Emmerdale star, Gemma Oaten, makes a powerful anti-bullying speech at the Ben Cohen Stand-up Foundation

Gemma Oaten may be a star on one of the nation’s biggest soaps, Emmerdale, but the 31-year-old’s past is just as heartbreaking as some of her storylines.

Speaking at a recent charity event for the Ben Cohen’s Stand-up Foundation, Gemma spoke about her own experiences of being bullied when she was younger and how it affected her – and her speech may just shock you.

‘If I told you at the age of ten, I was admitted to a children’s psychiatric unit and I was told if I didn’t drink a cup of water, I’d be dead in 24 hours,’ Gemma said to a hushed room of supporters.

‘If I told you at 14, I was emaciated and on hospital bed yet again and would be dead if I didn’t go on a drip.

‘If I told you at 19, I stood in my kitchen with a knife at my wrist, about to end it all.
‘And if I told you at 20, I had a heart attack – would you believe me? And that all stemmed from bullying.’

As well a 12 year battle with anorexia, the Emmerdale actress spoke bravely about being bullied back in primary school and revealed she told no one about it. That continued to high school, where people were throwing tampons, wet towels, and other horrible things at Gemma as she sat in a toilet cubicle.

‘I just wish they’d dragged me out of that cubicle, and beat me to a pulp, becaue what they were doing was behind closed doors, and there were no physical scars, but mentally, I lost all self-esteem, I lost all confidence, I lost all self-worth,’ Gemma said.

It all started when a young Gemma went from being a tom-boy who liked to play football and be one of the lads, started becoming more of a woman. And a group of girls did not like that one bit.

‘I spoke out eventually. My biggest, biggest regret was not speaking out sooner,’ she says.

Now also as a patron of her mum and dad’s eating disorder charity, Seed, it is these experiences of Gemma’s, that makes her feel so passionately about anti-bullying, and feel so grateful for a charity like Ben Cohen’s Stand-up Foundation.

‘If there’s something we can do with our little bit of profile that we have, is to raise awareness and I have absolute utmost admiration for what Ben has done in terms of speaking out about a tragedy in terms of helping others,’ Gemma says. ‘Twenty years ago, there wasn’t this sort of help happening.’

And it wasn’t just us who were touched and moved by Gemma’s speach. She received a standing ovation of applause and whooping, as she finished with a pretty kick-ass statement.

‘Never let anyone dull your sparkle. And I’m gonna stand here like a big glitter pole, and I’m gonna stick two fingers right up in the air to all those bullies who tried to kill me and say: Puffing you with glitter right now.’

Gemma is now an Anti-Bullying Ambassador as part of The Diana Award – encouraging, empowering and engaging young people – and is talking to school children about the subject.

You. Go. Girl!

Amy Lo