My title for this interview referencing Eddie Haskell from Leave It To Beaver might be a playful joke depending on who you ask. What my good friend went through was no laughing matter. The trauma he endured is something nobody should ever feel. The courage Ed displayed is something that deserves recognition.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Edward Hubbard. I had just finished up my weekly Anti Bullying podcast, and was quickly posting the link around different groups in the anti-bullying community. Along with the link and a description of the show, I also had a one sentence that invited others to come on the show and share their story as well. Needless to say, Edward messaged me the next morning.
Upon talking to Edward about his experiences with bullying, I quickly realized that he was different from most of the other people I interviewed for the show. Instead of moping and whining about his child hood experiences about bullying, he actually wanted to do something about the problem that is ruining children’s lives all around the world.
“I guess what made me want to help kids out with their bullying problems is when I tried to kill myself it changed in so many ways. I need to help these kids out and help kids remember their always someone out there who will help you. Remember, the one who do love you because it will only hurt your loved ones if you take your life” Edward told me when I asked him about kids that are contemplating suicide, or harming themselves.
While Edward is a very vocal advocate against the action of Suicide, the Virginia native admits he still deals with the thought of taking his own life on almost a daily basis” I still think of suicide, but I just ask myself if God would want me to kill myself and the answer is no!” Edward told me during our interview on Facebook.
Despite some early setbacks in his life, Edward has by all accounts conquered many obstacles in his life. He is even currently back in school to become a peer counselor to those around him. When I asked Edward about what keeps him motivated during tough obstacles in mission to end bullying, he responded with this emotional story” I heard a six year old child crying and begging please end bullying Edward. That hurt me really badly.”
With this story in mind, Edward works every day to pass his classes and take on other anti-bullying cases in his spare time. He described one case to me during our interview where he states” A kid was getting bullied on the bus and they did catch the kids. They are now doing time in dentition center” So not only is Edward a student, and a director of news and media for imbullyfree.org, he also gets to help other organizations put a stop to actual bullying situations. That has to feel good after being subject to so much bullying in his early ears.
Not only does Edward make a difference on the front lines of the anti-bullying war, he also helps kids by sharing his story of what actually happened to him as a child as well. “I was raped buy a lady who was my mom good friend she told me she get her nephew and they would hurt me bad I told my father he flipped out bad” The anti-bullying activist stated during his interview when asked about his home life.
His home life got so difficult, that his mother actually sent him away to a rehabilitation center,” I was in rehabilitation center, because my mother thought I was dumb, and couldn't be taught how to work I ended up becoming a janitor, and learning how to strip and waxing floors,” the anti-bullying advocate explains.
Edward went on to say,” My mother abused me too. I was hit with a bread board in the back, but she would sometimes use a belt on me too. Although Edward and his mother did have a rough past, Edward was able to reconcile with his mother shortly before she passed away a couple of years ago. These experiences only served to make Edward stronger as a person.
As for Edward’s plans for the future, the anti-bullying advocate had this to say” I'm trying to become a peer support counselor. I hoping to help troubled kids out, especially kids who get bullied and kids who get addicted to drugs. Sometimes I feel like to fall to ground, crying and just giving up but, I won't give up though, because I know there to many kids out there that need my help I won't stop or rest until I know kids are safe.
For more on this amazing person, please visit, I'm Bully Free and The, Imbullyfree.org Facebook page. Or contact Edward James Hubbard on Facebook. He is more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel to contact him, if you are being bullying or contemplating suicide as well. You can also type Edward's name in the search box on Facebook and you can send him a friend request from there.
Also please check out this video and help support Aolani, one of Edward's good friends, and someone he is trying to help. She was bullied in school to the point where bullies pulled her hair out!
The Girl Under The Stairs
Posted By: Brian Thornsburg on 3/13/2015
Today I sat down with my good friend, Jessica, to discuss her experiences with bullying as a child, and how she went from the girl under the stairs, to helping youth avoid the same situations she found herself in. She is cofounder of Cornwall against Bullying, and is one of the nicest people you will ever meet in your life! She also loves to knit. This is her story.
Brian: Ok. Let’s start from the beginning. At what age did bullying begin for you?
Jessica: Year 2 so I was 7 years old This new girl joined our class, she seemed okay and she made friends easily enough but she really took a dislike to me. She called me names, picked on me a lot, I was nervous whenever she came near me at playtime. She used to hit me with her book bag (which hurt!), one day my older sister stood up to her for me and I don't think she spoke to me again after that, but it wasn't until about year 5.
