PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Utah student who says she was tormented, bullied and harassed is letting other students who may be suffering in silence know that they are not alone.
Emma Bernasek is ready to step out of the shadows to shine a light on the dark and brutal world she endured during her first few years of middle school.
“They did this thing called Fight Night. This girl was there like, ‘fight fight,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t want to’ and she threw me to the floor and put her hands on my throat and choked me, and then put her nails into my throat and I started bleeding,” Emma recalled.
The daily threats and bullying on social media hurt, but what left Emma wounded and emotionally scarred were the notes that encouraged the young girl to end her life.
“People would write notes saying, ‘you’re not good enough kill yourself,’ ” the 14-year-old explained.
“You would read them and what would go through your head?” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
“That I’m not good enough,” replied Emma.
“Why did you feel that you weren’t good enough?”
“Because if you get enough, you start feeling like that. You feel like no one wants you here– like you’re not good enough to be here,” Emma responded.
Emma’s reoccurring nightmare would begin when she woke up for school.
“Every morning when I would wake up hear my alarm go off, I would start crying and be like, ‘I’m not going today.’ “
Emma said she contemplated suicide “many times,” and after years of torment she finally opened up to her parents about the bullying.
“It just it was sort of a nightmare,” Gretchen Bernasek, Emma’s mother, replied when asked what that moment was like.
The Bernaseks knew their child was hurting but they did not realize the extent.
“To see her go through what she had to go through and not knowing that she was going through what she was going through until after the fact, I mean, it makes you feel like a failure almost,” said Emma’s father, Joel Bernasek.
Emma had her reasons for not opening up about the bullying.
“I felt like no one is going to believe you or I’m just being dramatic and that I could have been tougher. But now that I think about it, I know I couldn’t have been. That was probably the toughest I could have been. But I just thought like, no one else goes through this because I didn’t know anyone. And so I was like, it’s just me, something is wrong with me. So I just didn’t want to say anything.”
Alpine School District officials say it can be tough for students to reach out for help.
“There are a lot of students that are nervous maybe, that a teacher or a parent may not validate what they’re saying and take them seriously,” Rebecca Andreasen, the AWARE Grant Manager for Alpine School District, explained.
To combat bullying, the district created Project AWARE, Advancing Wellness Resiliency and Education, which helps victims of bullying and their families.
“It was recognized by a number of different people that the emotional and social well being of our students was in need of support,” said Andreasen.
Educators in the district are also taught how to deal with bullying behavior.
“The teachers themselves feel confident and turning to their administration and reporting those things that were student may be concerned and their well being might be at risk,” said the AWARE Grant Manager.
The Alpine District also has Hope Squads, which is comprised of select students, trained to watch for at-risk students, provide friendship, identify suicide-warning signs, and seek help from adults.
“That peer-to-peer connection and support is is really key,” Andreasen said.
To all of the Utah students out there struggling, Emma says, you’re not alone and hopes that you take advantage of the resources readily available.
To read about all of the resources the Alpine School District has in place to combat bullying, click here.
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