Testimony from a student

 

Going to school is one of the hardest things a child has to do worrying about teachers, school work and other pupils. Unfortunately many who go to school have to deal with the daily struggles and also with bullies. I, like many others, am a victim of bullying.

My bullying began at a young and vulnerable age of 9, by someone known well to our family. I recall being told how stupid I was after I had knocked a dolphin statue off the window sill, to then have it thrown at me. After the aggressor had calmed down and realised how upset I was she instantly became concerned, telling me not to tell anyone because she was “older” and knew best. Instantly, when she whispered those words I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t tell anyone, not being exactly sure what I feared and why I felt guilty, but I did. Bullies are master manipulators and can make you believe something that isn’t true.

 

As I got older the numbers in my local school got smaller, I changed schools for the same reason everyone else did, one teacher whom everyone disliked. She had a particular interest in pupils whom were not Irish or in my case did not have an Irish accent. She disliked many pupils and made almost all of us feel so utterly stupid. She would make us stand and answer certain math question’s and if we got them wrong she would then shout abuse, telling us we should know this, it’s simple anyone could do it.

Being repeatedly told off for things an 8 year old can’t help began to take a toll on me. Going into school I would panic about getting a question wrong and being humiliated in front of my class mates. After a year of being with this teacher I started to become a nervous child, as did many other children in the school. A new school full of people, with sport teams to join and drama’s to take part in seemed so much better than my school of 50 people which had become run down and had no extra activities.

Once I had changed school at age 10, I walked through those school doors full of hope and determination that this school would be good and that I had a fresh start with friendly teachers this time but little did I know that the teachers were the least of my worries.

My new school started off well, making friends, joining sports teams and excelling at my school work. I finally felt happy and welcomed in school but most importantly I felt safe. I joined all the sport team’s in the school and began to have a particular interest in Hurling and Gaelic.

Not long after joining the team I was bumped up to the A team and soon enough I was captain at most matches. The whole thing was surreal, being approached by trainer’s and other players whom were complimenting me on my playing was something I never had before and it was great.  I was told I had a natural talent in Hurling and about a year into training I was told that I should go for the trials to play for Galway.

Everyone was delighted for me, I felt on top of the world and had thought I had found something I was born for, something I loved to do and could do it well. It was bliss. That feeling didn’t last for long because my bully soon was not happy with me intruding on ‘her’ school with ‘her’ friends and especially being the captain of ‘her’ team, as soon as she was not happy with the situation she made sure I knew.

Over the years, I went to counselling trying to resolve my nerve and panic attack problems. When we would talk about the past I realised there was many things that had happened with my bully that was so traumatic and nerve wrecking that I had repressed a lot of the memories.

One of the memory’s I had repressed until I was in counselling discussing the fact I don’t like elevators, or a room/bathroom with no windows. I told her that I feel as if I was being locked in, I start to get hot and begin to panic but didn’t realise why.

After many conversations it was revealed that my bully had locked me in a hot press. I remembered it so vividly the minute it came back to me. My bully was giving out to me, telling me I shouldn’t be doing hurling because I wasn’t able for it (at this time I was captain so I didn’t heed to much attention to her) then next thing I remember is her grabbing the hurley out of my hand and pretends she is going to hit me, I move away, worried she would because she had in the past.  Suddenly, all I remember is darkness, sweat pouring off me as I was banging and screaming from the inside of a hot press, screaming to be let out. I was trying to push against the door to attempt to get as far from the hot pipes as I could but it was so small and dark that it didn’t matter what way I turned I was getting stung by them. Then I could finally hear her voice saying “What’s your special hurley going to do for you now aye?”  Her voice began to fade away along with her laughter and at the time I didn’t understand what she meant by it, but she had used my hurling stick to slide through the handles so I wouldn’t be able to get out. I felt I was in there for an hour, but it could have been 15 minutes, with searing heat and complete darkness I was terrified. To this day I still have problems with small areas with no windows but at least now I understand why.

It started with close friends warning me that rumours were spreading about me, rumours about me being with boys and that I had said horrible things about people. At age 11 I had never even kissed a boy nor would I ever say awful things about people.  These vicious rumours spread had not only mortified me but also resulted in me losing most of my friends, either because she told them to not talk to me or they believed the lies.

I spent months going into school with not one classmate speaking to me, ignoring me and pretending I didn’t exist. I felt so alone and isolated, knowing there was nothing I could do to fix it left me helpless. I soon stopped going to training and trying everything to not go back to school, I just wanted to avoid everyone so I wouldn’t feel like such an outsider. At times like these “I’m a Friend” would have helped me significantly, knowing that I wasn’t alone and that others were going through same thing would have helped.

