A CANBERRA man who experienced terrible bullying as a child has written a book based on his life that he hopes will help others.
Jason Potter’s book for teenagers and young adults is a coming-of-age story that introduces readers to Josiah, an adventurous boy trying to navigate life and find his place in the world after being severely bullied at school.
“Josiah” is based on Mr Potter’s own childhood experiences of being bullied at schools, mainly in Victoria, during the ’80s.
In one particularly cruel incident, an 11-year-old Jason was beaten up by teammates after school cricket practise.
“They attacked me physically on my way home from cricket, ” Mr Potter, 48, says. “I had a bloody nose and severe bruises all over me.”
Mr Potter, now a school chaplain, says much of his childhood was spent on the move, settling into new neighbourhoods and schools as his parents pursued work.
The constant moving contributed to the challenges of fitting in and his school years were punctuated by regular bouts of bullying that have had a profound effect on him.
“I suffered a lot of physical violence at school,” Mr Potter says.
“We moved around a lot as kids and I went to six different primary schools and two high schools in SA, Victoria and the ACT.”
The first-time author hopes his book will help other young people, particularly boys, going through similar experiences.
“For the person who is being bullied it can be an entire season of life where they feel anxious and worried every day and at the forefront of their minds they are constantly wondering what is going to happen to them,” Mr Potter says.
“In reading the book, I hope that people who have been bullied can resonate with Josiah, in the sense of feeling powerless, but also find hope that they can experience healing.”
When Mr Potter was growing up the only form of bullying was the physical or verbal variety that happened at school and stopped at the front gate.
But today bullying continues behind closed doors and well beyond school hours through the use of social media, he says.
“Nowadays you don’t get relief from bullying when you go home because it follows you on social media,” Mr Potter says.
He argues that bullies are becoming less accountable for their actions because it’s harder to prove bullying online.
“Using Snapchat, a child can bully another child by sending messages that disappear so a child can’t show the messages to parents or teachers. All a bully needs to do is deny what they have done, which means it’s one person’s word against another.”
But Mr Potter says more work is being done in schools to help people cope with bullying and to call it out.
“Physical bullying has diminished in schools to a certain extent because we are much better at identifying it in schools than we used to be and we have a much better system to deal with physical violence,” he says.
“What’s grown exponentially is psychological and emotional bullying.”
In the book, Mr Potter chronicles the bullying Josiah experiences, but also the support he encounters on his journey.
“In a sense it’s a redemption story,” he says.
“It tells the story of a boy who is anxious, struggles to make friends and is powerless, but by the end of the book when Josiah is older he seeks to make a difference in the world.
“Often boys don’t talk about what’s going on in their world, but hopefully boys can see themselves in Josiah or identify with one of the characters and see their own story.”
Mr Potter, a father of four teenagers, began writing the book during last year’s covid-induced lockdown. He says writing the novel has helped his own healing process.
“Writing the book is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and the covid lockdown last year provided a good chance to focus on a project that was positive and had a strong purpose to it,” Potter says.
“I’ve spent many years working through the things I experienced as a child so it’s been good for me to get this down on paper.”
“Josiah”, $21.94 or a Kindle version is $11.99, from amazon.com.au or at jasonpotter.com.au
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