How an ugly act of bullying inspired Lynelle Cantwell to speak up

When Lynelle Cantwell came face-to-face with an ugly act of bullying she took a stand.

Lynelle Cantwell stands outdoors in a field, with her hands resting on a fence.Lynelle was sitting in math class when she heard her friends talking about some online list. Her friends told her there was a list, with about 12 girls on it who the list said were the ugliest in their grade. Lynelle’s friend was upset, she was on the list. Lynelle tried to calm her friend down, telling her that the list didn’t mean anything. But then her friend told Lynelle that she was also on the list.

“It felt like my whole stomach dropped,” Lynelle said.

Her friend went on to tell Lynelle that she had been voted #4. She was shocked, and said she just turned around in her seat, unable to really focus on anything else but that people had really voted in a poll like that.

A moment like that can be devastating. When someone cyber bullies, it can feel anonymous but the victim of that bullying is real, and the hurt it leaves behind is very real. Lynelle certainly felt that when she first discovered the list.

“There was a moment when I wanted to be by myself...I just started crying and I just really wanted to be alone. I wanted to go in a bathroom somewhere and lock the door but I decided not to.”  

Instead, she decided to take the power away from the bullies, and refocus the conversation.  In a Facebook post, Lynelle directly addressed those involved, “To the person that made the ‘ugliest girls in grade 12 at HTH’...straw poll,” the post began, “I am sorry that your life is so miserable that you have to bring others down. To the 12 people that voted for me to bring me to 4th place, I’m sorry for you too.” Lynelle continued her post by showing that instead of anger she simply chose to pity those who had made the hurtful list and that they weren’t going to keep her down. 

Brenda Cantwell, Lynelle’s mother said that in that post, “she turned it around, and she made them look so small and she turned such an ugly situation into something that blossomed. She was a hero.”

People started sharing her post, and it soon went viral. Lynelle started getting messages from people across Canada and around the world, saying that her words had helped them as well.

Andrew Hickey, the principal at Lynelle’s school describes her reaction as showing “wisdom beyond her years...We’re really proud of how Lynelle stood up for herself and stood up for her friends and the other girls listed on that posting and her courage was inspiring to all of us.”

Initially people wanted to find the person who posted it, Andrew said, but that was “just feeding into the frenzy of retribution...the girls on that list wanted to rise above that.” Instead, they shifted the attention away from who it was who started the bullying into educating their school that “this is just not right, we can’t be hiding behind our phones and posting derogatory things towards others.”

“Everybody was behind me and supporting me and it was awesome. It was a good feeling.” Lynelle said.

On February 28, the Canadian Red Cross is celebrating Red Cross Pink Day. Pink Day is a day to raise awareness of bullying issues and to inspire others to speak up when they see bullying happening. 

Did you know that when a peer intervenes in a bullying situation it usually stops within 10 seconds? In that moment you can be someone’s hero, simply by speaking up. 

Get your Red Cross Pink Day shirt, and learn more about getting involved here

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