A Ballarat schoolgirl says she received death threats and other threats of violence amid a horrifying 18 months of cyber bullying at a local school.
Now Susie* has changed schools, her Facebook account and even her family’s phone number to avoid the ongoing unwanted attention from her tormentors.
The 17-year-old told The Courier her story to raise awareness of cyber bullying in the Ballarat region.
Susie said students at her former school used Facebook to tease, stalk and even threaten her since early last year.
She said one post indicated a number of people wanted to “kick her head in”, while others spoke of future children being “pushed down the stairs” if they looked like her.
“It started with just a little bit here and there, then it ended up being full-on and abusive,” she said. “I was really scared – at one stage I didn’t want to leave home.”
Susie said regular comments had been made about her by a variety of people, including many she has never spoken to.
She said a number of images of her had also circulated around Facebook, containing captions and headings which further degraded the situation.
“They’re trying to tarnish my name, trying to make me look bad and they’re doing it in the worst possible way,” she said.
“They’re trying to ruin my life.”
The schoolgirl, who is having no trouble from her new classmates, said the bullying had continued since she moved schools.
“One guy said a way to ‘fix’ me and mum standing up to them was to ‘kick their heads in’,” she said. “When they said that, every car that drove past the house, I was crapping myself.
“They’re not tough people, but what’s to say they wouldn’t take it one step further and come into the house and kick my head in.”
Susie believes without Facebook, the problem would never have got so far.
“Someone would say something, you’d say something back and that would be it. They do it online because they’re cowardly.”
Her mother, Pam*, said she was devastated and scared for her daughter and had referred the matter to police.
“They’re saying they’re going to get cricket bats out and smack her in the head,” she said.
“We’ve had phone calls with ‘we’re going to kill you’...everything we’ve tried, it’s progressively getting worse.”
Pam said it was crucial for parents to understand what their children were doing on Facebook.
Ballarat police Youth Resources Officer Des Hudson said cyber bulling was just one type of bulling causing concern for young people.
He said there were strategies young people could take to insulate themselves against insults and threats online.
“Young people should establish a network of trusted adults, who they can talk to about their issues,” he said.
“Sometimes teenagers worry that if they tell someone about cyber bullying, their technology might be taken away from them.
“But it’s important they have someone they can talk to about the issues, so steps can be taken to resolve those issues.”
Leading Senior Constable Hudson said with changes to legislation, police could now follow-up and prosecute offenders online.
“Every post leaves a trace,” he said. “Once you hit send, you can’t take it back.”
*Not real names.
*Anyone experiencing difficulties can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.