Beyond bullying: A survivor's story
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's hard to turn on the news without seeing a story about bullying.
It's not just child's play anymore; it's deadly serious.
According to Psychology Today magazine and many other sources, there are approximately 282,000 students who are physically attacked in schools each month. As many as 90 percent of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
Bullying is nothing new. Ten years ago, I introduced Victoria DiNatale in the shadows. We disguised her appearance when we spoke with her on television.
At that time she was being bullied unmercifully. She wanted to tell her story but was too afraid to show her face for fear of more harassment. In spite of her reservations, she wanted to tell her story and ultimately put a face to bullying.
Now she's beyond bullying. She not only survived, but she thrived and has dedicated her life to helping other young people stand up for themselves.
Victoria was constantly bullied as a pre-teen in middle school. The physical, verbal, and emotional attacks were non-stop.
"My body reacted in a very unusual way. I developed what's called the stress cough. I would cough habitually every 2 to 3 seconds and I couldn't stop. I was in this rut. I was in such a bad place where I was so fixated on what the bullies were doing to me day in and day out where I couldn't stop coughing. I coughed like that for every three months, 24-hours at a time," explained DiNatale.
She shocked students at an assembly at St. Peter's Catholic School on Wilmington Island as she told her story.
"The coughing was so bad on my body that it caused a rip in my lower bowel. I had rectal bleeding because of the coughing, which was caused by the bullying. I had post traumatic stress disorder, which is a disorder most war veterans are diagnosed with and suffer from. It was really a nightmarish time in my life," she said.
Victoria thought of taking her own life, but with support from her family, counselors and doctors, she not only survived, she triumphed and went from victim to victorious.
For the last 3 years, she has devoted her life to sharing her story in hopes of preventing other young people from experiencing what she did. "I come in, tell them that it is cool to be kind. My message to students is that they have the power to change the world, but they are never going to be as successful or as extraordinary as they could be, if they are bullying or harassing or tormenting other people,"she said.
Those students, many of them girl scouts, spent a lot of time asking questions. With bullying being epidemic, we wanted to give our viewers a chance to talk with her too.
Victoria DiNatale's here in our newsroom and live online answering questions from students and parents until 7 p.m. this evening. Just click on the link if you have any questions.
We know a lot of people speak to students, but her message is sinking in. I caught up with 9-year-old Connor and 11-year-old Coleson Story of Effingham County. The brothers heard Victoria speak two years ago at their cub scout meeting.
Since then, both have stood up against bullies and have their own message for bullies. "They might bully somebody. I would tell them what if that was you being bullied, how would you feel? Treat somebody like you want to be treated," said Coleson Story.
He's wise beyond his years. Coming up on The News at 6, we'll hear more from Victoria as she shares with the girl scouts and students at St. Peter's Catholic School. She has a compelling message you do not want to miss, not only for the victims, but also for the bullies.
Victoria travels throughout the country sharing her anti-bullying message. If you would like to book her to speak at your event, call her at 912.695.2813.
You can also learn more about her anti- bullying message by following her online:
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