Alicia’s Story: Bullied Because I Am Different, Saved by God
According to StopBullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, between one in four and one in three U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. Most bullying happens in middle school, and the most common types are verbal and social bullying. Young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied. This includes children with physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional and sensory disabilities.
For several decades, researchers were skeptical about the true impact of bullying victimization. But accumulating evidence now shows that bullying has a detrimental effect on youth’s mental health and leads to poor outcomes later in life, including low self‐esteem, self‐harm and academic failure.
Studies indicate that young victims of bullying have higher rates of agoraphobia (fear of certain places and situations), depression, anxiety, panic disorder and suicidal tendencies in their early to mid‐20s, compared to those who have not been bullied in childhood. Another study found that victims of bullying in childhood report high levels of psychological distress at age 23 and at age 50.
Alicia is a 20-year-old college student who lives in Pennsylvania. She has had a hearing disability most of her life, and because she is different, she was bullied in school. The bullying caused her to have anxiety, be depressed and harm herself. God was the only one who could heal her suffering - and He did just that when she called out to Him.
Here Is Her Story
When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with a hearing disability. A fire truck went by the house one day, and everyone jumped except me. My parents took me to a children’s hospital to see an audiologist, who discovered that I have “bilateral sensorineural,” which results in severe hearing loss. When I was about three years old, I received my first hearing aids. When I was about four, I went to hearing-support preschool.
I have been bullied all my life because of my hearing disability. It was hard to be in regular classes with people who are hearing. The other students would call me names, push me down and exclude me from activities. When I was in elementary school, I would pretend to be sick a lot. I couldn’t face the bullies at school. I felt like I couldn’t tell the teacher or my parents because I was very shy, and I was afraid the bullies would harass me even more if I told on them. They made me feel super self-conscious about my disability.
A Devastating Attack at Age 12
The bullying affected my self-esteem to the point where I felt helpless, and I guess I came across as helpless to others. When I was 12 years old, I was swimming with my cousin one night. We swam for a while, and everything was going well. After a little while, he grabbed me and raped me. He told me not to tell anyone, threatening that if I did, he would do something worse. After that, I started suffering from depression and anxiety. I am now 20 years old. No one knew what he did to me until a couple of years ago, when my mom found out. I haven’t heard from my cousin since then, but it is difficult for me to forget how degraded I felt that night.
In high school, I was bullied every day, five days a week, nonstop. My sophomore year was the worst year of my life. Some of the other students would call me names like “deaf weirdo” and tell me I was stupid and ugly. They would also tell me that I should go kill myself. What really hurt was that my boyfriend at the time also told me to go kill myself. It made me feel horrible, like I shouldn’t exist.
Over time, the devastation of my cousin’s attack on me, my disability and the bullying took their toll. Slowly, I lost sight of who I was as a person, and I felt I had nothing to live for. My disability defined me, and I couldn’t escape it, so I felt helpless and destined for a life of sadness.
For years, I would self-harm, cutting myself with a pair of scissors. When I was younger, I would use pencil erasers to burn my arms. I stopped doing that because I got tired of wearing long sleeves all the time. Then one night, I felt like killing myself. But I didn’t do it, and that surprised me because I thought I was ready to end my suffering. At the time, I didn’t know what kept me going. But now I know it was God.
From Suicidal to Saved
The next day at school, my friend and I were passing notes back and forth. I wrote down that I had almost killed myself the previous night. I didn’t give it to her, though; I threw the note in the trash can. My teacher evidently saw me throw it away. She took it out of the trash and gave it to my student counselor. In the fifth period, I got called to the counselor’s office. The counselor showed me the note and asked if it was mine. I lied and said no, but she called my best friend into her office, and my friend told her the truth. My counselor called my mom and dad and told them about the note. They didn’t seem to care. They didn’t seek help for me. I think I should have gone to counseling to talk to someone.
Everything changed when I was 17. My best friend took me to a youth-group meeting. I felt God’s grace and His love. For the first time in my life, I felt saved and safe. I started going every week, and I finally felt hope filling the place where despair had been. On January 31, 2016, I got baptized. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I felt God’s grace pour into my life.
I am forever thankful that I have a best friend who took me to church that day. I still go to the same church today. Ever since I’ve been saved, I have felt freer, more loved and more cared about than I ever have. I have never been happier.
Prayer Instead of Worry
Knowing that God is with me always makes everything better. I still face a lot of discrimination today, but when I face those trials, I pray about them instead of worrying. Before I was saved, I would hide in my bedroom and cry. Now I reach out to God and claim His comforting grace. My life is full of joy, God, my friends, church and my young-adult group, my dogs Buffy and Bella and going to college.
My relationship with Jesus Christ is very important to me. I love to spend time with Him and worship Him, even on my worst days. I hear His voice sometimes when I am depressed. Now I love who I am because I know I am a child of God. I embrace my disability. Now I know that my disability doesn’t make me who I am - it is just a part of who I am.
The following are some of Alicia’s favorite Bible verses. They give her comfort when she feels that old, familiar depression and anxiety resurfacing.
Fred’s Take on Alicia’s Story
Bullying is a painful experience that erodes the self-esteem of young people well into adulthood. The good news is, now that awareness is increasing about the destructive effects of bullying, organizations and schools are finally beginning to address it.
Having a disability is a difficult situation to deal with. No one, especially a child, wants to feel that he or she is different from everyone else. Children want to be accepted by their peers and fit in. Alicia has endured much pain in her young life. Thankfully, her friend took her to church, and Alicia found the one cure for all her challenges: God. God is the only one who is powerful enough to negate the effects of a lifetime of negative experiences.
I am so grateful that Alicia has discovered God’s grace and knows to turn to Him when she feels alone. As Alicia’s story demonstrates, God enables us to feel joyful during our most difficult times.
. “Facts About Bullying,” StopBullying.gov, https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.
. Louise Arseneault, “The Long‐Term Impact of Bullying Victimization on Mental Health,” published in World Psychiatry magazine, February 16, 2017, and posted on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5269482/.