letting someone be humiliated.  It’s about letting someone feel small because of how YOU behave. Laughing behind their back.  Not stepping in and doing the right thing.

I’ve worried for months about writing this post because I’ve worried about what you would all think of me.

I’m not perfect.

I have screwed up many times in my life.

And this, THIS is one of them.

And for that I am truly sorry.

Do you owe anyone an apology?  Is there anything you’d like to get off your chest?