Age 14 from Arizona
Abbie, age 14, from Arizona - "I usually get bullied about the way I look. I know I am different from other girls...it started in preschool, when I walked in and a boy shouted, 'WHALE' at me. Ever since then, it has been downhill for my self-confidence."
Age 27 from Arizona
Adam Smith, age 27, of Arizona, shares that "being different" in Kentucky was OK with his mother, "as long as he didn’t show it." Adam sought solace by teaching himself to play the piano. Once Adam’s father discovers he is gay, Adam says his father, "basically told me that he was going to wash his hands clean of me if this is the way I am and that was devastating to me …when you’re at that age, your parents are your world." Adam’s story exposes the importance of parental support and acceptance of every child. We learn that sometimes, it is the parent who is the bully. Adam leaves home at a young age to pursue his passion of songwriting and singing and copes with his childhood memories by saying, "Find something you love to do and do it."
Age 17 from California
Blake, age 17 from California, has been involved in dance since she was a young child. As an exceptionally gifted dancer at a highly competitive studio with older students, at age 13, cyber-bullying by other studio dancers began. Blake was called, "slut," "whore," "ugly," "dyke" and "untalented" and several dozen other phrases. The dance studio turned its back since the bullying occurred off-premises. Thereafter, for years, in-person snide and hateful comments have been directed toward Blake. Blake's story shows the years of torment she has undergone. Blake is home-schooled.
Age 13 from Arizona
Brendan, age 13, of Arizona, tells us that he was bullied in 5th and 6th grade because he is "white at a school with 70% minority students and has a spectrum of Autism called Asperber’s Syndrome." Brendan tells us he was called "cracker," tormented because he loves animals and continually told to "go away" when he tried to be friendly. "It just makes me feel like I am not wanted around anyone. I feel like I am hated and I feel like I am nothing. I feel like I am not even human."
Age 17 from Florida
Brett Loewenstern, age 17, from Florida, is an American Idol Semi-Finalist who endured many years of verbal harassment at school including being surrounded by a group where, "Burn the Jew" and other anti-semitic comments were made repeatedly. After years of being called "faggot," "sissy," and names because of his full head of curly red hair, Brett began self-mutilation and spent time hospitalized to overcome his lack of a desire to survive. While there, Brett shared his love of music to help himself and others realize they do belong in the world. Brett shares, "I’m not going to change who I am for other people. People should love who they are. Embrace who they are." The deep passion to end bullying is evident as Brett shares his original song, "Bulletproof Vest" as a message to those who bullied him that he is on his way to believing in himself and his dreams.
Bridget Pettis from Arizona is the WNBA Assistant Coach to Phoenix Mercury who discloses many stories of her bullied youth growing up in Chicago, and the strength she had to overcome the odds against survival. A long way from being called the "N" word during her childhood and suicidal thoughts, Bridget began coaching a middle school girls’ basketball team where she gives the ultimate life assignment to, "Go home and look in the mirror each day and say you love yourself 25 times. If you don’t love yourself, there’s no way you’re going to make it in this world."
Age 16 from Arizona
Caleb, age 16, from Arizona, was tormented at his public school by being called "faggot," and almost run over by a car. Upon first meeting Caleb, he had dropped out of high school, got his GED, formed a LGBT teen suicide prevention hot-line, was involved with lobbying for a change in federal legislation for safe schools and advocating for other bullied youth. Caleb’s story is far from the fairy tale he first presents as he stands handsomely in a suit or tux, preparing for a White House Conference, discussion with the Secretary of Education or President Obama. Caleb tells of the difficulty he has with allowing himself to feel. Although "for the record" Caleb speaks of his supportive parents, he frequently needs to find some place to sleep other than at either of his parents’ homes. Caleb overcomes the hurt by continuing to be a strong advocate for others who are bullied and to work toward being an LGBT youth advisor to the President of the U.S.
Age 16 from Australia
Casey Heynis, age 16, from Australia, speaks of the years of being called "fatsy" and other names at his school near Sydney. Then the day came when he became a YouTube sensation as he was set-up by the bullies with cameras prepared, and a 12 year-old bully began to punch Casey in the face and stomach. Casey tells us that he "snapped." Casey is still healing from the years of being bullied and the barrage of media that descended upon his home to get the story. Mom shares that they only spoke to one television station in Australia and Bullied to Silence because no one else asked how Casey is doing.
