When a school crush wasn’t reciprocated, an 11-year old boy stalked and bullied his young victim, leaving her battered and bruised. But *Grace soon learned positive ways to fight back. She was not going to be a victim.
Mum *Ann shares her story
It started innocently enough, I think he liked Grace. He’d follow her around, and in group activities, he always wanted to be in her group. But he’d focus so intensely on her, it made her feel uncomfortable and a little frightened.
There was no seating plan in class, and he’d sit next to her and try to hold her hand or sit behind her and stroke her hair. She told him to leave her alone…. that’s when it escalated quickly into serious physical bullying.
She kept it to herself until one day I picked her up from school and she burst into tears. Grace said, he’d begun kicking her as she was walking past, he’d squeeze her hard, or poke his finger repeatedly into her back, leaving bruises.
I found out later he’d bullied other kids in the past. He wasn’t someone who fit the typical stereotype of a bully, he was a small, quiet boy, with a few friends.
You think your kids will be kept safe
You send your child to school, believing they’ll be safe. Grace and I talked, and explored our options. We reported it to the teacher, who already knew about it. He said he’d make sure they were never in the same group, and he put a seating plan in place. Then when it became difficult for him to get to Grace in the classroom, he started punching her and sexualised behaviours outside the classroom began.
Savor the moments. Yes, parenthood is the most exhausting job on the planet. Yes, your house is a mess, the laundry's piled up, and the dog needs to be walked. But your kid just laughed. Enjoy it now - it will be over far too fast.
He’d pin her to the ground with her arms by her side so she couldn’t move, and he’d be on top of her. He’d try to lift up her dress, and he’d follow her to the toilets.
She was really frightened of him and scared to go to school, she complained of stomach pains all the time, she couldn’t sleep and at one point she didn’t want to leave the house.
At first, she wouldn’t say anything to him, we had to build her confidence. We ran through scenarios with her, what to do or say if he approached her, we did little role plays. If he approached her, she’d say something like, “I don’t want to be around you – don’t touch me.” If he hit her, she say “you aren’t allowed to hit, I’m going to tell the teacher.”
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We also worked on relaxation strategies, and coping strategies, and enrolled her in a self-defence class… there were lots of positive strategies to build her self-esteem.
She had support, but she needed more
She’s got a lovely group of friends, they were fantastic and really supported her. They’d go with her to the toilets or library, so she wasn’t alone. We live in country NSW, and basically, everyone knows everyone else. Kids talk, and everyone knew she was being bullied. Surprisingly, not all mums in the class were supportive. I suppose it brought up their own issues, they didn’t really want to acknowledge it.
Be the role model your children deserve. Kids learn by watching their parents. Modeling appropriate, respectful, good behavior works much better than telling them what to do.
I wrote everything down, I had a timeline, and photos of all the bruises. We had meetings with the Principal and his parents, who denied their son was being a bully, despite overwhelming evidence.
His dad became really angry, and his mum showed no emotion. They ended up putting him in another class, and had another teacher keeping an eye on him at break time, the teacher basically shadowed him.
It didn't stop him
Even though teachers watched him, the threat was still there – he could still reach her. He was fast, he’d race to her, or sneak through another door at school, he was quite clever. We’d see him outside school too, at the park, at sporting matches, or at the shops. I’d say, “go back to your mum, I don’t want you around my daughter because of the bullying.” Grace would be so stressed and upset, we’d leave the trolley full of groceries – that happened many times.
In the end, we got a restraining order, the school advised us to do that. The police sergeant was amazing, he took care of everything, we just gave him the information and background. Not long after that, the boy left the school and the district.
A cry for help
We found out he had a lot of things going on at home, the police got involved, and child protection, it was serious. I think, for this little boy, his behaviour was like a cry for help.
As distressing as it was at the time, we like to focus on how dealing with it, has boosted Grace’s self-confidence. The little girl who has come out the other side of this experience is happier, stronger, and far more resilient than before. Grace was a quiet child, now she has a healthy self-belief, and uses her experience to help others who are being bullied – on numerous occasions she’s stepped in and supported them. The school has amended their bullying policy as a result of Grace’s experience.
Children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. The effects of this can last into adulthood.
If you or anyone you know needs help call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kid's Helpline on 1800 55 1800.