Website Offers Advice, Connects Bullying Victims
When Robert Frenette first wrote about being bullied for a local newspaper in 2005, the Bathurst teen didn't want his name published out of fear the bullies who taunted him for having cerebral palsy would retaliate.
A lot has changed since the 18-year-old, who has launched an anti-bullying website, began sharing his experiences at national conferences and in TV interviews -- thrusting himself, and his disability, into the spotlight.
"It has definitely helped at school," says Frenette and laughs when he's called a "mini-celebrity."
"I was very shy before ... and now I have no problems addressing groups. It helps with self-confidence, it helps with self-esteem."
Frenette, who will start Grade 12 in the fall, says he walks with a limp, but is otherwise no different from any other teenager.
Still, Frenette says he's been pushed around, threatened online, and even burned with a cigarette lighter.
"I was bullied for 11-1/2 years, from the first day of kindergarten when I walked in the doors," he says, adding that his classmates immediately notice his limp.
"A lot of them are afraid to ask questions, unfortunately. Then they get to the point of name-calling, pushing, shoving."
But things have been getting better, especially since Frenette launched his website in May, and began giving interviews to newspapers and on radio and television stations.
Not only has he developed confidence, he's also gained a few confidantes.
His website is run with the help of four other teenagers, aged 14 to 17, from New Brunswick and Ontario, and doesn't contain any "30-letter words that nobody understands," says Frenette.
A parent helps out by collecting donations.
The site invites visitors to send in anti-bullying drawings and features tips for victims, bystanders and bullies.
"Put yourself in their shoes," reads advice for the bully. Victims are told to "practise self-affirmation" by repeating "I am a nice person."
Visitors can also read original poetry from others with titles such as "Not cool" and "Outsiders."
Frenette, who says the website receives up to 300 hits on a good day, distributes an online newsletter to recipients across Canada and the U.K.
He's also working on a type of support chat where people can post stories anonymously and get advice from others.
The website can be found at www.bullyingcanada.ca