This was written in 2015 – but is being republished on our new blog in 2019.
Disclaimer: Some names have been changed, because it is not my intention to make this a witch hunt for things that happened almost 15 years ago. The only reason I am even writing this story is to enlighten anyone who may have a comparable experience. To anyone going through something remotely similar to this … I promise, it gets better.
It has been almost 15 years and I have never publicly told my story. I’ve never so much as talked about it with anyone, other than vague details to a few close friends and my husband. My story has been off limits, not just to the world – but to myself.
I want to preface all of this by saying that the things that I have been through have made me stronger, less naive, and more cautious of who I let into my life. They have taught me what is acceptable behavior from others in my life, to defend myself and family, but most of all never to depend on someone else for my personal happiness.
Trying to even figure out where this story should start is difficult for me, seeing as I’ve never really spoken of it in its entirety. I cannot promise written elegance, impeccable grammar, or the absence of profanity – but what I can ensure is honesty and a raw depiction of what a lot of high school/middle school children are experiencing this very moment.
Growing up I was a tomboy, super athletic, and basically didn’t want to have anything to do with things that weren’t competitive. My three main sports were volleyball, basketball, and softball, but I also dabbled in track and cheerleading a few times. Middle school was an awkward moment in time for me, but who isn’t it an awkward time for? Between puberty, learning social hierarchy, and hearing about sex for the first time – it could seriously be a clusterfuck for anyone.
I went to a small middle school, where we had been in the same classes, with the same students basically since kindergarten. In 8th grade there is always teasing, taunting, and stupid jokes – and none of it ever seemed malicious at that point. I hung out with the popular kids, like most athletes … I guess I was in the ‘in crowd’ so-to-speak, but it never seemed cliquish to me then, in a small school you really talk to everyone.
At that point there were three guys, we will call them M, J, and N that hung out within our group of friends. M, J, and N often picked on me, but honestly, I saw it as light hearted and friendly at that point … I usually held my own pretty well, picking right back at them and went on with my day. They would call me random names, most of the time I wasn’t sure what they meant or where they came from and one that I often heard from them was “horse” (and to this day, I still have no idea where that name came from). I always brushed it off and went on. However, at the beginning of my 9th grade year my world completely changed the course of my life.
The first day of my 9th grade year at Herbert Hoover High School, in a small town in West Virginia, I was so excited for high school that I can still tell you the exact outfit that I was wearing the first day (a mustard yellow Guess small tee, with dark wash denim shorts, my hair long and straightened).
At that time there were two middle schools that fed into one high school, Clendenin Middle School (which was where I attended) and Elkview Middle School (which are rivals – until high school consolidation). It only took a couple weeks of high school for me to realize that it wasn’t going to be what I had dreamt it to be.
It was during volleyball season that everything started to spiral out of control for me. It just so happened, that we had so many girls that played volleyball there was enough for a Varsity, Junior Varsity. and a 9th grade team – If you were a 9th grader you were automatically on that team, there was no moving anyone up that year. This year of having a 9th grade team, also happened to be one of the most talented group of 9th graders HHHS had ever brought in, which made competing for starting positions very intense.
My mother was the coach of our 9th grade team, which was normal for me because I grew up with her as my coach – my entire childhood I knew nothing other than practicing my ass off hours a day at whatever sport was in season, and I loved it. I was one of those kids who lived, slept, and breathed sports. So, it was no surprise when I got a starting position and all tournament or all conference that the girls who didn’t play as much were always saying it was “because her mother is the coach”. What they were never told is that each time they asked coaches to vote on all conference or all tournament players, my mother took herself out of the vote because I was on the team … She never voted for me. But this was only the beginning of the animosity.
