teens

Why a mother told her daughter's horrific story on national television.

By KATE LEAVER

This is what bravery looks like.

A mother who refuses to stay quiet when her baby girl is savagely bullied. A mother who wants all kids to go to school without fear. A mother who makes the decision to tell her daughter’s traumatic story on national television.

On tonight’s episode of A Current Affair, mother Julie* told host Tracey Grimshaw about her daughter Sarah*, who has been the victim of relentless bullying and assault at her high school.

The bullying Sarah experienced culminated in a particularly heinous incident, when she was strapped to a tree in her school playground with a thick garden hose. While she was tried to the tree, several slightly older male students pulled their pants down, taunted her, and rubbed themselves against her, while other students watched on.

She was humiliated, scared, and despite being the victim, abused mercilessly on social media.

Mamamia readers might remember this story. We reported on it in July when Julie called the Mamamia office to talk us through what had happened to her daughter.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THIS GIRL WHEN SHE WAS 14 IS CHILLING.

When I first spoke to Julie, she told me that Sarah had tried to take her own life. She said her daughter wanted to die of shame. Julie vowed to keep speaking about that experience until police, parents, teachers, students, and journalists took bullying seriously.

That’s what she’s doing now. That’s why she was on your television tonight, with her incredibly strong daughter Sarah, telling the truth about what happened that day in the school playground. Because it’s only by coming forward and demanding change that we can stop girls like Sarah from being abused.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that every parent do a tell-all interview with one of the country’s most prominent journalists. But I do think it’s important we look at what Julie has done here, and replicate that courage. In talking about the abuse her daughter experience, she’s stripped it of shame and forced that feeling back where it belongs: With the bullies.

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Julie and I have stayed in touch since the morning she called the Mamamia office, distraught and desperate for someone to listen. We spoke again this afternoon and, as usual, I was floored by her strength.

“I will not and I cannot tolerate this happening in our schools, to our kids. I can’t stay quiet, I refuse to let people abuse me and abuse my daughter,” she tells me. “That’s why I’m trying to develop an app for kids to safely report bullying. My aim is to help kids as young as 8 and 12, to give them the tools to report what’s happening to them, and stop bullying before it gets as bad as it did for my daughter.”

Here’s the most important part of this story: Julie isn’t speaking up for her daughter’s sake. She’s doing it for yours.

We all talk about how we need to stop bullying, how utterly harrowing it can be for teenagers trying to find their way in this world. We know how damaging it can be, to be taunted and teased and touched in school. But how many of us actually come forward with a solution?

Here’s Julie, on TV, with a suggestion. She’s started by telling her daughter’s story, and now she’s committed to helping the education department protect

If you want to support Julie on this mission, you can start by visiting her Facebook page, Commit To Kindness – Say No To Bullying. We’ll bring you more on the app she’s developing, and how you can help. In the meantime, if you have a story you’d like to share or you want to talk to Julie, you can contact me on [email protected]

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