Finally when I got to sixth class I thought all of the torment would end as the bully had left to go to secondary school. We were only a few months in to the school term when other people, whom never had a problem with me before began to call me names, whisper as I pass them and not allow me to play in matches. I later found out that the bully was ensuring that her torment continued even if she wasn’t there, she wrote to different girls and guys to make sure they all gave me a hard time.  My mother had gone to the teachers so many times but every time they ensured us that it would be dealt with and that it wouldn’t happen again but that was never true.

After I had finished primary school I started enjoying my favourite time of year, summer time. Summer was the only time I was able to feel normal because I wasn’t constantly reminded that I was an outsider and was not welcomed. I hung out with friends from Youth clubs and went on trips around Ireland with my family.

My blissful summer was once again interrupted when I got a text off an old classmate, warning me to not go to the secondary school or I would be beaten. Cleverly the bully had sent the message from a friend’s phone and text threatening me if I attending the school she was in. She didn’t get caught doing many things to me but she did admit to that text and about threatening me.

My mother told me that I would be better off going to the city but anyone I was friends with was going to this particular secondary school, which my bully was also attending. In hindsight, I should have gone to a different school. Starting fresh was something I needed but when you’re 13 changing schools with no friends at all seems so daunting.

When I finally got to secondary school I was hoping it was going to be different, everyone assured me that secondary school was much better, that I would enjoy it and funnily enough I did, for the first week everything was great. I had made friends with people from most years; I was signing up for sport teams and enjoying the different subjects.

I remember so clearly the day it all began again, I was walking towards the pitch when a friend of the bully shouted down at me and said “Hey look it’s your favourite person” and from that day on everyone knew who I was or they at least thought they knew who I was from all of “her” vile stories. Slowly more and more people began laughing at me as I passed them in the halls, girls squaring up to me in the bathroom and constant name calling.  I powered through it at the start, ignoring the comments said, the people who would walk into me attempting to knock me down, this school was bigger and I still had friends that didn’t listen to the whispers and I was happy.

I got my first boyfriend and everything was great, my friends liked him, I did too and nothing seemed to bother me anymore till one day a friend of mine came running down the hall with tears in her eyes, telling me my boyfriend had been pinned up against the walls by some friends of the bully and threatened him to break up with me. I felt awful, other people were getting hurt because of me and I didn’t know how to stop it. Time passed and things got worse, they continued giving me a hard time but they were doing the same to my boyfriend. One day they had pushed him too far, on the way home on the bus, he sat beside me and told me it wasn’t working, then he got up and changed seat. The breaking up didn’t bother me, but the cheering from the back of the bus by my bully and her friends did. While I waiting to get off the bus, I heard them congratulate my now ex-boyfriend on getting rid of such an ugly, fat,  stupid… the names went on, they spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. Some laughed and some watched on awkwardly.  I bit my lip and sucked in the tears till it was my stop which seemed to take forever to come.

My mother went into the schools so many times but they continued to give excuses. She told the teachers that something needed to be done, that I didn’t want to even take the bus anymore because of the hassle I got, being called names, getting things thrown at my head. The teachers then told my Mum that the bus was not school jurisdiction and that there was nothing to be done. This was the usual, asking for help and being brushed off, blaming it on someone else or being told nothing can be done. I soon lost faith in the teachers and knew they couldn’t/wouldn’t help. “I’m a Friend” is needed for times like this, times where children feel hopeless, times where they need a friend.

My Mum decided that it would be good for me to go to a Youth club because I had stopped going out. My mother understood why and never pushed me to do something I didn’t want to. I attempted to continue to go to disco’s, matches or social events but it became too hard. Being reminding that no matter where I go there were always people who knew my bully therefore thought they knew who I was. At discos I didn’t like going to the bathroom by myself because I was afraid I would get cornered again, or to go to a match and be told by a group of girls that ‘my kind’ wasn’t wanted there.  So my Mum thought a Youth Club would be good for me, away from where I lived, away from the people who made me feel worthless.

I went to this Youth Club every year till I was too old to go and I loved it. I didn’t mind the long travel there or the early mornings because the people there knew me for me, not what had been said about me and they actually liked me, I finally felt normal. Going there made me realise that it wasn’t me who’s a weird horrible person; they were just the lies of someone who disliked me.