Brian: Did she have your friends turn on you?
Jessica: Yes!!! I certainly remember that! I had a few friends - at that age most kids would like each other anyway, but eventually kids started turning on me as she made me into the loser kid and the weird one.
Brian: How would she turn your friends against you. Did they ever talk to you about it?
Jessica: I don't know really, I just remember she didn't like me and she made others think they were outcasts if they hung out with me, I guess at that age kid’s start to find the cliques in school and popular and non-popular kids are formed. Kids didn't ever tell me why, I was too shy to ask.
Brian: Ok. Looking back at that experience. How did it affect you moving forward and what do you wish you did differently in the experience.
Jessica: Well, it made me shy, anxious about talking to the other kids, gave me a label which followed me into my secondary school years. I wish I'd have had the guts - and the knowledge - to either explain to an adult what was happening, or really stand up to her. She was a nasty girl - she most likely had home problems to be nasty at that age but still! Kids often find it difficult to explain what's happening to a teacher for fear of looking silly, childish, or not important and I felt that way too! I have seen it in my own teaching practice which is why I feel taking every complaint to heart is important when helping children, because what may seem like child’s play and teasing to you could be life changing to them.
Brian: So the experience has helped you in your pursuit of a being a teacher.
Jessica: Oh yes, I try to bring all my past into my teaching - I was a child once, therefore I can relate to children now.
Brian: What kind of stories have you heard from other kids at school, and do you share your personal experiences with them?
Jessica: Well, I have had girls come to me saying things like "Miss Jess, so and so said I can't play because there's too many people but there isn't" - which obviously is seen to not be a bullying situation. But I would treat this by talking the children through the situation and explaining how they could handle it in future - in this case this would be by helping the other children count how many are allowed in, count how many are in there, and explain to each other that if they can't work nicely together they will need to find somewhere else to play - I find by telling children how to handle these situations like "grown-ups" would I am assisting them in learning maturity and problem solving skills. You never know when something you say may stick with them for life.
Brian: What other situations have you encountered?
Jessica: Another situation was a child was shouting at another one for pushing him. So I'd go over, ask them to relay the situation to me and find out each ones side of the story. I remember that it turned out the one who did the pushing felt he was justified in doing so because the other one had the green hula hoop which he was using before but had put down. As kids do they thought the best action would be to show intimidation and strength and get what they want quickly by being the stronger person. I would then explain what they had done wrong and why it wasn't the best solution, and would spend time with them trying to help THEM rather than myself, to figure out a solution which wouldn't hurt others and would keep them as friends. Kids need to know problem solving and maturity skills no matter how old they are. They are still being allowed to be kids and they can still be immature at times because they have only been alive for four or five years, but they still need an adult to guide them. How else will they learn?
Brian: Do you share your personal experiences of bullying with the kids you teach?
Jessica: No I don't share my personal experiences with them unless they have specifically asked me to. This is because I believe children should not see adults as being weak or not knowing what to do, as they need to see us as the ones to turn to when things go wrong. Adults need to give the impression that children can depend on them for the answers - and if they don't have the answer they will have a way to find it.
Brian: After second year. When was the next time you were bullied?
Jessica: in year 8, I was 12
Brian: What Happened?
Jessica: Well like you do when you're that age I fancied a lad, his name was Andy, and on my hand I wrote I A.B.The kids in class saw and quickly assumed this meant a girl called Anna - one of the popular ones, thus labelling me a lesbian. Everything hit the floor from there. Girls didn't want to go near me in P.E class as they thought I'd be checking them out, they wouldn't talk to me in class in case I fancied them and everyone got to know my name as the rumors quickly spread.
Brian: Did you try to explain who the love note on your hand was for? What was it like to be labeled a lesbian so unfairly? Did the stigma follow you around town?
Jessica: It followed me for years, till about year 10/11 when I met Keith. It was horrible!! It was so unfair because no one wanted to know the truth. Why would you want to find out something so normal and boring when the alternative is so exciting and different and you can make fun of it...? Right?
Brian: What did your classmates think when you got with your husband? Did it change their opinions at all?
Jessica: I started seeing Keith when I was 15, June 14th 2008 by that point they all had accepted that I wasn't gay, but there were still some nasty people who would find the fun in me having a boyfriend. Ryan once asked me in science if Keith was blind, Rosey never believed I was genuinely going out with him, Glenn would threaten to tell Keith things which weren't even true in an attempt to break us up or just plain upset me. But the real juicy stuff happened from year 9 up until the year I met Keith!
