This story is based on real events and may be triggering to some. All names have been changed to protect identities.
Staring out of the musty classroom window, Antonia knew the chimes of the lunchtime bells would be blaring at any second. She could see the students from the higher math class had already been released from their numerical prison cell. All of her classmates started to pack their books away, expectantly staring at the teacher to be released for the day. Miss Lysa sighed, "alright class, that's it for today. Remember to read pages 47-68 and complete ALL questions before tomorrow. And next time, as iv said a million times, you don't get to decide when you pack up for lunch. You don't pack up until iv instructed you to." The students stayed silent, casting annoyed glances at Miss Lysa as they hurried out of the classroom before she could assign any more homework and eat into their precious time in the yard. "She says that every day, why can't she just let us out before the bell chimes like every other class gets to!" Jackie exclaimed angrily to Antonia as they walked through the dim hallway to their lockers. "I know right, once we've made it to our lockers, put out books away, fought the crowds at the tuckshop, and made it back to our meeting area, there's barely any time left to actually eat. It's so unfair, I swear she does it on purpose!" "At least the guys didn't get us kept in another 10 minutes like they did yesterday." "Yeah, I can't believe the whole class got kept in just because the guys decided to throw a tantrum about being separated in a seating plan." As the two girls reached their lockers they heard a familiar voice blaring over the crowds "seriously, don't be such a bitch!" Lisa bolted to the two girls, "can you believe this, those year tens are such BITCHES. Who do they think they are, stealing our spot, we're year elevens! We deserve that spot! Hurry up Rabbit, Jackie, put your stuff away! They've stolen our spot again, lets go get it back ." Antonia put her head down, slowly putting her books away as Lisa and Jackie ran to defend their spot in the yard. The tears welled up in Antonia's eyes, her mind dwelling on the fact that she could never escape the nicknames her so-called friends had given her all because of her crooked teeth. "Hey, what's wrong?" Sonia's voice cut through Antonia's depressing thoughts. "Oh, hey Sonia. Just Lisa being Lisa is all, what's up?" "Well, want to come and sit with my group for today?" "Sure," Antonia exclaimed happily, thinking about how she could avoid the daily turf war and name-calling for a whole lunch period. As Antonia and Sonia walked toward the small giggling group of girls, Antonia noticed the lanky, boy off to the side of the group, staring her down as they approached. "Hey Antonia!" the girls exclaimed happily in unison. "Antonia, this is Jason" Sonia declared. The two exchanged quiet hello's as the group giggled and debated which anime was the best, Naruto or One Piece. Antonia realised that she had never spoken to Jason before as she shifted nervously while he stared her down. As the lunch break started to come to an end, Antonia thanked the group and slowly made her way along with Lisa back to the lockers, back to see the outcome of the turf war. Just as the girls reached the stairs, they heard the sound of heavy footsteps running quickly toward them. Turning, both girls shrunk away as Jason ran up behind them, stopping inches away from the two. "Oh hey, you scared us!" the girls laughed, Jason simply nodded and followed them up the stairs. The piercing bell chimed loudly, followed by the angry groans of students being called back into their cells. Lisa and Jackie ran toward the locker, "where did you go? How could you just abandon us?" "Sorry, I was hanging out with Sonia." "Well just so you know, we're going to run to our spot at the next break, we have to get there first. Hang on a sec." Antonia winced as Lisa grabbed hold of her hair, ripping at individual strands. "Your hair is so disgusting Antonia, it's so full of split ends." Antonia yelled and pulled away "STOP, LET GO!" Everyone laughed as Lisa continued to yank Antonia's hair and rip out the split ends. To everyone else, every time Lisa did these things, it was just a huge joke. But to Antonia, not only was it painful, but it was also embarrassing. No one knew how much Antonia wished she could just cut her hair off, maybe it would stop them from hurting her. The second bell chimed and Lisa let go of Antonia's hair, the students ran to their classes. Hours of stressful, meaningless effort faded as the bell shrieked to indicate the students were free once again. Antonia hurridly snuck away as Lisa and Jackie sprinted to their usual spot. Antonia walked to Sonia and her group, noting Jason and Sonia standing off to the side, staring at the girls. "Heeyy" the group happily chimed in unison at her approaching. "Hey," Jason said, nodding to Antonia. The three started to chat off to the side, Antonia noted that the girls seemed to give pointed glances toward Jason whenever he spoke, but thought nothing of it as she had only just met him. Little did she know, it would be one of the worst decisions of her life.
