“My principal told me I was disgusting”

Vanja Skotnes

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When ‘Emily’ (20) was in Catholic school, a teacher spotted her holding hands with her girlfriend. “My life was made hell”, she says. 

‘Emily’ attended an all girls Catholic boarding school when she was 15 years old. In this period, she entered into an ‘experimental’ relationship with another girl. One Saturday, ‘Emily’ and her girlfriend went for a walk in the park, holding hands. One of ‘Emily’s’ teachers saw them and immediately called the principal to tell her about it.

“As a consequence my girlfriend was expelled for misguiding and corrupting other students”, says ‘Emily’.

Although she wasn’t even sure of her sexual orientation, ‘Emily’ was forced by her principal to tell her parents that she was gay.

“She took away all my confidence”

‘Emily’ was forced to see the school’s councillor once a week.

“If I didn’t do that I would have been expelled as well. The councillor didn’t make me feel better at all, she was disgusted by what I had done and told me it was wrong. She made me feel awful.”

The therapy did the opposite of what it was supposed to do – it made ‘Emily’ depressed.

“I got very self destructive. The therapy was about ‘what was wrong with me for wanting to be in a gay relationship’. The councillor reported back to my principal after every session. She also told me that there was something wrong with me. My parents had split up and she told me that my parents’ problems were my fault, making me believe that I was a person with a lot of problems. Basically, we paid 80 € a week to hear that I was a freak.”

‘Emily’ says that this period was an extremely confusing time for her.

“The principal told me that there were certain employers that wouldn’t hire me, so I would have to re-think what I was going to do in college and all that. It made me feel really insecure. Sometimes I still do feel that I don’t know where I’m going and I frequently feel insecure because of what my principal used to tell me”, she says.

After a while, ‘Emily’s’ parents saw how bad she felt after seeing the councillor and ended up paying the councillor not to say anything to ‘Emily’s’ principal about her not attending therapy anymore.

“My life was made hell by my principal. She took away all my confidence. It was awful, and it really affected my studies. The principal also rang all my friends’ mothers and told them that I was gay. She made me believe that the world didn’t approve of me”, says ‘Emily’.

“I wanted to give the finger to everyone”

‘Emily’ became very self destructive.

“I started to feel like my boarding school was a prison, and I needed to get the hell out.”

On the school walls, horrible things were written about her.

“When this whole thing went on I didn’t eat and I drank a lot of alcohol. I would also self-harm. This went on for eight months. I felt like I was alone. And I didn’t want to worry anyone so I didn’t speak to anyone about it”, she says.

‘Emily’ also ran away from home a lot without telling anyone where she was for days.

“One time I bought painkillers to mix with alcohol. Not to hurt myself, but to forget about everything for a little while.”

She used to be violent with herself.

“If I was in stressful situations, like in my principal’s office, I would pull my hair or pinch myself because I had so much frustration. I had no opportunity to release the frustration because it was constantly getting pumped up in me from everywhere. Someone was constantly watching me, whether it was my principal, teachers or someone else. No one trusted me and it was all because of this one time a teachers saw me holding hands with another girl”, ‘Emily’ says.

This has also given her a problem with authority.

“I just wanted to give the finger to everyone because they made me feel like shit. The teachers never told us about the real world, but about an ‘ideal world’. This messes people up, because you are told that you are wrong”, says ‘Emily’.

Banned and largely isolated

‘Emily’s principal told her that being gay would hinder her career, education and social life.

“She also told me that it wasn’t normal and that it was unacceptable in the school. I am sure she was coming from a religious point of view, because she banned me from services and I was kept back if there was going to be prayers in assembly. I was largely isolated”, she says.

‘Emily’ felt like her principal had her security in her hands, and says she was very afraid of her.

“She told me that I was disgusting. Not only what I had done, but that I was disgusting.”

Still struggles

‘Emily’ says she’s happy now. She is in college, discovered that she’s straight and has a boyfriend. She knows now that there wasn’t something wrong with her, but rather something wrong with the principal, she says. However, she is still struggling.

“I am very insecure in a lot of social situations. I’m very self-conscious about my looks. I would be worried that everyone would stare at me if I didn’t have my makeup and hair done. I have very little confidence and major trust issues. I always worry that someone is doing something to hurt me”, she says.

She feels that she has wasted her teenage years, and she has a lot of regrets that frequently make her feel depressed.

“I have very little faith in myself and I’m frequently questioning my abilities. I would say that what happened still affects me three days a week – somehow.”

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Vanja Skotnes

As a former journalist for Amnesty International, I will use this blog to write about human rights abuses. My intention is to create more awareness. Follow my posts and stay updated. Twitter: @vanjaskotnes