Brian: Tell me about that.
Jessica: Well over the years I was labelled as an attention seeker, because I tried to hard - only I felt I had to because no one would be friends with me. Do you know how horrible you have to feel about yourself to turn into an attention seeker just to make friends? It's very downgrading and horrible to admit. I used to think I wasn't an attention seeker but now I think I was. I lied a lot, made up stories to tell people to make myself seem more impressive, anything which I thought would get people to talk to me, look at me, and even know me. I was so desperate for the feeling of comfort and companionship. Heck, I was so desperate for companionship I got into trouble with men online - but I don't want to go into that.
Anyway, because of this naturally I was alone all the time. Lunch and breaks were really hard because during classes we had seating plans so I would just be able to sit and be quiet, but at lunch I needed somewhere to go. This would be the girls toilets or under the humanities stairs. I never ate at school I always bought sweets on the way in so that I wouldn't have to go into the canteen in front of everyone for fear of comments or mockery.
I'd stand by those stairs and break and lunch - for the entire duration. I always made out as if I was waiting for someone but I wasn't. I just needed to pass the time. Eventually I went under the stairs and hid in the little corner - you had to duck down to get in there but passersby could still see you. Kids would walk past and laugh, some I knew, some I only recognized and some complete and utter strangers. I remember someone in the older years actually throwing a sandwich at me!!!! I still think to this day no one believes that because I mean who would actually be nasty enough to do that!
One day these two lads from the year above - Rowan and Gerry, they came and walked past me and I noticed that they had been passing by several times. They asked if I wanted to walk with them but I was so nervous I said no - regretting that soon after. They asked again on their next round to which they then pretty much forced me to go with them. All we did was walked around the corridors in circles but it was great, I was so proud to have people who wanted to walk with me and talk to me! Gerry was Keith’s childhood best friend and he introduced me to him.
Brian: Do you believe that way was the turning point in your life?
Jessica: It was the start of it, but I wasn't to know that until the next few years had passed.
Brian: What happened in those next few years? How did your life slowly begin to change after that day in the stairs?
Jessica: Gerry and Rowan gave me enough time with them to see me through breaks and lunches for the next year or so, whenever they were away from school I would hit the stairs again, I had nowhere else to go and in an odd way I felt safe there. One day I decided to take a brave step and ask Gerry out, as I was talking to him a group of girls over heard and decided to be nosey and ask what was going on, they brought a crowd up within seconds I don't even remember how it happened so quick. Next thing I know I said to Gerry let’s talk about this later it's not important right now and bam, bin full of rubbish straight over my head. #1 most embarrassing moment of my entire life. I distinctly remember feeling cold coffee or some sort of liquid drizzling down my neck - sounds like a bad movie but it's true. I pulled off the bin, threw it at some kid in the crowd I just assumed had done it and I legged it down the corridor.
I decided it wouldn't faze me though and so I applied to go on to sixth form. (It's like college when your 16-18 years old, post compulsory education but is at the school). That was a bad choice, I made one or two friends but I was tormented during that one year. we had these trays where teachers and staff could leave notes and correspondence for us, I regularly found graffiti and horrible notes, one had a sexy girl on it and said 'prettiest girl in school' which I knew people were watching when I took it out my tray so standing there with my back to them I ripped it up and left it on the floor and left the room. I tried to explain it to my head of sixth form but he wasn't having any of it - he couldn't be bothered I don't think.
I failed sixth form. I got in trouble all the time for missing assemblies in the 'common room' because every time I entered it kids in this specific group laughed at me. So yep - failed sixth form, failed a-levels and quit after one year and went to college instead.
Best. Choice. Ever. I was suffering with social anxiety disorder by this point. I couldn't enter rooms by myself, couldn't order food, wouldn't speak out in class, didn't speak my opinion etc. I followed people around like a lost dog, hated everything I had to do when it came to presenting or talking in front the class.
I met Emma, Sorcha, Steph, Beth and Alice in college. I was 17. They were great girls, they took me under their wings and made me feel comfortable and wanted. They didn't care that I had difficulties, they were happy to work on them with me and were patient with me. Friendships came and went with other people in the building but those girls stuck with me, we had troubles but we are still friends now. By the end of college thanks to them and some incredible tutors and lecturers, I was able to enter classrooms most of the time by myself and was ordering my own food. I was feeling on top of the world!