It had been 3 weeks since the turf war for the best lunch spot in the yard and Antonia's group had won. Even three weeks on, Lisa still relished in recounting her victory of how she stood up to the younger kids and bullied them out of the entire area. She would smugly look over them whenever they approached, the queen of the yard had her throne back, and she intended to keep it. Jason had started to sit with the group as well, Sonia's group seemed quite happy about it as well, and Antonia was starting to see why. Within the three weeks, Jason had started to get closer to Antonia, following everywhere she went and staying by her side no matter where she went. At first, Antonia had thought that what he was doing was fine, until it started to get worse like following her to the bathroom and waiting outside for her because she might run off. That day particular day, Antonia and another of her friends Elly had decided to separate from the group and walk to the tuckshop. The girls wandered down to the tuckshop when Antonia heard the familiar sound of leather shoes running on the concrete that covered the school. "Where are we going?" Jason asked as he stopped closely behind Antonia, inches away from the back of her head, pushing in between the two girls. "We're just going to the tuckshop," Antonia said quietly, trying to inch away from Jason's face hovering above hers. The further she moved, the closer he got. "Well, we were just talking about some pretty personal things so that's why we came alone." Antonia realised that Elly was trying to get Jason to leave. There was a silence as both girls looked up at Jason, waiting for him to back away, instead he kept walking in between the pair. The rest of the walk to the tuckshop was filled with an uncomfortable air of silence. After returning to their lockers, the three started to talk about their favourite tv shows, which quickly turned into a debate about which of their favourite characters was the best. This was a regular pass time for the two girls as they both loved a lot of the same tv shows and spent almost every afternoon together waiting for their busses. The girls laughed and debated their favourites as Jason stood watching the two. Moving to a set of chairs in front of their lockers, the girls both sat, still debating while Jason stood over Antonia. Antonia soon went quiet, getting distracted as Jason moved closer to her, standing directly over her. She felt uncomfortable as he looked down at her. Suddenly he piped up "Whoah, I wasn't listening that whole time, are you two talking about Amelen?" referencing Elly's favourite character from the show they were discussing. "Yeah," Elly said quietly, "She's my favourite." "And did you say your favourite was Genine Antonia?" Jason asked, Antonia hesitantly nodded her head. "And you said she was your favourite character because she's really strong and kind, is that right?" Jason asked although already knowing the answer. Again, Antonia nodded, "I really think shes my favourite beca.." "Well, your wrong." "I'm sorry?" Antonia asked, taken aback by his current outburst. "I said your wrong. But it's ok, I still like you" Jason said as he patted the top of Antonia's head. Both Elly and Antonia were frozen, unsure of what was going on. The moment was cut short by the shrieking of the bell, indicating break time had ended. Jason headed to his class as Elly and Antonia sat unsure of what had just occurred "did he just pat you on the head and seriously say that?" " Um... yeah, I can't believe that just happened." Still in disbelief of what had occurred, they hadn't noticed Jason approaching them again, this time with his books. "Wow, are you two just going to sit there all day?" Jason laughed, obviously pleased with his attempt at a joke, again he stood over Antonia. Elly quickly jolted up, "Iv got to go get my stuff, Antonia, are you coming?" "Yeah" but Antonia realised that if she stood, she would be forced to make physical contact with him. "Excuse me," she said to him, but to no avail, she was trapped. Fearing she would be late to class with her strictest teacher, she had no choice but to stand. Jason stood inches away from her face, looking down at her, smugly smiling. Antonia realised that she needed to get away from him, far away from him.
