If you are facing any kind of stress, harassment or feelings of hopelessness, don’t wait another moment to reach out for help. Here are some great organizations that can help you now: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) and the Jed Foundation
During my 7th grade year, I trusted a friend with one of my deepest secrets. I explained to this friend that I was a lesbian. At first, I felt great! After all, I finally had a friend who I could share this part of my life with. However, one day we had a discussion about it in a private message on Facebook. Come to find out her friends had gotten onto her Facebook, saw our conversation, and before I knew it, my conversation was forwarded to almost everyone we went to school with. I went into school the next day to see kids laughing at me while I walked by, to hear comments such as “Ew she’s gross!” or “Oh, look here comes the lesbo.”
In the following days, I decided to pretend to be sick so my Mom wouldn’t make me go to school. That plan eventually had to end after four days of not going to school.
When I got back, the situation had worsened. Not only did the whole 7th grade know but the entire 8th grade knew. There was no escape. My worst fear had happened! I had already made a big decision coming out to one person, but to be forced out to every single one of my classmates was unfathomable.
As time went on, I felt beaten down. I wished I didn’t have to go to school, and when I would get home, I would spend hours in my room crying. A thought I would often ponder was, “Maybe the pain would end if I killed myself. Maybe people would care then.”
There was no one I could turn to for support. My family was homophobic at the time, and the teachers stood by and witnessed me being bullied. Even after I told the guidance department and the principle multiple times, it did me no good. I had even been told by my guidance counselor, “Well, Toni, you should have expected this. If you didn’t want anyone to know you shouldn’t have told anyone.” It was that blame that finally silenced me. I began thinking it was my fault, and that I deserved everything that happened.
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As things were getting progressively worse for me, I still didn’t know what was to come. One day I went to the gym locker room to change for gym class. As always, the teacher would leave us there to change by ourselves and have us line up after we changed. This day was different. These girls had started picking on me while I was in the locker room, and they began to push and hold me down as I tried to fight. One of the girls had a lighter. She took out the lighter, held it upside down and burned my arm with it. I’ve shared the picture with you of the scar that remains.
After they were done, I felt defeated. After that, I still kept silent. After all, I had been told what was done to me was my fault.
Throughout the rest of my school years, I was bullied, and I had very few friends to reach out to for support. I never went to prom, never joined any teams, even though I was great at softball.
I am now twenty-two years old, and I realize that what was happening to me was not my fault! It was the school’s job to protect me, but instead they blamed the victim. If the school had followed their anti-bullying policy and had kept a better watch on students, I believe I could have had a better childhood.
Do you have a bullying story to share?
Your voice is important. It’s critical that real people hear the real harms and implications of bullying so that we can all understand the importance of standing up for those who need it and preventing hostility before it claims another victim.
By sharing my story, I hope to empower some of you! It makes me cringe every time I hear someone committed suicide because of bullying. Everyone who is picked on has worth. I want say to those who have been bullied or are being bullied: You are not useless, you do not deserve hate, and most importantly, you deserve to be in a place where you feel safe. Hang in there! There is a way better life waiting for you just around the corner.”
The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.