University was next. I got into one at the college so didn't have to travel far to go there. I had trouble with kids on the buses as they assumed I was an older adult in college which wasn't well treated but I didn't care much at this point. A few girls in class were okay with me, my tutor Alicia was the most incredible one, as were the others. They really worked with me to bring me out of myself step by step and excused me when I found things too hard. Two years on I graduated from the foundation degree with a 2:1 grade which is really good, and they were so proud when I walked up the aisle of the cathedral smiling!!!!!!!!!! I can now shop, order food of all kinds, speak to strangers, enter full classrooms and seminar rooms AND READ OUT MY POEMS IN FRONT OF A ROOM FULL OF 200 STRANGERS AT GRANDADS FUNERAL!!!!!!!! Sorry I really wanted to add that because I was so proud! I was shaking and terrified, I twist my engagement ring when I get scared and my finger was bright red by the end of the poem but I did it! That was last January. I am happy to say that I don't think I have far to go before I am on top of the world now Brian!
Brian: Do you ever feel embarrassed that you were scared of such seemingly simple things in everyday life.
Jessica: No, because to me they were huge things and j knew the reasons that had caused them. I was often embarrassed when I was in the situations, but not because of them, more so because I was afraid everyone was watching me and that I was making a fool out of myself.
Brian: What is your advice to youth in similar situations as yours?
Jessica: That's a good question - because I don't know. I have been asked that before but I have no answer. I cannot recommend drugs or counselling, I cannot recommend anything that can be bought. I can however say don't lose hope. Though the pain and trauma seems never ending right now, it DOES get better. Look at me, I have had no help, no one came to save me, though actually saying that, I believe Jesus did, though I didn't see that back then. If you need to speak to someone speak to them, if you need somewhere quiet to go, find it, be yourself and whatever you do don't try to change for others or make up stories to impress them, it won't ever work. It works for a small time but it always turns around on you.
Brian: As a teacher, what do you notice that is different about bullying in schools now, then when you were in high school?
Jessica: I've not really witnessed a whole lot simply because I'm working with the very young children. I can say though that with the use of new technology and the Internet cyber bullying is advancing - I see it every day on my newsfeed - from adults and children.
Brian: When you see a student ostracized from the group. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, does it bring you back to those days hiding in the stairway? Do you try to help that person?
Jessica: Yes sometimes, if kids are ever in that situation I try to find a way to speak quietly with other children - without the individual knowing - to find them someone who will befriend them and invite them to join their group. This way the child feels it is not me making it happen but that friends are there for them. Following that I've found that many children in the early years will be new friends once it happens.
Brian: How did Cornwall against bullying come about? How many teens do you think you've helped so far? How does it feel to be a force against bullying in your community?
Jessica: I'm not sure how many teens we've helped so far, but through Cornwall against Bullying and your help, you'll recall we managed to save a young girl from suicide half way across the world. I don't do it to feel good, strong or powerful, I do it because I want to give something back, no one was really there for me so now I want to change that and be there for others. Cornwall against Bullying came about when my co-founder Daniel suggested to me that he wanted to develop a charity to change the face of bullying. One which would help the bullied - stopping the bullying from causing lifelong damage, the bullies - getting to the route of their bullying and why they do it in an attempt to stop it happening again, and the bystanders - not enough teachers/parents/onlookers know what to do in the situation and the easiest answer for them is to say "just ignore it" - well we want to change that.
Brian: Looking back at the old you. The girl that spent her time under the stairway, hiding away from the rest of the school. How do you compare that girl, to who you are now? How far do you think you've come?
Jessica: I love that question. That Jess died a long time ago from exhaustion. She gave up trying too hard to be someone else but she never gave up trying to be herself and reaching her dream of going to university and teaching and as you can see that paid off. I'd say percentage-wise I’ve come 97% of the way to being the most confusing courageous person I've known. One who can shop, eat and dance and sing in front of people without going red and fleeing the situation. The old Jess died a long time ago, it's Jessie's time to shine now.
Have any stories on bullying or how to deal with a bullying? Email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will take affirmative action by posting those stories to help you out. I'll also be posting stories of my own on my previous bullying experiences, and might even interview Chris Ransom about his experience with bullies. We need to grow a strong community and it starts here at our Anti-Bullying Page on Draft Utopia.