Woman stands up against bullies who told her to die
"I'VE got to be brave for my sister.”
Jennifer Vouttell may be small in stature but she is mighty.
The 20-year-old has taken a heartbreaking stand against the bullies that have dogged her throughout high school and now as a young woman trying to get on with her life.
She may never have come forward at all if it weren't for her sister, who we have chosen not to name to protect her identity, who is now facing a similar struggle.
But unlike the verbal abuse Jennifer copped, she says her sister is now being physically attacked and "it needs to stop”.
"They are throwing punches at her and shoving and pushing her around,” she said.
Jennifer said the bullying started as soon as she hit secondary school.
"It at all started when I got into high school; (people bullied me because) of my shortness and because I'm very slow at learning things,” she said.
"There were rumours going around at first. Then they started calling me nasty names like s**t and wh**e and four eyes - I don't wear glasses any more because of it.”
Social media soon reared its ugly head and it wasn't long before that hate started to trickle through online.
"They would tell me to go and kill myself and things like that,” Jennifer said.
"It made me feel really down to the point where I wanted to just do it to make them happy.”
Jennifer resorted to self-harming in an effort to dull the pain.
"I turned physical on myself. I started self-harming, I felt that if I wasn't around, I wouldn't have to go through that,” she said.
She developed anxiety and depression as a result of the constant harassment and is now seeing a counsellor to help her overcome the feelings of worthlessness.
"I'm proud of myself,” she said, " I got through high school.”
She only self-harms every now and then, she said, "when it gets too much”.
Jennifer believes the problem is widespread and teachers are powerless to stop it, despite taking a zero tolerance approach to bullying.
She said social media had made bulling in school infinitely worse, with perpetrators using Facebook to slay their prey.
She said they would do things like update their Facebook status to say things like, "I bullied this girl today and she just cried in the corner”.
"They feel proud for bullying,” she said.
"No one sticks up for anyone, they just don't care.”
The girls' parents have visited the high school to seek a resolution, but have so far been dismayed.
Since leaving school, Jennifer has tried to rebuild her life. She has moved in with housemates and found herself a job volunteering at a nursing home where she keeps residents engaged.
She still has visits from the girls who bullied her and has abuse hurled at her when walking the streets, but she won't be beaten.
"I'm proving to everyone that I am strong,” she said.
Her main focus now is her sister and her message to bullies is clear: "You need to stop. Think about what you're saying and how you would feel if it was said it you.”
"You shouldn't have to feel scared to go to school.”
If you need help to manage depression, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.