Six rows of 8th grade girls sat motionless, listening intently to the young woman standing in front of them. The woman said, “I often try to figure out what makes people do what they did to me. I wonder if they would have stopped had known that what started as a joke would cause me to cry myself to sleep for a year, affect my future relationships, taint how my peers viewed me in high school and continue to affect me nearly ten years later.”
Debbie Nehmad, now 22, was severely bullied from ages 12 to 14 while attending a very small local yeshivah. The SAFE Foundation invited Debbie to Magen David Yeshivah on November 20th 2013 to share her story of how targeted bullying changed her life.
With pain defining every crease on her face, she recounted, “I will never forget how I felt when I opened a textbook and saw horrible things written about me in my best friend’s handwriting.
“It got to a point that I had become so accustomed to being treated poorly, that I began to believe that I didn’t deserve to be treated well.”
Debbie continued, “All too often, people fail to realize the difference between drama on TV and real life. They don’t realize that those are actors who walk off the stage once the scene ends. In real life, you can’t control the extent to which you hurt someone. In real life, we don’t get to walk off the set.”
Debbie Nehmad went on to develop talents and hobbies, graduate from high school with honors, and complete college. She stated that she was able to get through everything in part because of the guidance of her therapist. She said, “I learned that there is nothing anyone can do to make you unworthy of love and respect.”
When Debbie finished speaking, the students asked if she was friends with these people now, if she had other friends then, and if she forgives. One thing she answered was, “This is not something I can ever forget.”
She told the girls, “We need to know that we have really powerful effects on people – especially the people we see every day who expect us to maintain a safe environment for them. And, we must know that it is unacceptable to use another person’s feelings for our own entertainment.”