The following weeks became hell for Antonia. First thing in the morning, every morning, Jason would be at her locker waiting for her to get to school. Everywhere she went, he followed, no matter how far she went. She stopped going to school as much as she could. Lisa and Jackie hated Jason, they butted heads with him every time they faced eachother. And so, Lisa and Jackie would joke that Antonia should go elswhere because wherever she went, he would follow but Antonia knew they weren't really joking. And she was too scared to be alone with Jason. Over those weeks, Jason had started to grab her hands, if she refused to look at Antonia, he would hold her hands or wrists until she looked at him, no matter how hard she tried to pull away. If she pulled her hands away from him, he would grab her thigh instead. One day Antonia and Elly were playing a game on Elly's phone, giggling and furiously tapping the screen, Antonia was about to win the game. As she went to tap the screen again, Jason held her arms behind her back, stopping her. Antonia told him to let go, he refused. The sound of the game over sounded as Elly looked worriedly to Antonia. Jason finally let go of Antonia's arms and Elly exclaimed that they would be late for their busses. Neither knew how to handle the situation, neither felt safe. During the weeks, conversations with friends turned worrisome as he became more controlling, speaking over Antonia. People didn't want to be around Antonia anymore. There was an instance between Elly and Antonia where the two were talking about sport, Elly had joked she might accidentally step on Antonia's toes and the two giggled as Jason stood behind Antonia pretending not to listen. But as the two giggled, Jason turned to Elly and threatened to break hers. It was after this that Antonia realised that she needed help. She was so scared, her friends were leaving her. She was too anxious to go to school some days, but she was so unsure of who she could go to for help and what Jason would do if he found out. She decided she had to go to the school for help. After being forced to go on a year eleven school camp, Antonia decided she would go for help as soon as they got back. This was a mistake. Over the week at this camp, she felt sick and alone. Too anxious to notice what was going on around her, Jason seemed to run up behind her or toward her no matter what path she took. Antonia tried to go a different way every day but to no avail. He was always there. Even during group activities, he would find a way to be near her, Antonia didn't bother checking behind her anymore, she knew he was always there. always watching. It was on this camp that some of Antonia's classmates came to her to tell her about things that he was doing. One boy approached Antonia, "Hey Antonia, I just wanted to let you know because I found it a little creepy. Jason has been sitting in our cabin across from yours and he was watching out the window, then every time you came out he would run outside to chase after you. I just thought you should know." There were also instances where Sonia had to guard the door as Jason would try to inch himself into their cabin. Antonia did not feel safe. On the day of returning to school, mustering all of her courage, Antonia went to see the school's guidance counsellor. She was told that there was a really long wait and so she made an appointment. That was when things got much worse. Antonia walked slowly back to the lunch spot when Elly, Sonia and a few other girls came running up to Antonia panicked. "Lisa's said something to Jason about you and now he's angry, really really angry." Lisa, not knowing the full situation had decided to outright accuse Jason of everything. Antonia raced up the stairs, terrified of what Jason might do to Lisa. She ran over to the two, watching as Jason kicked the railing behind him out of anger, yelling and maniacally laughing. Antonia pulled Lisa and the other girls away, racing down the stairs with them she instructed all of them to stay far away from him as she raced to the guidance counsellor, terrified and barely able to catch her breath. She felt the most panicked she had ever felt. She was suffocating. Another teacher had heard the commotion and was speaking with Jason, Antonia sat in the small waiting room with Elly, unable to catch her breath, unable to speak. She felt like she was suffocating. After being pulled into the small office she did her best to explain through the small gasps of air she could force into her lungs. Antonia was then lead to another office, the head of student affairs office. Where again, Antonia tried to explain the whole situation, her body barely able to form proper sentences. The meeting between Antonia, the guidance counselor, and the head of student affairs went like a blur, it was over quickly. The only thing Antonia was able to remember from that meeting was the question, "Are you sure you said no? Are you sure you said it loud enough?" Afterward, Antonia was sent back to class, as if nothing had ever happened. She was told that Jason would be kept out of her classes and that he would spend his lunchtimes in the office. He was kept out of classes but after only a few days, he was allowed to walk the school as if nothing had ever happened. There was no follow-up, no one checked on Antonia. Jason walked around the school and told anyone that would listen that Antonia had made it all up. Antonia was too scared to tell anyone anything. Some people came to Antonia and told her that they had had a similar experience with Jason, but they never reported them. Jason was allowed to continue getting away with what he was doing. Antonia wanted desperately to get further help, but she had heard rumors that Jason's father was a police officer, she was so scared. She took around 100 days off school, according to her report card. The school did end up following up with Antonia, but not to check if she was ok, but to set up a meeting between Antonia and Jason, because he wanted to discuss everything that happened. Antonia refused, this was her way of regaining her power.
I'm twenty years old now and iv realised something, I never have to be treated like that ever again and there are people out there that can help. When I left highschool I realised, I never have to be around anyone who made me feel that way again, we have the power to choose who we want in our lives. There are people out there who can help, everyone deserves to feel safe.
Beyond Blue Support Line: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
There are many more organisations like these who are there to help.
And if Winnie the Pooh has taught me anything, it's that You are stronger than you believe, Braver than you seem, and Smarter than you know.