Age 17 from Massachusetts
Conor, age 17, from Massachusetts got involved with wrestling at school to follow in his father’s footsteps. As the shortest student, including the girls, in 6th grade, Conor quickly became the target of words like "shrimp," and "sissy," which later developed into "faggot," and "You must be gay if you like to wrestle", and told on the bus that another student could "head stomp" him, even though he was a good-looking, competitive wrestler in 7th and 8th grade. Without support from the middle school to stop the bullying, and encouraged to "just get over it by an administrator," Conor relied upon supportive parents and his award-winning wrestling participation to help build his self-esteem as we follow him while he is flourishing at a private school.
Age 12 from Massachusetts
Dalton, age 12 of Massachusetts, is called, "fag," "sissy," "untalented," and dreads attending school. With tremendous support from his family, Dalton pursues his passion to sing and winds up singing the National Anthem in front of 33,000 people at Fenway Park. During filming, Dalton was compelled to finish one of his anti-bullying songs, ""Someday." A true musical rarity, Dalton’s self esteem grows before our eyes and his comment about those who previously bullied him brings roarous applause from every audience.
Attorney from Arizona
David Horowitz, Esq. of Arizona is a successful attorney and active participant in national causes for human equality. Growing up, David experienced being called "fat" and other names because he was too smart, not athletic, Jewish, and he didn’t "fit in." Even bullied by a school coach for his lack of athletic talent, David wore his verbal wounds in pain. During his adult years, David came to realize that his mother wasn’t aware of the bullying because he never told her. His openness in retelling the conversation with his mother who said she wished she knew, helps us to recognize the importance of the parent’s validation of and support for the bullied child. David understands and helps us on the path of realization that bullying will not stop until we address the underlying needs of the bully.
Age 19 from Arizona
Fernanda, age 19, from Arizona, shares her life as a peer counselor for a teen hotline. However, no stranger to being bullied by being called derogatory ethnic names because she moved here from Mexico and is Hispanic, Fernanda also does her share of verbal bullying. Through the process of being involved in this film, she realizes that words do hurt and that her words leave a lasting mark on those she directs them at. Fernanda provides us with a wonderful opportunity to see the metamorphosis of a young adult who was bullied, then bullies, "get it." Realizing that the answer to being bullied is not to bully the other person more, Fernanda’s big heart and desire to help others make healthy decisions, she transforms in front of our eyes.
Age 14 from Massachusetts
Hayley Reardon, age 14 of Massachusetts, got involved with being an active bystander when she felt the pain of a close friend being bullied and another acquaintance taking her life after being cyber bullied. A folk musician referred to by many on the Boston music scene as the next Joan Baez, Hayley wrote an anti-bullying song, "She’s Fallin" to express her feelings of what a friend looked like to her as she was relentlessly bullied to silence. Hayley travels and performs nationally on behalf of Pacer Teens Against Bullying.
Jason Lalli of Arizona was bullied and an active bystander who, through his brilliant spoken-word messages, shares his insight on how we can all be active bystanders. Fondly known as "Lalli," the power behind his words and the passion from which he speaks will help us all be the change to stop verbal and cyber bullying.
Age 27 from New Jersey
Jennifer Ehrentraut, age 27, from New Jersey, is the first cousin of Tyler Clementi, who, as Jen states, "Ended his life on a dark, stormy night in the pouring rain in NJ, all alone, by jumping off a bridge" after his roommate broadcast Tyler’s sexual activity with another male collegiate at Rutgers University. Jen talks about how she has always fought for the underdog. She just never thought it would be her first cousin, her "buddy." She shares the eulogy she wrote and read at Tyler’s funeral and brings us pictures and signs made in support of Tyler. Jen delivers the message of acceptance and unconditional love as a tribute to Tyler’s life. Her focus to personally make a change to save lives heightens throughout the production of the film.
Kevin Epling from Michigan shares the light that shined on his son Matthew, age 14, by opening his heart, "Remember Matt for who he was. What he gave. Not what he did." Kevin has become a major force in the battle against bullying by Co-Founding Bully Police USA and spear-heading "Matt’s Law," which was passed after 4 years on December 16, 2011. Kevin says this law will keep Matt’s legacy alive and help so many kids. With passion that only a father who has lived the horrific pain of losing his child, Kevin states, "Remember our kids. These are not statistics. These are names. They are faces. That’s why we have to do what we have to do."
Age 15 from Maine
Katherine, age 15, from Maine – As the identical twin of Kristen, Katherine’s story of being verbally bullied includes days in class where the other students would hatefully ask, "Where’s your sister, is she in a mental institution?" Katherine, with a mild stutter, endured the pain for both herself and her sister. Her story is that of a gorgeous blonde who is just different enough to draw the negative attention of the bullies, and the active bystander who only wants her sister Kristen to be happy and to know she loves her.
