Love is Louder at TU
After years of keeping a secret, Allison Robillard decided to sit down in front of a camera. Looking into the reflective lens, she told the story of how bullying impacted her life.
“I rode the bus with this one individual who would spit on me daily,” she said. “She threatened me multiple times with a pocketknife and would even call my house and tell me that I better watch out because she knew where I lived and was coming to get me.”
Robillard said that at the end of middle school, she developed an eating disorder. She said she struggled with the disorder until her senior year of high school, which led to more bullying.
“During the years I played lacrosse, I was picked on for being small, weak and not performing well on the field,” she said. “I was called ‘bird legs’ and ‘twiggy’ by many of the girls on the team. Little did they know that I had a serious illness and their words were only making things worse.”
Robillard’s story is one of many videos posted online for the Towson affiliated anti-bullying campaign Love is Louder.
“Several people had conversations with me before they posted their videos about how they were self-conscious because their story ‘wasn’t really a big deal,’’ Residence Life Coordinator Laura Smith, who introduced the national campaign to Towson, said. “The truth is, everyone’s story is meaningful. By sharing your story, you don’t only empower yourself, but you empower others who have a similar experience.”
Smith said that this year she wanted to collect Towson students’ personal experiences with bullying to put the issue in perspective on campus.
Ian Andrews, a freshman theatre major at Towson, said he was bullied almost every day in high school after being stereotyped by his peers.
“I was called a queer and fag about liking drama, because somehow being involved in theatre, people automatically assume you are gay,” Andrews said. “I’m not, so this impacted me a lot. Not only did they call me names, I was outcast by many people.”
As the bullying continued through high school, menacing thoughts and emotions started to threaten Andrews’ physical well-being, he said.
“In 10th grade, I thought about suicide a lot,” he said. “Senior year I had thoughts of self-mutilation, but didn’t act on it until I got into college. Summer of going into college, I developed a binge drinking problem, which carried over into college.”
Andrews said the psychological torment was a side-effect of the constant barrage of oblivious judgment.
“I would hurt myself because in my head I thought I was doing the right thing,” Andrews said. “I thought that if I would cut myself, then I was punishing myself because that is what people believed me to be.”
After seeking help through therapy, and with the love and support of friends and family, he was able to get over his problems, he said.
“I learned skills to get my out of my loneliness if I was feeling it,” he said. “I have learned that I am stronger and I do not need to do the things I once did to get any sort of satisfaction.”
Paulomi Dholakia, a junior pre-medical major, said her most profound memory of being bullied occurred in fourth grade when she was pressured to fit in.
“For those who know me, I am a very academic-oriented person, and in fourth grade I was bullied about getting good grades,” she said. “My ‘best friends’ at the time forced me to believe that doing well in school was something to be ashamed about. My whole class eventually turned against me and used to gang up on me every time we got a grade back to make me feel small about doing well, among other things, for almost the entire year.”
Dholakia said she took their words to heart and saw herself as a problem that needed to be fixed.
“It got to the point where I used to make sure I did poorly, failing tests and projects on purpose, hoping I wouldn’t be a target again,” she said. “It made me change who I was because I thought I was doing myself a favor by becoming someone those around me would accept.”
Dholakia said that with the help of her family, teachers and life experience, she realized that being different is something to be proud of.
“I learned from it how to go against the grain and how to keep my head high while doing so,” Dholakia said. “For those who have been a victim of bullying, remember that what makes you different is what defines you. If someone can’t see that, feel bad for them, don’t let them make you feel bad. The best counter to hate is always love.”