Honestly, I don’t remember the very first day that it started … and I sometimes heard some of the girls calling me “superstar” behind my back, but I saw that one as a compliment and owned it. But soon after the “horse” reference, from middle school, became my identity and it was no longer limited to a few boys picking on me, or a group of jealous girls on a volleyball team – it was everyone. When I say everyone, I know you must be thinking that I am exaggerating, but if you know someone who was there at that time – they will probably tell you the same thing … I honestly only remember two people who I never heard join in on the teasing and taunting in some way.
It started as someone making horse sounds in the hallway between classes, then to someone writing horse on my locker in permanent marker … Then it got to the point that kids I didn’t even know would randomly ‘neigh’ at me. There was no safe place at school, and it eventually spilled into home, as well. At this time AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was popular and I would be in my room on the computer and get messages from screen names like “Jasmineisahorse”, “HorseHater”, etc. I would instantly block these names, but they kept creating new ones … and I still have no idea who was behind the online bullying.
One of the things I remember more vividly is in gym class the girls stealing my clothes, money, and pager (yes, when I was a freshman pagers were cool) and when I came back to my locker it was stuffed full of hay … kids actually orchestrated bringing bales of hay to school to stuff in my locker and gym bag. A few kids were suspended over the hay incident, but that just made matters worse. They acted like it was my fault that they were suspended which escalated the torture, unfortunately this incident happened the day before my birthday …
It got to the point where I would spend my lunch periods locked in a bathroom stall, sitting on the floor until the bell rang to go back to class. Teachers actually started to take me home during their planning periods because of how bad the harassment was becoming.
No matter what I did, what I wore, what I didn’t do, I was constantly harassed … Walking down the hallway the upperclassmen, I didn’t even know, instigated throwing things at me.
I remember going to a school assembly and when I walked into the gym two boys tried to make me fall in front of the entire school by tying fishing line to two soda bottles and stretching them across the gym floor to trip me with, luckily I saw it.
I had a senior date me as part of a prank … and not only did this senior just date me, he also attempted to rape me, but ran away when I started screaming because he was afraid someone heard me.
The longer the school year went the more depressed I became, sports were the only thing saving me – I loved sports so much and it was the only place I felt safe. I was good, so they needed me, it was the only time I felt I actually belonged.
I would go home and lock myself in my room after practice and cry myself to sleep. However, not even my room was safe, because of the online bullying that incessantly was popping up on my computer screen.
The first time I decided I wanted to take my life, I was giving up … I was quitting … I broke a CD case in my room and started to run the sharp end of it up my wrist – as the blood started coming out of my body, I felt relief … relief I hadn’t felt before. My emotional pain, had a physical print and that somehow helped me.
Obviously, I didn’t kill myself that night, however, it led to one of the lowest points of my life … Wearing long sleeves to hide the cuts on my arms … making sure to slice my legs high enough that my practice shorts would cover the fresh cuts.
My entire freshman year, EVERY SINGLE DAY, went like this … The more I was tortured the more I cut myself. I had one friend that knew, and thank God for her … I still tell her to this day she saved my life, and I truly believe she did. Meagan was the only person I knew at Clay County High School, and I would often call her in the evenings and cry about how horrible my day had went, she listened, and got mad with me … It helped having someone to share my anger with.
I never told my parents the extent of how bad the bullying became, and if they read this … They will most likely be as surprised as you are to read it. They knew I had a hard time my freshman year and the kids picked on me, but that was all. And knowing that I never told them how bad it really was, I am so thankful that when I asked to transfer to Clay County High School my sophomore year, they let me – without hesitation. Maybe the did know.
When starting my first day at CCHS I hung by Meagan’s side like a lost puppy. I knew that 45 minutes was not enough distance for these kids to have not heard the stories of why I left my old school, and I was right.
It was only a few days into my sophomore year at my new school, when someone came up to me in the hallway and asked me if ‘I were the horse from Hoover’ … Meagan was with me and I am not sure what she said to him, but I am pretty sure she threatened his life … because from that point on, I never heard someone call me a horse at CCHS again, my entire 3 years.
