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Your stories: Bullying leaves lasting impact on local woman with birth defect

Written by Colette Clarke, Interactive Producer | Feb 13, 2013 7:53 AM

Ashley Martin

We've been asking people in central Pennsylvania to share their bullying experiences with us as we prepare to launch Pushed Around, a comprehensive multimedia project on bullying on March 18. We've started to receive a number of stories from victims of bullying, those who have witnessed bullying and parents of victims.

Over the length of the project, we'll be sharing some of the insight we receive through Public Insight Network on air, on our website and during our public forum. These stories inform how we cover such a sensitive topic and also illuminate the consequences of such behavior by giving a voice to those involved.

Among the responders is Ashley Martin, 28, of Elizabethtown, Lancaster County. Ashley was born with a birth defect called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which results in decreased flexibility of the joints. She shared her story with us below.

"When I think of the word 'school', I automatically get this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels as if I'm in the movie Alien and an alien is trying to erupt out of my stomach. Being born with a disability made me a constant target. I might as well have had a flashing neon sign over my head that said, 'Pick on me. I love it!' The bullying in high school haunts me today. I can't hear the word 'dinosaur' without wanting to throw up. My heart breaks when I see the news and hear about a bullied teen taking their life... but I get it. I've been in those shoes and it hurts.

Bullies in Valley View High School gave me a nasty nickname that hurt deep down in my soul. T-rex. One minute, a word made a colossal impression on my life. I dreaded when class would end because I knew it was time to walk the hall to the next class. I am certain that my anxiety would have been less if I was walking the 'last mile'. Boys would literally hunt me in the halls, as if they were in the movie Jurassic Park and I was the dangerous Tyrannosaurus Rex. These young, piddling punks would pretend to have guns. They would pop out behind lockers and shoot. "Get the T-rex before she eats us!" They then would scatter, laughing and taking a little bit of my soul with them.

I learned to cope by eating my feelings. I'd go home and eat the fattiest food I could get my hands on. If it was fried and a carbohydrate, it was consumed. When I went to college, I thought it would be over. I thought those battles were over. One day, I overheard my dorm neighbor tell her friend that I looked like a T-rex trying to buckle my seat belt. (Earlier that week I rode in her car for the first time to pick up some groceries.) The anguish I felt while walking the halls of high school came flooding back. I felt like an already unstable dam had broken and consumed a small town within seconds. I was crushed.

Bullying has been a big part of my life and I still battle myself and the past on a daily basis. I still get anxious when some young kid stares at me so intently that I want to offer him a tissue to wipe his drool. I'll never be able to watch Jurassic Park, again. I even threw out some dinosaur pajamas that someone gave my daughter. The hurt is still there and probably won't go away in this lifetime. It helps ease the pain to know I am not alone and that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and who made me to serve a purpose here on earth."

One goal of the Pushed Around project is to give others a feel for the true impact bullying can have on someone's life. We can't share all of the stories we receive, as grateful as we are for each one, but we will continue to post more of your stories here throughout the project.

Do you have a story to tell about bullying? Whether you’ve been bullied, you’ve been a bully, you’ve been close to someone who has been bullied or you’ve witnessed bullying, we want to hear about it. Please help inform our project by sharing your personal insights.

Share your experiences with bullying now.

Learn more about witf's Public Insight Network here.

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  • Kim Loper img 2013-02-13 09:32

    My daughter was born with Arthrogryposis also. Pulled her out of school after the first grade. Not only did the students bully her but the teachers were just as bad. Now she attends Connections Academy cyber school.

  • claudzilla5 img 2013-02-13 16:49

    Reading Ashley's story broke my heart. One of my goals as a parent is to make sure my children are sensitive to the differences in others so they do not bully and tease in this way, and also try to stop this kind of teasing when they witness it.
    This campaign is really important, WITF, thank you for shining a light on the destructive power of bullying and the strength of those who have had to endure it.