Age 15 from Maine
Kristen, age 15, from Maine - When we met, Kristen was just released from a 7-week hospitalization to overcome depression and to heal from her self-injurious behaviors. Kristen states, "I could have died", as she speaks directly to those who also know her pain. The words from her "friends," "Since I hang around you, I stutt, stutt, stutter..." linger in her heart. Now, on her journey to healing, Kristen is a talented songwriter and finds pleasure in writing anti-bulllying songs and performing with her identical twin, Katherine as "The Veayo Twins". Kristen now loves to skateboard and enters competitions to hone her new skills. She and Katherine have changed schools. She is no longer bullied about her stutter. Kristen is no longer called "emo," the word to indicate that you are an emotional person who self-injures.
Age 13 from Massachusetts
Lynda Rose, age 13, from Massachusetts, sets our camera on fire with her natural beauty and large blue eyes. Bullied by her peers with words like, "you’re ugly", "alien", and "just go kill yourself," her experiences led her to write and perform "Pushin’ Me Down", a song with a message to her bullies. Lynda-Rose arrived at her new private school only to find her biggest bully from her previous school also a new student there. Lynda-Rose observed karma in action when as the "new kid," the previous bully was not accepted and had no friends. Lynda-Rose is forced to decide whether she will befriend her former bully or ignore her.
Age 13 from Arizona
Marilyn, age 13 of Arizona, proudly shares that her mom taught her if someone does something to her, says something to her, she should say something worse. "I bully people because they have bad taste in clothes, bad hair styles and bad looks and they are not really smart. I say that they’re dumb. I say that they’re fat, sometimes I get too carried away and I say too much." Through Marilyn, learn the needs of the bully as she shares her mother is bullied. During the filming, Marilyn tells us she’s glad she is involved with the film because she got it off her chest; she has always kept it to herself and now she feels better and feels she’s been helped a lot.
Age 13 from Arizona
Merik, age 13, from Arizona, was called "faggot" and other anti-gay slurs for years. In 2011, the day before we met Merik, he organized the GLSEN "Day of Silence" at his Arizona public school. Those who chose not to be silent chose to call Merik "faggot," "sissy," and told him, "Just go kill yourself." Only months earlier, Merik wrote a school assignment in which he stated he wanted to end his life. The school never contacted Merik’s parents. The film follows Merik to the district’s school board meeting where he was armed with a list of changes to be implemented to the anti-bullying policies and a petition with over 2800 signatures. The district did change its policies and with newspapers and television cameras present, chose NOT to implement the protection of LGBT students against bullying because LGBT youth "choose" their lifestyle.
Michael & Marisa
Ages 13 & 14 from Massachusetts
Michael, age 13 and Marisa, age 14 from Massachusetts describe themselves as "regular" middle school youth who have never experienced being bullied. Michael professes that as an active bystander, he gets physically sick when he hears others call people hateful names. Marisa shares that her brother and she decided they could do something to stop bullying by writing and performing anti-bullying songs including, "The Same." Not ones to sit by and watch their classmates bully or be bullied, Michael and Marisa share their thoughts on why people bully and why they choose to spend their free time performing for thousands of youth as "The Band Michael and Marisa" delivering an anti-bullying message at their concerts with Marisa on the drums and Michael on the guitar.
Age 13 from Arizona
Nicolas, age 13, from Arizona, teaches us the empathy needed for youth who are bullied, then bully, while looking for the answers to escape the pain. His words carry a powerful message when he says, "It isn’t easy to just walk up to a teacher and tell her you’re being bullied."
Robert Lucas of Nevada is deaf and "hears" the hateful words said about him and his being deaf.
Teen Lifeline Peer Counselors, Margie, Ian, Jennifer, Fernanda of Arizona work on the telephone hotline to provide a safe, confidential and crucial crisis service where teens help teens make healthy decisions. During several round-table discussions, these youth provide insight to the state of bullying in each of their different schools. Open conversations about being bullied, being the bully, being an active or inactive bystander, thoughts on how to stop bullying and why they think people bully, are shared by these high school and college students.
Veronica Winters-Everly is a survivor mother whose eyes speak a thousand words when she shares that she had no sense that her beautiful daughter, McKenna, age 13, was going to take her life. "She came home from school that day just as happy as any other day." This compelling story, told by an incredibly brave mother, shares the deep impact bullying has on an entire family. "I don’t know why McKenna felt so hopeless and didn't come to me...it's really turned our life upside down."