For an anonymous teenager in Hamilton
cyberbullying stories aren’t something she just reads about it. She had the courage to tell her friend what happened to her, so her friend could write about it in the Waikato Times. It’s not a pleasant story. No cyberbullying stories are. When people read over and over again that they should die or they’re ugly or worthless, it’s never easy to just laugh it off and pretend they hadn’t heard it.
For this girl, everything started when her ex-boyfriend hacked into her Facebook, claiming she had committed suicide. He put up a false post, saying that the family didn’t want to be contacted. The girl started posting messages to reassure people she was alive. Among the condolences, she saw a message to stop being so attention seeking, complete with profanity.
Even though she didn’t post the message, there were people who kept saying all over the social media she frequented saying the girl had faked a mental illness and only wanted attention.
The Hamilton girl was dealing with depression and it didn’t help that she kept getting messages on social media from anonymous senders who claimed to be her best friends. The messages said that her real friends wished she had killed herself, no longer liked her, and thought she was a bad person.
All of this was coming from Facebook, Tumblr, ask.fm, and emails. She was so worn down by the constant hate and events in her life that she did attempt suicide. Luckily, she survived and made it through. With the help of her family and her true friends, she is getting stronger, and shutting down accounts where she only received hate. She is, her friend wrote, slowly even coming back online in small ways to contact family and friends.
Many cyber bullying stories don’t end that well. It’s devastating when the sites where you connect with friends and loved ones becomes filled with abuse and hate. Worse, when the attacks are anonymous, you never know who is sending them. It could be people who claim to be your best friend are the person you think of as your best friend.
Loren Heaphy was a contestant on TV3″s The Block. Online, she was called fugly, a cow, fat and old. She thought she would be able to just laugh it off, but even at 30 years old she found it difficult. Seeing messages questioning why her husband would ever want her was awful. She turned her experience into a positive one, telling her cyber bullying story to everyone.
There are even more cyber bullying stories New Zealand sadly has to offer.
A 14 year old in Dunedin received 150 online threats to kill herself in just 3 hours.
A 15 year old got anonymous user who asks on her tumblr with tips and messages about killing herself.
These are just some of the short cyber bullying stories you can find.
Not all cyber bullying suicide stories center around social media. In 2009, Hayley Ann Fenton died of an overdose of her father’s medication after being bullied by text by her boyfriend’s wife. She had been dating a 27 year old. When his wife discovered the affair, the boyfriend broke it off.
The 15 year old received texts from her boyfriend’s wife threatening physical harm and calling her names over the course of two days. When Fenton couldn’t bear it anymore, she took the pills, then texted her boyfriend that she had changed her mind and didn’t want to die.
Her boyfriend’s wife saw the text and replied as him telling her just to kill herself as he didn’t care anymore. She kept texting Fenton more awful messages as the girl grew sicker and sicker.
In this case, the wife was convicted for her heinous actions, but that was before New Zealand’s cyber bullying law passed and there would have been more penalties.
A Wellington teenager started receiving abusive messages on her blog after her privacy was violated by an ex-boyfriend. He let his friends know about her past suicide attempt. She was taunted by her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and their friends online over and over again. They would leave messages that was she was fat and useless and it would be better if she had killed herself. Hers was one of many real cyber bullying stories that were told in the press as New Zealand prepared to release its tough cyberbullying law.
In the New Zealand Herald, a reporter wrote about visiting the site ask.fm. One New Zealand girl was being attacked left and right. The girl was being told she was fat and ugly. Girls are always called fat like that’s the most painful thing to be in the world. She was taunted about a personal loss and whether or she’d had sex. The girl was responding with who is this? as she seemed to know it had to be people she knew. That was just one account the reporter saw.
Part of what’s so hurtful about many of these cyber bullying stories is that while the attacks are anonymous, the victims know that some of them, at least, are people that they see every day, Someone saying hi and smiling at them could be the same person who calls them fat and tells them to kill themselves.
On another visit to ask.fm by the reporter, the very first message she saw was someone telling a girl “your a ugly slut and i hate you.”
