My story: I was bullied by a man I never met
By Kate 16, Hertfordshire
I always had this idea in my head that bullying involved some name calling or kids stealing lunch money-the bullying clichés, I suppose. But my experience of bullying was very different. I have no idea who the man who bullied me was - but I do know how miserable he made me.
It first started about a year ago, when I was 15. I'd always been careful who I gave my number to and never posted it on social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace - which was why it was such a shock when I started getting calls out of the blue.
I had no idea who the man was - I still don't know - but he sounded much older than me, perhaps in his late twenties. He started calling me again and again, asking me to meet up with him and even suggesting we have sex. This went on for months. I became scared to leave the house. There was someone out there who knew me, and I didn't know who he was, where he was or whether he was following me. I came to hate my phone, as every time it rang I dreaded it being him.
I didn't feel like there was anybody in authority I could turn to, so eventually I told my best mate and she was really supportive. She suggested getting some of our male friends to answer the phone when he rang, hoping it would scare him off. I also saved his number as 'Hang up' so that when he rang I knew not to answer.
I couldn't change my number because I knew my parents would ask questions and I couldn't face telling them - I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I started ignoring his calls and eventually he got the message and stopped calling.
That was several months ago and I'm starting to work through the issues that the experience left with me. I'm training with YMCA Training to develop my key skills and rebuild my confidence. It's taking a long time and I still have problems using my phone - I have to work up the courage to make a call, even if it's something as straightforward as calling YMCA Training to say I'm running late. I'm also still nervous about going out, in case he's still out there.
Through YMCA Training, I was also put in touch with TimeBank - a volunteering charity-and got involved with them, developing a new bullying support service called TxtUp StandUp. I was able to use my story and work with other young people to address the problems they face when being bullied.
TxtUp StandUp is an internet and text-based anti-bullying service that allows young people to provide advice and tips on beating bullies to others going through the same thing. It's such a valuable support to people who feel they've got nowhere else to turn. The tips are real, and if you can't face telling anyone, you can sign up anonymously.
While the bulling knocked my confidence and gave me lots of challenges to face, there are definitely positives to come out of it. I feel I'm stronger now and more prepared to handle anything that life might thow at me. Also, being able to use my own story to help other young people going through similar things has given me a renewed confidence, and allowed something good to come from my experience.
My advice to anyone being bullied, whatever form it takes, would be to talk to someone you trust. That may be your best friend, parents or a teacher-it really doesn't matter who-but there's a lot to be said for sharing your problems.