Letters to a Bullied Girl : Messages of Healing and Hope

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-12-03
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Olivia Gardner, a northern California teenager, was severely taunted and cyber-bullied by her classmates for more than two years. News of her bullying spread, eventually reaching two teenage girls from a neighboring town, sisters Emily and Sarah Buder. The girls were so moved by Olivia's story that they initiated a letter-writing campaign to help lift her spirits. It was a tender gesture of solidarity that set off an overwhelming chain reaction of support, encouragement, and love.In Letters to a Bullied Girl, Olivia and the Buder sisters share an inspiring selection of messages that arrived from across America-the personal, often painful remembrances of former targets, remorseful bullies, and sympathetic bystanders. Letters to a Bullied Girl examines our national bullying epidemic from a variety of angles and perspectives, and includes practical guidance from bullying expert Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. Though addressed to Olivia, the letters speak to all young people who have been bullied, offer advice and hope to those who suffer, and provide a wake-up call to all who have ever been involved in bullying.


Letters to a Bullied Girl
Messages of Healing and Hope

Part One

The Bullies

"Not a year goes by that I don't feel ashamed."

Dear Olivia,

I have one message that I'd like to pass on to you, and it comes from the perspective of the abuser, not the abused.

I am a 45-year-old, happily married, and well-adjusted man. When I was in middle school and high school, I was particularly mean to a classmate. Ruthlessly mean, in fact. She was from a poorer family, heavier in size, had few friends. An easy target. The torment lasted far too long, probably through my sophomore year of high school.

My behavior plagued me far longer than the four or five years I bullied my classmate. After much introspection, I know why I did it. The details aren't as important as the message: bullies feel better about themselves by picking on others. The bullying has nothing to do with the abused and everything to do with the abusers.

I am ashamed of my behavior, just as your bullies may one day be ashamed of themselves. But I have learned from it. If there is one thing that I would say to my classmate today, it is that I was a weak person then, full of self-loathing and with a black hole in my heart. How sorry I am for not being a strong enough person to see the damage I was causing.

Being abused makes you grow up quickly. You probably understand this already, but please, don't let anyone take away your self-respect and self-confidence.The good news is that this whole mess is temporary. You'll get through it before you know it.

Good luck with all you do in life,


Dear Olivia,

I am glad you are getting so much support. When I was in middle school (many years ago) I was not at all popular, even though just the year before, in sixth grade, I hung out with the "cool" kids. For some reason, when we went into seventh grade, I was no longer cool. I had hardly any friends. And the other kids just ignored me. What I want to tell you is that I did something that I am really, really sorry about now. There were a girl and a boy who people made fun of. I don't think I ever really said anything to them, but in my heart and mind, I made fun of both of them. Somehow I thought it gave me just a little bit of coolness to do that, though of course it didn't at all.

Now I am a minister and I'm also a Buddhist. I've thought a lot about things I have done in my life that I feel badly about, and the way I thought about those two kids is one of the things I feel really badly about. I have apologized to them in my heart, and I hope they have felt my apology in some way. I know you've heard from kids who have been bullied—but I don't know if you've heard from anyone who has done the bullying. I know now why I did it, and I know it may have caused them pain. I hope they grew up to know they are wonderful human beings, just like you are, Olivia. No person is any better than any other person. We are all the same, really. We all have gifts and things we do well, and we all have parts of us we may not be proud of. And we all have hearts that are made to love—it's the very best thing we can do, I think! And everybody can do it. In fact, if everybody did it, what a great world we would have! And you, Olivia, have helped a whole lot of people to learn what it's like to send love to someone we don't even know.

I'm glad to have the opportunity to share my story with you, Olivia, but I'm even more glad that you've found so many people who DO care about using their hearts and minds to love and to support each other. I hope you can soak up all the love, just like sitting in the sunshine on a nice spring day.Love to you for the rest of your life,


Dear Olivia,

My daughter is going into middle school this fall, and this story shed light on a situation that is very real and has been around for decades. Your story ripped open an old wound for me.

I was that bully when I was in high school. My "clique" and I said the most awful things to a girl. Later in life, I deeply regretted the words I used to taunt her. It bothered me so deeply that twelve years after I graduated, I sat down and wrote her a long letter.

I told her that I was sorry and that I hoped that my own insecurities when I was in high school did not forever taint her life and that I did not expect her to ever forgive me but that I wanted her to know that I was very sorry.

I never heard back from her, but one day, I ran into her brother, whom I had not seen in many years. He told me that she had received the letter, and it did make a difference to her.

Olivia, I am so sorry for what has happened to you. Bullying needs to stop and I am so so proud of your new friends Emily and Sarah for stepping forward to help stop it. I have raised my three daughters to act the same way as these two sisters. It was hard to tell my children that I was a bully. As a parent I wanted my children to see me as perfect, but I learned how important it is to show my kids that we all have faults and that healing and progressing becomes powerful when we confront our issues.

Olivia, I hope you have an incredibly successful life. Emily and Sarah, I am so proud of you.


Letters to a Bullied Girl
Messages of Healing and Hope
. Copyright © by Olivia Gardner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Letters to the Bullied Girl: Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner, Emily Buder, Sarah Buder
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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