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Ohiopyle native writes book on anti-bullying

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 12:16 a.m.
Rachel Basinger | For the Daily Courier
Ohiopyle native Robert Hensley discusses his book, 'Leo's Love Story' during a program at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville this week.

Ohiopyle native and anti-bullying advocate Robert Hensley visited Carnegie Free Library this week, where he shared his recently published novella “Leo's Love Story.”

The novella's story shows how a young boy tries to deal with being gay and being bullied.

In part, he said, the book is based on his experiences of being bullied when he was a child.

“Bullying is an epidemic in our time,” he said. “I felt, as I really began to develop the characters in the book, that I kind of understood Leo the best.

“He felt that he was an outsider,” Hensley explained. “I shared Leo's thought that I could run away and everything would get better.”

In the end, it's the concept that when you've been bullied, you can either come out stronger or weaker.

“You have to make a decision at some point whether you're going to let it affect you or change you,” the author said.

Hensley lives in Los Angeles. He is a Hollywood makeup artist, producer and author, and has contacts in the entertainment world. He is involved in two different groups that focus on the effects of bullying.

Through some of his clients, Hensley has become involved with Cartoon Network's “Stop Bullying — Speak Up” campaign, as well as save.org, which tries to eliminate suicide as an option for victims of bullying.

Hensley cited several reasons a person is bullied — gender identity, sexuality, poverty, race, religion and weight.

“A lot of times it's issues that the student has no control over,” he said.

Hensley said bullying is the fourth main cause of death in children ages 10 to 14 in the United States. A child is bullied every seven minutes.

He said 160,000 students stay home to avoid being bullied, and 13 million students every year have experienced bullying. One in seven children is a bully.

“These numbers are dismal, and this is something that really does have to stop,” Hensley said.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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