Haley Kilpatrick has tips for bullying victim Michaela Voiles

9:07 AM, May 11, 2012   |    comments
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By Pat McGonigle

St. Louis (KSDK) -- To hear her tell it, 13-year-old Michaela Voiles has had a bad year.

The St. Louis teen says she's been roughed up at school, on the bus and on the walk home.

"Bullies are everywhere," she says from her Miami Street home.

Voiles says she suffered a fractured jaw after another girl punched her last fall.

Sadly, her story is a familiar one to Haley Kilpatrick, the author of a new book, "The Drama Years".

"Middle school girls all over the country are falling victim to this," Kilpatrick said.

And Kilpatrick should know - the 25-year-old was also bullied in her middle school years.

"I'd go home in tears more days than not," Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick's book, which has been featured on the Today Show and the USA Today, relies on interviews with thousands of young girls and their parents.

During a recent stop in St. Louis, she offered a few tips that parents and children can use right away.

Finding an older teenage mentor can be helpful, the author says.

"As a parent, you should know that peer mentor but know that she can have someone when she's feeling alone or not feeling like her world is in check, that she can go to her and feel like she's having an open conversation and not feel like she's being judged and feel accepted just the way she is."

Getting involved in a community service project or some type of "anchor activity", like a sport or a hobby, can also boost self-esteem for adolescents at-risk for feelings of isolation.

"It's a great way to step outside of yourself, give back and know that when you're reaching out to somebody that does have a need, it really helps you step back and say, 'It's not really the biggest deal if I have the latest Uggs or popular backpack or whatever it is at the moment."

Daughters who are obsessed with brand awareness, and material possessions, can also be headed for trouble, Kilpatrick says.

Kilpatrick also runs a non-profit agency called Girl Talk. It's a free program that allows middle-school students to create support groups with high school students, among other activities. You can learn how to start your a chapter at your school on Girl Talk's website.

Ultimately, Kilpatrick's book, and her agency, offer solutions for adolescents who feel threatened or alone.

People a lot like Michaela Voiles.

"What it feels like to be bullied is like your like the only one against them," Voiles said. "And you can't really stand your ground because there's like eight against you or however many friends against you."

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