Fighting back against cyberbullying

Thursday, May 3, 2018

By Carrie Berk
Age 15 and author of "Ask Emma"

Ugly, fake, stupid, phony, freak...these were just some of the words I was subjected to when I was cyberbullied. They swept me up in an emotional tornado that repeatedly knocked the wind out of me. And even worse, I had done absolutely nothing to stir up this storm.

It all started when I was 12-years-old. I got a message on Instagram from a high school freshman from another school that said that he wanted to get to know me better. My camp friends knew him and told me that he seemed like a nice guy...so I decided to go for it. We texted and got to know each other really well; we shared our secrets and even went as far as to say, “I love you.” Due to unforeseen circumstances, I decided to end the relationship abruptly--but the boy wasn’t ready to let go. He started telling lies about me to all of his school friends so that they would turn against me and text me insulting messages. No matter how many phone numbers or Instagram accounts I blocked, it seemed like I couldn’t escape all of the cruel words being hurled at me.

After about a month of severe cyberbullying, I decided enough was enough. I told my mom and she called the mother of the girl who had been behind most of the messages. Nothing could have prepared me for the bully’s response: “Your ex is saying you told him to kill himself.” At that moment, I felt like the world stopped. I was absolutely paralyzed. I had always been described as “Caring Carrie,” and now, it felt like the image I had prided myself on was permanently tainted. I ran into my bedroom, hid in the closet, and sobbed like there was no tomorrow.

But after a while, I looked in the mirror and actually recognized who I saw. I am a good person, I would never say those words or hurt anyone intentionally, and I would not surrender to these brutal lies about me. My ex only created a false scenario so he could get what he considered would be the ultimate revenge. Once I got over my grief and outrage, I realized that revenge would never be the answer: I had to share my story with the world. If just one person felt better after hearing how I rose above all the cruelty, then I would feel fulfilled.

I also wanted to reach people who may have bullied others through speaking out about my personal experience; I wanted those people to understand that words do hurt and that our generation must practice more compassion towards each other. I made the choice to speak on ABC Nightline and Good Morning America about what happened to me, but I wasn’t going to stop there. I came up with the idea for a book series called Ask Emma, about a middle-school advice blogger who faces online bullies when she tries to help her fellow students. I hope that by reading the words in the book, written straight from my heart and soul, kids will immediately relate and feel as if they are not alone in their battles against bullies.

The truth is most tweens and teens using social media will confront cyberbullying--and that is a scary statistic we can't let continue. To push this anti-bullying movement even further, I knew exactly who to turn to: No Bully. The way that they teach students to exhibit empathy and ultimately eradicate bullying in schools worldwide inspires me profoundly. I am proud to be a teen ambassador for the organization and I work hard to raise awareness on behalf of their goals. I wish my family and I had turned to them as soon as I realized I was being cyberbullied. I’m positive they would have armed us with the support and tools to get through what was a very scary time. That’s why I’m encouraging kids to reach out for support if they need it and try to bring the No Bully system to their schools. No one deserves to be a victim and everyone deserves to have a voice.

No Bully is a beneficiary of the novel Ask Emma, written by Carrie Berk and her mother Sheryl Berk. The book is now available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indie Bound.