The long-term effects that bullying can have on a child is something Ariane Weathers is all too familiar with.
Growing up back east to what she describes as a lower middle-class family, Weathers was the middle child sandwiched between two older brothers and two younger sisters. She often wore hand-me-downs and was very shy.
She became a victim of bullying at a young age in Montreal. Beginning in Grade 3, she would get picked on — she would have stones thrown at her and be called a host of rude names — by the same group of kids who continued to torment her until she moved to Ontario in Grade 10.
“Back then, there wasn’t a lot of help with bullying and you didn’t know to tell your parents or tell anybody. You just kind of absorbed it all,” Weathers said. “I had very low self-esteem like I wasn’t worthy of having friends and it stuck with for me a long time.”
Over the years, the bullying took its toll. She tried acting and modelling, but still never felt “worthy.” She felt like she could never succeed or amount to anything, Weathers said, noting it also had an affect on her relationships.
It wasn’t until Weathers was in her mid-30s that a friend helped boost her self-confidence and allowed those scars to fully heal.
Now, Weathers is using her personal experience to shed light on bullying as part of a new children’s book called Pugnacious and the Bullies.
The book, the second in a series, is about Pug the dog, who goes on a daily stroll and makes two rescues from bullies and gains a life-long friend in the process.
It touches on what to look for if someone is being bullied, why kids bully and how to address it.
Weathers hopes the message will make kids more aware of the effects of bullying at a young age.
“I’d like children to learn that it’s not okay to bully. It’s not a temporary thing, even after you stop the bullying the victim holds on to that for a long time,” Weathers said.
“Some people are able to get past it. Some people, like myself, it takes a long time to get over it. The hurt and the damage is really engrained.”
As part of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, a national anti-bullying campaign where people wear pink shirts to stand up against bullies, $1 from each book sold in February will be donated to the campaign.
To purchase Pugnacious and the Bullies visit arianeweathers.com.