I often wonder what it would’ve been like if I had a friend like Meagan at Hoover my freshman year. I have forgiven (for the most part) the kids who made my life hell that year … but who I have still not forgiven are my so-called friends who said nothing. There is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that I love “I will not remember the words of my enemies, but rather the silence of my friends” … and to this day, this rings true for me.
I am thankful that I ended up at Clay County High School though. I had a wonderful three years and the drama was limited to normal high school drama, not bullying. I was the captain of three sports teams (which was important to me). I had friends, lots of friends. I ended up with a scholarship, a full ride, that I wouldn’t have gotten had I stayed at Herbert Hoover High School, because it wasn’t offered there. Clay County High School saved my perception of high school … and most likely, my life.
I went on to Concord University, 2 hours away from Herbert Hoover High School, and there was one instance in which someone referred to me as a horse (someone who had no connection to my old school)… and I had a few fraternity friends that immediately shut that down, as well. Thank God for friends who were willing to go out on a limb for me. It’s crazy to think that no matter how far away from that school I was, people still knew.
For so many years I walked around paranoid about who knew and just wasn’t saying anything. Wondering why anyone could possibly want to love me or be my friend because they just ‘had’ to know that I was the ‘horse’ girl from Hoover.
I believe that my experience my freshman year of high school shaped a lot of bad decisions that I made in friendships, boyfriends, etc. In college I submitted to an abusive relationship and not knowing my worth, took entirely too long to end it. I married the first person who treated me well and didn’t abuse me – which ended up in divorce because I had no idea what I needed out of a husband. He and I are still friends, and we both know we were just not ‘right’ for one another as husband and wife. It took me longer than most people to figure out who I am, and what I needed out of life … But now that I have, I feel I am unstoppable. I believe my experiences are why I have become a leader in business and relationships. I believe that my story is the reason I am strong now, emotionally.
There are a lot more details I could share of what happened that year, as well as, some of the bad decisions I made as a result of that year … But, it’s harder than one would think to talk about. From time to time people still try to drag up the past on troll websites like Topix, but now I clearly see their actions are a reflection of their own miserable life and jealousy and I easily shake it off.
I now have a successful business, a few amazing friendships, and a wonderful husband and son. I hold my relationships close to my heart and if they are not working out I easily let go of them – some say that is a flaw, but I think it has saved me a lot of additional heart ache.
Overall, I am a positive person, but I also am realistic. I have high expectations of people and stand firmly by them. People that know me now would probably find it hard to believe that I was ever so weak and it is hard for myself to believe now too.
There will probably be people who read this (the ones responsible for a lot of the bullying) that have something to say about me sharing this story … But I am no longer fearful of those people. It has been 15 years and I have long since moved on. I have never shared this story publicly, but I am hoping that someone will read this and see that it does get better, because I am a living example of that. Maybe someone that is considering taking their life will read this, see my success and happiness and think twice. I am not so arrogant to think that I could have that type of power, personally – but maybe my story does have that power.
I am not sure if I have shared enough in-depth to make a difference, but I feel like it does me more harm than good to give any additional details, and I have repressed a lot of them.
About a year ago I had a friend message me on Facebook, that I went to Hoover with and she said how proud she was of me, and how after everything that I went through that year, that I found my way out of it and became strong and successful … It makes me happy that other people have seen my strength through the years, because it hasn’t always been easy. But to get to where I am today, I would do it all over again … I am truly where I need to be.
I have since developed a love for tattoos, and while most of my tattoos have meaning, my most recent piece is extremely close to my heart (and ironically enough, my tattoo artist is named Hoover). This tattoo is a water color image of a wolf with the words “Throw me to the wolves and I’ll come back leading the pack” … I feel like that basically sums up this entire experience. To me it is the end of giving that time in my life, power over myself and my thoughts, and a new beginning of being successful and moving forward.
Photo Credit to my wonderful husband and photographer, Jason White of Jasmine Rose Photography.