Today we learn of the passing of Celebrity Charlotte Dawson.
Found at her home at the age of 47, it was no secret Charlotte had battled mental illness for some time and in the process had inadvertently become the poster woman for campaigning against cyber bullying.
As a fellow kiwi who found her career in Australia, I have always admired the strength Charlotte showed against the overwhelming cloud of negativity towards her. After the NZ herald article (dated August 2011) by gossip columnist Rachel Glucina, titled “Charlotte left because her time was up” it was clear anyone that read the article would have felt New Zealand well and truly turned their back on her. This is despite the fact the majority of kiwis will support any success story from our beautiful, but on the world scale, relatively unknown and small country.
Charlotte was very open about her struggles with mental illness. It was this admission that tasted like blood in an ocean of online sharks. Online, Charlotte found herself a constant victim of trolls and senseless victimization. Refusing to back down from the trolls, she chose to re-tweet the posts by them instead. This would lead to a period of hospitalization in 2012 and ultimately her passing two years later. Trying to tackle trolls head on in an arena which supports anti-social behaviour with a cape of anonymity and lack of consequences was always going to be a band-aid solution.
Even with death, the online trolls have continued to taunt her. Articles published from major Australian newspapers reporting on the death of Charlotte received hundreds of disturbing comments from individuals – which remained un-moderated at the time of publishing.
As an investigator who works in the area of online defamation and bullying, this is an absolute tragedy that should have been prevented. Social networking sites and the media who fail to moderate the disgusting and outright bullying comments posted on their online sites need to be held accountable.
As a company we continue to receive calls from individuals and desperate parents who are fed up with the onslaught of abuse online and little support received from the sites they occurred on. Furthermore, the lack of support from authorities who fail to investigate cyberbullying at the same level they would if it was an individual making death threats or repeated unwanted behaviour in real life.
We all need to understand that words have more of an effect on people that we can ever be aware of – whether online or in person. When someone is bullied in the playground it is a moment in time….when it is online it doesn’t go away – you can walk away from the computer but it is still there when you come back.
Cyber-bullying is a crime and mental illness is a diminishing disease. Put them together and you are left with another life tragically cut short.
For support and information about suicide prevention, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
What can you do if you are a victim of cyberbullying?
1. BLOCK those upsetting you and delete them.
2. Delete your account/s.
3. If you still want to be on social media open a new account and ONLY add those you trust and no one else have all settings to privacy. Someone can only cyber bully if you allow them to continue contact. Secondly, you have to take control, it is your account, if you don’t agree with someone’s opinion don’t answer, don’t keep replying it only feeds them.
4. Delete/Block and do not add anyone you do not know.
The first step to cyber bulling… Take control of YOUR account.