By Brooke Haffenden
A 14-YEAR-OLD author and campaigner visited St Mary’s Primary School in Whittlesea last week with a powerful message for the students.
Attending the school, Monique Mastrobattista shone a light on bullying and told students the most important thing to do was to speak up.
The author of My Discreet Bully, opened up to students about her own experience. At age 13, Monique fell down some stairs at school and was left with a badly bruised face. Posting photos on herself on snapchat, she told her friends she had been hurt.
She never could have imagined that bullies would spread the photos. In scenes reminiscent of Mean Girls, the students used the photos to taunt Monique.
Monique told the Whittlesea Review she developed a stutter and her grades slipped. With the school failing to take action, Monique sought help from a psychologist and from there the book evolved.
“I saw a psychologist because I was quite sad I had been bullied and I had a really bad stutter for about three weeks and that’s when the book kind of evolved,” Monique said.
“I could talk but it wasn’t as clear as I would like so I started writing out my feelings that eventually the book formed.”
Fighting back against bullying, Monique is using her book to help spread awareness and assist victims of bullying.
“I knew when I was getting bullied that it was not a very good place to be in time. I figured it was probably a really good idea to do a book and help other children,” she said.
“It’s probably easier for a child to relate to another kid that it is for an adult telling a kid. It’s still effective, but maybe kids feel more comfortable with someone their own age.”
For the students, Monique said the best thing they could do was speak up against bullying.
“The best thing to do is just speak to your parents. If it is on social media you can block the person, take your evidence – your screenshots – and show the school,” Monique advised.
“Speak to your school and parents and try and resolve the issue. If that doesn’t work you can take it further.
“(Speaking up) is probably the most efficient way then people will get the message you’re not going to take their bullying anymore.”
Students, teachers and parents from St Mary’s Primary School welcomed Monique and her message. Principal Phillip Smith said Monique’s visit, which coincided with the school’s activities for Say No to Bullying Week and Harmony Day, was insightful for students.
“We thought it was really good for the students to hear that from someone closer to her age, rather than just us adults and parents talking to them about it. The fact that she’s only 14 and our Grade 6’s are 11, she was 13 when she wrote the book it’s pretty amazing at that age that she had that sort of insight,” he said.
Mr Smith said he was happy to see parents attending the event as it’s necessary for parents to have a conversation with their children about bullying.
“I think when you’ve got parents and children talking about these messages certainly it helps with preventing bullying but also helps children who are going through it to deal with it better,” Mr Smith continued.
Mr Smith reiterated Monique’s message and said people who are bullying need to keep telling people until someone hears.
“Don’t give up the first time you’ve told someone… you’ve got to keep that message going until you find someone who will listen to you and support you,” Mr Smith said.
“Don’t keep it to yourself. Speak out and tell someone.”
If you or someone you know is the victim of bullying, contact Kid’s Helpline on 1800 551 800.