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Abbie Chatfield on Death Threats and Impact of Cyberbullying

Abbie Chatfield Calls Out Disgusting Cyber Abuse in Powerful and Confronting Statement

Abbie Chatfield has shared a number of the abhorrent messages she has received from men online this morning, and has used it as an opportunity to school people on the realities of cyberbullying and abuse.

The first voice note, from a man who appears to have sent rude, body-shaming messages to Abbie before, is quite confronting, and we advise reader discretion, as it contains strong language and the threat of violence.

But, along with the other messages, some of which seem to have been sent during the broadcast of The Bachelor last year, it is sadly just a taste of the kind of vitriol outspoken feminist women are subjected to online.

The language therein is peppered with words like "b*tch" and "sl*t", designed to diminish and silence young women who do not fit into outdated models of what women should be, or how they are expected to behave.

In her Instagram post sharing the note this morning, Abbie began with some justified swearing of her own: "F*ck this. F*ck these people. F*ck you if you've ever messaged anyone something even close to this."

She noted the concerning trend of death by suicide of reality TV stars. Figures released by The Sun in the UK in March last year noted that 38 people who have featured on reality TV shows like Love Island UK and The Bachelor US have died by suicide since 1986, including Australia's Next Top Model host Charlotte Dawson.

"Am I grateful for the bachelor?," Abbie continued. "Yes! Does ANYTHING anyone does on these shows warrant this? F*CK NO."

She described the hundreds of DMs she keeps on a Google Drive "to use for something actually good in the future": "Threats of violence, name calling, threats to my safety and general snide comments still happen a year on."

Calls by people for Abbie to simply ignore, block and delete the people responsible, and to take time away from social media, are "well-intentioned", but Abbie notes, ineffective, because trolls simply create new accounts in order to continue the abuse. "You can't ignore threats of violence, and attacks on your character," she said, adding that if she went offline for a day every time she received these kinds of messages, she would be online only two days of the year.

"You think these accounts are just fake accounts?," she said. "No. These are people's parents, daughters, friends. Most of the accounts are people who have a seemingly normal social media presence."

When well-meaning people offer their support and praise, they're often drowned out by the negative: "One sent message may help with your crippling insecurity and help you project, but your message is a droplet in a waterfall of insidious online torture."

And that online barrage affects the way Abbie holds herself in the real world — these kinds of comments are not just empty words but can appear like actual threats and cause actual fear.

"At one point I was scared to be recognised in public, for fear of my safety. I still get worried when people ask for photos with me that they're going to say something to hurt me or take a photo with me and joke about me with their friends.

"This isn't a joke. This isn't f*cking funny and This isn't fair. I shouldn't be falling asleep worried someone will break into my apartment and strangle me."

Abbie finished by encouraging her followers to call out people they know who spread hate online, explaining that she deliberately chose not to obscure the account names, because they ought to be held responsible for their behaviour. "If you're brave enough to send it via a DM, be brave enough for everyone to see. If you know any of these people in these messages, confront them," she concluded.

In a follow-up comment she reflected on how these hateful messages had become normal to her since her time on The Bachelor. "I'm surprised you are all this shocked, but I guess no one ever really talks about specific messages. I have friends who know me well saying they're crying reading this, because I make a joke about it and laugh but this is truly the last year of my life and I don't see it stopping any time soon."

Overnight, Abbie posted a series of Stories distressed about how she was continuing to receive death threats, asking for advice on whether she should go to authorities: "I'll make a report just in case this is part of a pattern of a violent offender."

This morning, she added that she has at least 300 saved messages of abuse, and was considering making an account to call them out, and other people who troll public figures online: "I'm f*cking sick of this . . . I'm so mad. I'm just off this."

It's so important to hear these firsthand accounts of cyberbullying and to recognise the impact our behaviour online has on other people. We also hope it might help those who themselves are copping abuse online feel less alone.

And we're so grateful that Abbie was brave and strong enough to share her experience and to stand up against these kind of attacks — we just hope her message is taken on board by those who need to hear it.

If you aren't feeling great and you need to talk to someone, remember: you are not alone. There are people just on the other side of the phone waiting to speak to you — just call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

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