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eJOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 27 APRIL 2001 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

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Bullied to death

Quite a few months have gone by since my sister Kelly committed suicide. Basically, she was bullied to death. It was all so meaningless, and life has become very strange. She was my only sister and my best friend.

Everyone probably knows someone like my sister. She was a rather shy, 13-year-old schoolgirl who wore glasses and was a bit overweight. Oh, and she sometimes had asthma. Nothing unusual about that. She didn’t do very well at school, but she worked hard.

We’ve always been a close family, with just the four of us in a three-bedroom [low-income] house in Allenton, Derby, England. There was my mum, my dad, Kelly and me, Sarah. I’m 16.

When Kelly came home from school every day, she didn’t mess about listening to her favorite rock groups, Boyzone and the Spice Girls. Instead, she liked to put on her favorite T-shirt and leggings and get cracking with her homework. That way she’d be finished in time to go to the Salvation Army choir practice with me and our mum. We both played tambourine and sang in the choir.

Kelly had friends her own age, but she spent a lot of her free time helping senior citizens with shopping and chores. She wanted to work with the elderly when she left school. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for anyone; she was that kind of friendly person.

Don’t get the impression she was a right goody-goody, because she wasn’t. She played a mean game of kickabout football and was a bit of a tomboy. But, unlike a lot of her friends who were already into boys, she’d rather watch soaps and read pop magazines than hang out with guys.

Before the bullying started, Kelly was pretty happy-go-lucky. Maybe that’s because in the early days I was able to keep an eye on her at school. There was this gang of about six bullies, ages 10 and up, who picked on us both. They’d shout names at us like "Fatty" and "Smelly" because neither of us was exactly slim.

That went on day after day. Once I moved up to the senior school, I couldn’t protect her anymore. She had to fend for herself. The tormenting continued for poor Kelly, and there wasn’t much I could do. Those boys would make her cry and try to find ways to humiliate her publicly by doing things like loosening the top on the salt shaker at lunch so salt would spill all over her food. Gym class was even worse. Kelly dreaded it because they’d be waiting to taunt and jeer at her in her sports clothes.

When I went to Kelly’s school to check on her, I'd often find her sitting at her desk crying her eyes out after the bullies had stabbed at her with a pencil or attacked her during lunchtime. I'd shout at them to leave us alone, but it did no good. They just laughed and called us the "Slowmans" (our surname is Yeomans). The nightmare continued for three long years.

Why did they pick on us? I don’t know. Maybe because we were in the Salvation Army choir; it isn’t exactly trendy. Our dad used to be a technician for Rolls-Royce, but now he’s unemployed. Maybe that made us victims. I think the biggest problem was the fact that we didn’t fight back. Because of our Christian beliefs, Dad said we should turn the other cheek. The yobs [gangs] terrorized other families on our road, but they threw stones back and eventually were left alone.

The week before Kelly killed herself, it was like living under siege. It began with a gang of 15 throwing stones through our living room windows. They saw Kelly watching from the upstairs window, so they shouted at her: "Stay in there you smelly bastard."

We don’t have a phone, so Dad ran next door and called the police, but they took two hours to come. By then the gang had gone. But they were back the next night. And the next.

One night they hurled cake ingredients—eggs, flour and slabs of butter—through our windows and yelled abuse about lard and fat. Mum looked out and they shouted, "Get back in there you bastards. We’re going to get you." That’s what Kelly’s last days were like. On the day of her suicide, I knew she was upset, though she was very quiet and calm when she told Mum and Dad, "I’ve had enough of this. I can’t go on."

I felt sick with worry, but what could I do? We were prisoners in our own house. The police and the neighbors weren’t much help. Dad kept telling us not to worry because we have the law on our side. But in reality, it was us against this mob. I knew Kelly couldn’t face the bullies at school the next day. She didn’t make a big thing of it to Mum and Dad because she didn’t want Mum to go to the school and complain again. She had been there about 30 times already, and nothing had changed. I bet people reading this will wonder why Kelly didn’t tell her teachers what was going on. Well, first of all, where we live, you don’t sneak to teachers. You just don’t. But eventually things got so bad, she did, and her teacher told her not to be a tattletale. I found out afterward that just before she died, the bullies had been beating her up at lunchtime and had broken her glasses.

But she never said a word to me. I think she’d given up completely. She believed no one could help her. That Sunday night we went to bed as usual, me in my room Kelly in hers. Around 1 a.m. I heard her go downstairs. Dad called out, and she said she was just going to the bathroom. A few minutes later she came back up and said, "God bless. I love you." But she didn’t say, "See you in the morning," as she usually did. Next l knew, it was just before 8 a.m., and I heard Dad trying to wake Kelly. I heard him gasp, and I ran in. Kelly was lying on her bed. At first, I thought it was an asthma attack. Then I looked at her still stomach. She wasn’t breathing. I was so angry, so upset, I couldn’t believe it. I ran from the house. When I got back, the paramedics were carrying her out. She’d swallowed 40 of Mum’s painkillers. Things got very weird after that. Reporters and TV cameras came, and there were people in and out of the house all day long. It didn’t sink in with me at first. I was shocked, like everyone else. The neighbors were nice enough, but Michael Shaw, the principal at Kelly’s school, acted atrociously. He said teachers noticed Kelly being bubbly the weeks before she died. He said there’d been no signs. He went on to say the school records showed that Kelly only complained of being bullied twice – once in junior school and the other time being the salt incident. The report said the problem was sorted out straight away and Kelly was happy with the result. Yeah, right.

 Dad was very upset when Kelly’s body was taken from our house. He only calmed down when he saw how nicely she was laid out in her casket. He spent hours at the funeral parlor, stroking her hand and making sure everything was just so. She looked lovely and was buried with her favorite teddy bears, her Boyzone posters and a pack of the gum she liked to chew. She looked very peaceful I think she was happy at last. As for the rest of us, life is very strange. Several months have passed. The police have interviewed six of the bullies, ages 13 to 17. They have not yet been charged with any offenses. [They have since been brought up on harassment charges, and at press time were awaiting sentencing at a local youth court.)

Mum seems to be dealing with Kelly’s death now, but I don’t think it’s sunk in with Dad yet. He still says, "Morning, Babe." and blows a kiss to her photo every day. People tell us we should move, but Kelly’s spirit is here. If we moved, there’d be nothing left of her. I think Dad’s right to act like she’s still here. That’s why I’ve recently gone back into her room for the first time since she died. I’m sticking up Boyzone posters on her walls – that’s what she would have liked. I haven’t been back to school since she died. I wanted to be a nursery nurse before this happened, but now I don’t care. Nothing seems important anymore. Mum says my character has changed, that I’m snappy with people. She’s probably right. I’m not bothered, though. I just miss Kelly so much. I wish I could have helped her. The reaction of other people has been unreal. We’ve had sackfuls of letters from as far as Australia and America. Some people have said Kelly’s death is more important than Princess Diana’s because it highlights the misery of people who are bullied everywhere.

When our family was being tormented, no one cared much. Kelly never asked for help, and we often didn’t see what was going on. But now that she’s dead, she’s not invisible anymore. She’s getting all the attention she never had when she was alive. Everyone cares now and wants to help. Pity it’s too late.

From Jump Magazine