I saw videos of me being beaten up on social media. It took a year to go back to school

My thick-lensed glasses made me a target.

I saw videos of me being beaten up on social media. It took a year to go back to school
Harvey with guide dog Alfie
Things changed forever, when Alfie came into my life (Picture: Harvey Yeoman)

Clicking on the video, I felt sick to my stomach. 

There was me, and another pupil of my school pulling my hair. Following me as I tried to walk away. Then punching me in the face. Dragging me around the school playground. 

Going through the attack had been terrifying enough. But now watching it on social media felt, if possible, even worse. 

How on earth could I go back to school, knowing everyone would have seen that? I didn’t even want to leave the house. 

Which is why, after a full year of home-schooling, it is so amazing that I have now returned to college and am loving studying. 

And that is all down to one person. Or, I should say, dog. My best buddy. Alfie. 

I was born with variousvision impairments: myopia, congenital stationary night blindness, visual stress and migraines, and a very poor visual field.  

I’venever been able to see clearly – even with the glasses I was prescribed at the age of one – to me, that’s just been the norm.But when I went to secondary school, my thick-lensed glasses made me a target for bullies

Verbal taunts soon progressed to physical bullying. I was pushed around and shoved into other people. One time I was even pushed down the stairs. 

On several occasions I reported what was going on to the teachers. I felt like I couldn’t tell my mum because I didn’t want to worry her. 

Every day I lived in constant fear – and being bullied left me feeling worthless, self-conscious and at times, feeling suicidal.  

Harvey and his mum embracing on the beach with the sea behind them
When Mum found out I had been bullied, she was utterly heartbroken (Picture: Harvey Yeoman)

And, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, in 2022, when I was 14, and in Year 9, I was attacked in the playground.  

One of the few friends I had phoned my mum. She demanded to see me straight away and immediately took me home.  

That night I wrote a letter to the school, detailing my experience. That was how Mum found out that I had been bullied for two years and she was utterly heartbroken. 

In an attempt to make me feel safe, she set up meetings with the school to try and ensure measures were in place for my return. 

They promised a teacher would meet me at the school gate every morning and there was an allocated area of the playground where my attacker was no longer allowed. 

Unfortunately, these weren’t enforced properly. 

After a few weeks, I still felt unsafe and as my mum could see the impact it was having on my mental health, in June 2022, she decided to start home-schooling me. 

The council came to visit and showed us some schooling apps to work from home online. 

In the beginning, I really struggled without a routine. 

That lack of rhythm meant I was awake most nights and slept most of the day. And despite trying to stay in touch with a couple of close friends, we soon lost touch. 

All this only made me feel more alone. 

Harvey and his mum on the London Eye with a view of London behind them
The more I trained, the more confident I became (Picture: Harvey Yeoman)

As the months went on, I knew I had to regain some confidence, and signed up with a personal trainer, who was aware of my sight loss. 

He closely assessed what I was capable of doing and would stop me if he saw it wasn’t safe. 

The more I trained, the more confident I became. I started to like myself again. But it was in October that things changed forever, when Alfie came into my life. 

My consultant had put me in touch with the charity Guide Dogs about four years ago. They contacted me, and came out to assess me and put support in place. 

Then last year, I found out about their buddy dogs service,which brings a canine friend into the lives of children who have a vision impairment like me. 

Lynda, my Senior Habilitation Specialist, gave me the number and I got in touch. Over the next year, Mum attended several group webinars, we had a home check and we even went to meet some of the dogs. 

All of the pups were great, but when I met Alfie there was an instant connection.  

I played with him for hours and I immediately forgot all the bad things that happened to me. 

Since then, Alfie has helped in every way possible. 

He gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and I generally feel more confident when it comes to leaving the house, thanks to the daily walks Mum and I go on with him. 

My mental health has also improved as, whenever I am playing with him, I feel happier. He is so loving and makes me feel safe. 

Harvey crouching in the shallows of a river with guide dog Alfie
 Alfie has helped in every way possible (Picture: Harvey Yeoman)

Quite simply, I’m enjoying life again, and it’s all thanks to Alfie. It makes such a difference knowing he will always be at home waiting for me. 

I’m now 15 years old, and am currently at college doing my GCSEs. The classes are smaller, and I feel like I am in a more mature setting, finally getting the support I need.  

I love having a routine again and have made new friends who I look forward to spending time with every day. 

Sadly, my experience is not rare. 

Research from Guide Dogs reveals that four in five (83%) adults living with sight loss were bullied as children, and over half (52%) felt isolated in social situations when growing up. 

That’s not good enough and I think changes need to be made at every level of education to support others with vision impairments in schools. 

Teachers need to have more training to understand how they can help people like me navigate life at school so we can get the most out of our education. 

I hope telling my story will help many other children and families to speak out if they are suffering. 

My message to anyone who is being bullied, whether partially sighted or not, would be not to hide it from your loved ones. 

I wish I had told a family member sooner because as soon as I did, my life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. 

Before Alfie, I couldn’t see a life beyond being bullied and now I feel I have a future. Besides, I know I need to be there for him like he is for me. 

It has been a long and tough journey from that incident in the playground, but with my best friend Alfie beside me, I feel like I can do anything. 

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