IMG_1629On 2 July 2015 at about 10am, I opened the door to my daughter’s room to wake her and her friend up.  My usual trick is to open the door a little to let the dog in.  Molly would jump on top of the girls and sniff around their heads and lick their faces.

I expected to see a messy room, piles of clothes and bags and stuff all around and the shapes of two teenage girls bundled up under the covers. What I did see, however, was an empty room.  I don’t mean empty as in the girls weren’t in it, I mean empty as in the appearance of things being missing without being able to say exactly what at the time.

They weren’t in the lounge, they weren’t in the bathroom or outside or anywhere. They were gone…

It was more than 3 days later before I heard that they had been found and almost 4 before I had my daughter back again. This period of time is hard to describe in brief – it can be said that it is the time between when my life was put on hold to when it came off hold again. It was a period when time had no meaning, sleep couldn’t find me and food had no flavour. There was just the searching, and the waiting, and the clinging to sanity.

How does the above relate to the creation of this blog and the FaceBook page “stronger than you think” (which you can find at www.facebook.com/wehearyourvoice)?

Before my daughter went missing we knew that she was unhappy at school. We knew that she was being picked on by a number of children.  We had been in contact with the school to demand that something be done about it. But we had no idea how fragile she had become. What she told us was only the tip of the iceberg.

The relentless bullying included not only name-calling, but also the spreading of rumours, taking and breaking her things, posting photos with nasty captions to Instagram and Snapchat, rude texts and FaceBook messages, nasty comments to her posts on FaceBook (one proclaiming great joy that our dog had died). The poor girl felt persecuted every minute of every day. She even started feeling unsafe at home, because these people knew were she lived, where she slept. She felt that they were following her, watching her all the time.

At the end of last term she begged to be moved to another school. Of course, because we didn’t know the full extent of the bullying and her fears, thought that there might still be a resolution if we worked with the school.

And here’s the thing – she did not reach out to us, or to anyone who could help her. She saw the counsellor at school, but did not have enough faith in the system to disclose everything to her. The person she did confide in was her friend, a girl her own age. The friend served only to increase her anxiety and feed her paranoia.

So this is what I want to achieve. I want to create a place where people, like my daughter, can share her story, or go to read other people’s stories – anonymously, if they choose.

I want to create a place where good advice can be sought, where resources can be found and where there will be supporting and loving people to communicate with.

I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want to give back to the community that supported me when I was in distress and helped me find my daughter.

But I cannot do it alone – in order for this to be a community I need others to join me. To share their stories. To provide support and love to anyone who reaches out.

If you want to help, please contact me at elsahowarth@gmail.com.

Thank you