Fara Williams: You don't have to suffer bullying in silence

16 Nov 2023
Fara Williams

Former England star speaks about the importance of asking for help and how we can all be an ally to create a better world

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Bullying can take all sorts of forms - from aggressive and abusive behaviour in the playground to being undermined and denigrated in the workplace and on social media - and former England star Fara Williams has experienced it all.

Speaking in a video that is being shared with schools by Premier League Primary Stars as part of Anti-Bullying Week, Williams has shared her story, offering advice as well as hope for those who are being bullied.

See: Premier League Primary Stars Action and Reactions resources

This year's theme, "Making a noise about bullying", resonates with the former Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal midfielder, who now works as a TV pundit, and is using her platform to explain the negative impact bullies can have on your mental health.

"I always see myself as somebody that was mentally really tough, [had] really huge resilience levels," says Williams, who earned a record 177 international caps for the Lionesses. "Playing football I had to build that, but I think when you're bombarded with abuse, it can get to you.

"It slowly but surely breaks you down and and people suffer in silence with it, it's far greater than what people realise. I think they don't know how far one comment can affect one individual, and that's what they need to realise before they certainly [decide] online stuff they need to type. Or even face-to-face stuff in playgrounds, for example.

"I go back to when I played the game, played football and you know, maybe even myself needed a shoulder when I made a mistake."

See: Joint statement on Online Safety Bill

Having the personal tools to speak up, or an ally who will step in and offer support if you are being bullied, is key to tackling the problem and the Premier League remains committed to using education as a force for positive change to help.

As part of Anti-Bullying Week the League launched in-classroom resources to help children understand the hurt and impact of negative behaviour such as tragedy-related abuse as part of the Premier League Primary Stars programme.

The resource pack, which is available to 18,900 primary schools and 66,000 teachers in England and Wales, discusses, among others, being able to verbalise emotions and identify the feelings of others.

See: Action against football tragedy abuse

"It's important that you speak to people around you and ask for help and get advice from people that maybe know a little bit more than you or certainly can make a difference," adds Williams.

"By asking or telling them, I think we're challenging unacceptable words from others. It can be really difficult. It's a really awkward situation to be involved in and I think the brave thing to do is to tell somebody about it."

Williams believes that everyone can play a part in making society a better place for all, and recalls a time when she was going through a difficult spell in her playing days.

"I do think it's important when you have seen or heard something, that you do alert people," she adds. "The only way we're going to make a difference is by telling."

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