In sixth grade, Olivia Steinrock's life was turned upside down. "One day we were all friends and the next we weren't. I never understood why," she said.
Steinrock spent the next two years being bullied by classmates in her Baltimore school, suffering bruises, cuts and even broken bones as well as a broken spirit. That abuse, physical, emotional and eventually sexual, would have a lasting effect on the now-21-year-old Steinrock who suffers from PTSD.
As a member of the Disability Express Group she is eager to participate in the group's anti-bullying efforts. "I was not bullied for my disability but my disability was created by bullying," she said.
Steinrock was a straight-A student, liked by her teachers. Then came the day she found herself sitting alone at lunch. This was followed by taunts of "fat" and "stupid."
"I had grown up with these girls," she said. "We had been friends since first grade."
The bullying quickly escalated from name calling to her being "bashed into a wall, hit, cut with knives." Most of it, she said, occurred in the bathroom or a coat closet, with a couple of girls standing guard.
"They were awful to me," she said. "But I never told anyone."
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She met with a counselor "but never really said what was going on," she said.
The counselor suggested all the girls come together to discuss the matter. "I was thinking, no, you don't understand. They have threatened my little brother. They have threatened to kill me," she recalled.
Afraid, she kept the severity of the abuse hidden from her parents as well. She became a "very good makeup artist," covering up her bruises with makeup and her cuts with well-placed jewelry.
Then came the day of an electrical fire at the school. "The alarm went off in the middle of them abusing me, so they decided that they wanted me to die in the fire," said Steinrock. Her tormenters tied her up with an extension cord from the janitor's closet and broke her ankle. She was left stranded on the third floor but managed to get out.
At one point, she considered suicide. "I was tired and done," she said. "The abuse had escalated and now included sexual abuse." One night she took a knife from her kitchen but before she could harm herself her dog came up to her and began licking her. "My dog never gets up in the middle of the night," she said, smiling softly.
Steinrock changed schools in eighth grade. She was no longer bullied, but her ordeal continued. She had flashbacks and nightmares. "I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks," she said. She was diagnosed with PTSD and has been frequently hospitalized. Despite that she finally graduated high school and would now like to study nursing. But school settings remain difficult for her. As was the recent visit to Sykesville Middle School where members of the Disability Express Group talked about their experiences with bullying. "I had to walk into a middle school. That was very hard," she said.
But she is determined to share her story. And while she kept to an "age-appropriate version" she was otherwise frank and honest about her experiences. "I want the students to realize what you do now can affect someone's life later," she said. "It can haunt them."