School got worse, more and more friends drifted from me because it was too much trouble to be my friend and the result be the enemy of everyone else. Eventually the teacher’s had to address the problem because it was right in front of them. I was called out of class and brought into the principal’s office; I thought I was in trouble. The principle told me that everything was to be sorted but I was still clueless as to what was going on as I sat in front of him, then the door opened and in walked my bully, the teachers sat us side by side and told us that this ‘bickering’ had to end. They told us that we were both ‘lovely girls’ and that we needed to get on. My bully agreed and was then allowed to leave to return to class, as she got up she gave me a smirk and I knew she thought all of this was hilarious. The teacher’s smiled at me and told me not to worry now because everything is sorted.

Things got worse after that meeting, not only did they refer to both of us as ‘Lovely’ girls but they also just stated to my bully that I was a ‘snitch’ as well. By the time I got to third year I had no friend’s and too many enemy’s to count, my name was written on tables with words like ‘slut’ and ‘scumbag’ underneath. I decided that I was unable to go into school anymore; my panic attack’s continued to get worse as did my bully and her friend’s so I began to study at home and with the help of my sister I had a schedule that was similar to school hours.

My family told the teachers that I would no longer be attending school but that I wanted to sit my Junior Cert so I had a tutor that I met with once a week in a library.

The school was clearly not happy with this arrangement because whenever my family would try to receive school work for me to study they would reluctantly hand it over or tell them that it wasn’t prepared yet. One time my sister went to collect work and she was told that it was in the bin, when asked why she said that I hadn’t showed up in so long she didn’t see the point.  Certain teacher’s did not think I could pass my exams because I wouldn’t be able to teach myself so they stopped trying to help. Other teacher’s did help and tried to give me as much as possible to study.

When my exams came along, I sat them alone not wanting to have another panic attack while I do my exam’s, walking back into the school was hard enough but going for an exam that I wasn’t in school to learn about made it even more difficult.  During the summer I got my results back and to my surprise I had passed everything with flying colours, the lowest grade I got was B. I was proud and felt more driven and hopeful that I was able to push forward.

With my results I went on to Youth Reach to try and get into college, I was determined not to let leaving school because of bullying burden me any longer. I did a year in Youth Reach and made some lifelong friends and was soon going for an interview for college. In the college there were so many people, I didn’t know anyone and the best part they didn’t know me. I had a fresh start and had actually made some friend’s just from the interview waiting room.

A letter from the college came in a while after, I had been accepted and I was over the moon. My hard work had finally paid off and I was starting college. I moved into town and got my own place with my boyfriend who was attending the same college and loved every minute of it. I felt independent, strong and felt as if I could conquer anything. I got some great friend’s and was having a ball doing media. I eventually got my own radio show at my college called Ciara’s Happy Time.

Being at college was great. I did media for 2 years and now I’m awaiting my next adventure, I still have my up’s and down’s but I take it each day at a time and try to keep looking forward. I am still battling depression and anxiety as a result of the years of bullying, it effect’s my everyday life, but overcoming it and letting it mould you into a better person is what people can do. Instead of letting it take control of your life.

Accepting it and moving on and to ensure that you will always treat people the way you ‘wished’ you were treated. Bullying has a severe effect on people but it is not only a victim of bullying that is affected, their family, friend’s, loved ones and anyone around them is affected too. My family suffered through my bullying just as much as I, knowing there was nothing they could do.

In the morning’s before school when I would panic so much I wouldn’t be able to breath, but know that I still have to go to school was terrible for them. Feeling helpless is the worst thing a parent or sibling can feel. Bully’s need to understand that their punches, words and rumour’s may only be a small part of their day but for us victim’s, that’s our life. Anticipating their next attack, always waiting in fear.

Bullies don’t realise how much they actually affect us, being called a ‘bitch’ is a passing thing for them, calling you that name won’t cross their mind again, because it was only a minor thing for them but for bullied victim’s that’s all you’ll think about!

Having “I’m a Friend” is something people need, to have something to depend on and to show you’re not alone, a child should always feel safe in a park, with other children, socials and especially school, a place that parents have entrusted their child’s safety in the school’s care.

Being bullied is something that is hard to overcome. You feel lonely and hopeless but it takes time and you need to push for it. You can’t dwell on the past because if you do that your bully’s will win, don’t let them control your life. Know you can achieve anything you want, whether it’s to become a famous actor or simply to fit in, it will happen as long as you believe and trust in yourself that you are stronger for what has happened and that you can be happy.  “I’m a Friend” is something that is needed, for the people who are not heard, for the ones who feel hopeless and for the children who need a friend.