CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Imagine being told you are worthless. Worse yet, you believe it.
Then add not talking to anyone about it because you’re afraid the bullying will just get worse.
"High school kids are vicious,” said Cody Weaver.
He heard and felt verbal and physical bullying because he’s gay.
"I've had a Bible thrown at me before, literally thrown at my head,” Weaver said.
It’s carried on into college.
"I had a couple of kids driving around in a big truck and they started screaming obscene words and they threw a glass bottle at me," he says.
Weaver says being told that he’s not normal and will never have a family are the worst things bullies told him.
Bullies use aggressive, intentional behavior, often repeated over time, to intimidate.
Studies show victims live in a climate of fear. They are more likely to be depressed, lonely and anxious. Many victims suffer from low self esteem, feel sick and think about suicide. Some students who are bullied fear going to school, using the bathroom and riding the bus.
Dr. Preeti Matkins with the Levine Children’s Hospital and Teen Health Connection says bullying victims are susceptible to a number of problems.
"Depression, cutting, substance abuse, running away, avoiding school, all of those,” she said.
"I was very lucky in that aspect because I knew if it got bad enough, I knew I had someone behind me,” Weaver said.
Studies show bullies themselves are more likely to get into fights, be injured in a fight, vandalize or steal property, drink, smoke, skip school, drop out and carry a weapon.
"They increase their self-worth by putting someone else down,” Matkins said.
Now at 23-years-old, Weaver says the bullying that started in his teens will likely stay with him for life.
"I'm never going to be able to get rid of the fear of walking down the street and looking over my shoulder,” he says. “I don't think I will ever be able to show affection in public and not worry about it. I've gotten more comfortable with it, but it's terrifying every time."
Matkins says she knows a young girl who refuses to eat and drink in school because that girl doesn't want to use the bathroom, because the bathroom is where she's bullied by classmates.
NewsChannel 36 has partnered with Rachel’s Challenge to try to spread kindness through the community, so children don’t have to live in fear of bullies.