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A young man with a facial birthmark smiles at the camera. He is wearing a blue jacket.

Rory’s story: “It breaks my heart that people go through similar experiences”

Rory, 26, is from Scotland. He became an active campaigner for Changing Faces so he could use his experiences to help others.

Rory has a large facial birthmark and says that from a young age he was treated differently at school and in public. At first he didn’t take much notice but as he got older he would often get called names and sometimes be shoved around by other children.

“I was called ugly. I was told that I was a freak. I was compared to an alien and ‘evil’ film characters. Sometimes children would corner me and have a competition to see who could call me the most offensive names.”

It left Rory questioning his own appearance, and wondering why it was happening to him. He grew to dislike what he saw in the mirror, as he knew that his appearance was what ultimately led to the bullying.

When Rory reached his late teens, his friends would often go out but he would stay at home, not wanting to go because of the stares and comments from strangers. “The mental side of the abuse that I had to face really halted my development from a teenager into a young man. I didn’t go out with my friends at the weekend. I didn’t really socialise with anyone because of the prejudice that I had to face on a daily basis.”

At age 17, Rory was at his lowest point. He started having injections to reduce the size of his facial birthmark after more than a decade of no treatment. This was a turning point for Rory in many ways. The injections started to make a difference but he also decided to write on Facebook about his experiences. He received such positive reactions that it really boosted his self-esteem.

People who went to school with Rory got in touch and told him that they hadn’t realised what he had to put up with at school and that they really respected him.

If we start to educate children from a young age not to judge people based on what they look like, they will grow up having a greater understanding.

Rory contacted Changing Faces because he wanted to use his experiences to help others. He is one of the key spokespeople for our 2020 Hate Crime campaign and some of the abuse he has experienced is included in the campaign film.

“Although I’ve had quite a positive experience online, I have had to also deal with abuse and harassment. For example, one time someone sent me a message that said, ‘if I looked like you I’d hang myself’ and that really got to me. I didn’t know at the time that I could report that as a hate crime.”

Rory has spoken at conferences, to senior police officers and academics about the harassment he received and what needs to change.

“It breaks my heart that there are people still having to go through similar experiences to me. If we start to educate children from a young age not to judge people based on what they look like, they will grow up having a greater understanding.”

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