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Telling his truth to help victims of bullies
A week before Amanda Todd took her own life, Surrey RCMP Const. Tad Milmine began sharing his own story of abuse and bullying with students across B.C. and Ontario.
On Friday, the day after the one-year anniversary of Todd’s death, Milmine was in front of 1,500 R.E. Mountain Secondary students at the Langley Events Centre, speaking his truth.
“If I am to be successful today, you will leave here a little bit of a better person,” Milmine told the crowd of teenagers.
He shared with the students the story of his life, which included being locked in a basement for 12 years and being bullied at school, as well as the story of another boy’s life of physical torment and bullying. It left the students hanging on his every word.
Milmine has spoken more than 220 times and received more than 7,000 emails from students afterward. The majority of the messages thank him for coming to speak, but often that begins a conversation in which they open up to him.
“They are looking for someone to talk to. Many of these students pour their hearts out and tell me everything. I hear horrible stories of bullying, others are the bullies and they make a commitment to me to change,” he said. “All of these students’ emails inspire me to do more.”
“I do these talks on my days off from my full-time job as a police officer,” said Milmine. “I will go home after this and read through and respond to every email that is sent to me.”
Milmine told the students about his world of abuse growing up.
He begins his story at age five, when his parents divorced and his mom left, never seeing him again. He was left in the care of his alcoholic father who quickly brought a new woman into the house. He refers to her as “the devil.”
She locked him in a unheated basement, with a concrete floor, for every part of his day — except while he was at school — all the while verbally abusing and berating him. Often he was served food on a plate at the top of the basement stairs. He was given five minutes to eat. Through the years, his dad drank and ignored what was going on with his son.
“It was my dirty little secret and I didn’t tell anyone,” he said.
At five and until 17, he was “horrifically” introverted and shy, and was constantly sobbing both at home and school. He was a target of constant bullying at school.
“I was a victim and the message here is victims don’t speak.”
He never fought back, never responded or told anyone. He just took it.
One day, at 17 years old, Milmine left his house and never looked back. He walked all night and ended up finding his own way to the welfare office which set him up in his own apartment. He has never seen his dad or ‘the devil’ since.
“I’ve had a lot of negative in my life, but I made the choice to live positively,” he said.
He shares with the students a story about a 15-year-old boy Jaime Hubley of Onatrio who killed himself after being bullied for being gay.
“I read the news in my bed at night and I remember reading about Jaime and feeling frozen in my bed. Right there I knew I couldn’t just read about this anymore, I was going to do something about it.”
He talks about how Jaime was tormented and didn’t tell anyone. He speaks of the times when bullies would hold his mouth open on the school bus and everyone would spit inside. They then shoved batteries down his throat.
When a student called his parents to let them know what was happening to Jaime, they took him to the hospital where the batteries were removed.
Milmine then tells the kids that he, too, is gay, just like Jaime.
He makes it clear that the only reason he mentions he is gay is to demonstrate that he understands what it’s like to feel like an outcast.
“I want to make sure these kids know that they do have someone.
“I know what it’s like to be different and unique, and I also know what it’s like to grow up and live my dream.”
But he also tells listeners that if they had a negative thought when he announced he was gay, they need to ask themselves why.
“I tell them I’m still the same person, and if you call 911, no matter how much you hate me or dislike me or don’t understand me, I’m still going to be at your door asking how I can help you,” he said.
Milmine does his presentations on his days off and on his own dime.
He created the website (www.bullyingendshere.ca) to tell both his story and Jamie’s story, and to hopefully help struggling youth. Because there are a lot of teens with their own secrets and their own pain, and the numbers of them are rising, he said in a later interview.
He points to a popular app Ask.fm that has caused many teens pain.
While it is a great chatting tool, it also sends daily spam into their accounts with such messages as: “you are ugly, why don’t you just kill yourself?”
The spam is sent from a Middle Eastern country and has no person attached to the hurtful, hateful words, but many teens take the spam personally and it’s damaging, he said.
Milmine urges everyone to start talking to teens, having real conversations — not sending them to websites — to help with bullying.
With files from Surrey Leader