In 2011, a Mauricevlle father was so enraged by the abuse his daughter was receiving, he assaulted one of the tormentors. The father was 40 and he beat and kicked a 15 year old boy outside in broad daylight because he could not bear what was happening to his daughter. The father believed the boy had set up a vicious facebook page for “not being friends with the annoying drama queen from Makoura.” The boy said it wasn’t about the girl in question.
Still, in a small community, the page had 100 fans. The girl was taken out of school because the harassment continued after the father’s assault brought the whole story into public view.
A 12 year old girl in central Auckland opened an Ask.fm account with her mother’s permission. When the mother saw what kind of messages her daughter was receiving, she was horrified. She saw messages like I hate you, you’re a slut, and you are a waste of space.
Some users were asking for nude pictures of a 12 year old. Friends of the girl had received pornographic images. One boy the daughter knew had been receiving abusive messages to kill himself.
The daughter shut down her ask.fm and moved to Facebook. The lure of ask.fm is that with so many kids on it, it can feel like you’re missing out on everything by not being there.
A 14 year old girl in Auckland first found ask.fm easy fun with questions like what’s your favorite color in her asks. But then it turned to hate. She laughed it off but she soon found herself dreading every new ask. worrying it would be more hate. She deactivated her account but heard from friends everyone was talking about her. So back to ask.fm she went.
Everything got worse when the girl’s boyfriend died. She paid tribute to him and received even more hate. People sent her asks saying she was too ugly for the boy. The girl ended up in counseling because of how broken down she was by all the abuse.
Another 14 year old girl was already being bullied when ask.fm became popular. She signed up for the service anyway and it all got even worse. Her mother tried to go to the school, but nothing happened – this was before the cyber bullying law passed. The girl eventually shut down her account and switched schools but her mother can’t forget how unhappy and worn down her daughter was.
When an Aukland boy was killed after rugby practice, his girlfriend started getting bullied. Her mother called the comments the girl received as horrific. The messages made the girl think she was an awful person. All she had really done was exist as a target. No one deserves to be bullied or called out anonymously.
Even in moderated spaces where people should feel safe, cyber bullies can get through and unleash their hate. In May 2014, MasterChef second placegetters Jaimie Stodler and Bec Stanley were the subjects of vicious messages posted on the Facebook page for the show. A message suggested Stodler should have her mouth glued shut.
The show’s page was supposed to be moderated. Though the show removed the comments and said they had been blocking posters and removing messages, they were still seen by people and reported on. It is easy to forget that other people see these messages, some of whom have been bullied themselves. They are seeing these reminders.
Adults get cyber bullied, too. Bevan Chuang, who had an affair with Auckland Mayor Len Brown, followed all of Netsafe’s recommendations to block, report and ignore online abusers. It wasn’t enough, though. One woman continued to stalk and bully her. The bully posted that she would bring Bevan down.
A Manawatu based anti bullying group attributed the death of Stephanie Garrett to bullying. She had only attended North Freyberg High School for two weeks. Several friends told the Sunday Herald Stephanie had been cyber bullied. She had been receiving messages on ask.fm calling her fat and making her feel like crap.
Of course, one can’t talk about cyber bullying stories New Zealand has without talking about Charlotte Dawson. The Kiwi born model battled depression for a long time. She was open about her struggles. She went on the news in Australia to expose the twitter trolls who had been attacking her. She complained about how many people told her what she should do, how she should act, what was the best way to deal with bullies. Naturally there were people telling her that one shouldn’t take on bullies or ever confront them.
She was also told that because she was critical on Australia’s Next Model as a judge she was in no place to talk about people bullying. Although Charlotte Dawson was saying these things in person to people, not receiving pages and pages of anonymous insults and attacks.
In February 2014, Charlotte Dawson committed suicide. She had financial troubles and other issues in her life, but the cyberbullying had never really stopped. She was called too old and ugly to model. People told her she should put her face in a toaster.
Her death gave impetus to New Zealand’s cyber bullying law. So at least a small victory came out of this cyber bullying story.