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CyberBullying and the Death of Charlotte Dawson

Harassment and Depression in a Digital Age


Social Media is a great tool that has sparked conversations, enabled learning and diversified the range of people we engage with on a daily basis on a global scale. From Twitter, to Facebook, to WhatsApp and SnapChat, social media has opened doors to forms of communication our forebears could only ever have dreamed about – exactly how some would choose to use these platforms and the expanses they would cross perhaps never crossed their minds.


CyberBullying: a game of bad intentions

Like most technology, people can choose to use social media with either good or bad intentions. Cyber bullying is simply an offshoot of regular harassment and blackmail; only with more anonymity, less repercussions and a much bigger audience. It is for this reason that the effects of cyber bullying can be so dire.

It’s important to mention, and to keep in mind, that cyber bullying or harassment is pervasive and easily enters the home. There is no escaping the torment of perpetual slurs and slander when it is online.

Australian TV personality, Charlotte Dawson, is an example of how depression and cyber bullying can collude to attack an individual to an untimely end. The intention of many of Dawson’s online harassers may not have been that she die, but the pungency of their words was enough to push a vulnerable person over the edge. When it comes to online harassment many people seek the help of a private investigator after receiving little help from the police force. Anti-bullying campaigner, Simon Caldwell publicly called for better police education when it comes to anti-bullying and harassment laws and how that can be interpreted to online cases following the death of Dawson over the weekend. “There’s a commonwealth criminal code which covers menacing and harassing which absolutely does cover normal bullying every day and cyber bullying,” Caldwell said. “Each state has a stalking law, and that, although it wasn’t designed for bullying, absolutely covers it. So if it’s repeated, which it has to be to be called bullying anyway, it can be covered under the stalking laws.” However, the problem often lays with an uniformed police force struggling to catch up with laws in a digital age. “When you go in to report it, the officers will usually say that there needs to be a threat present and that’s just not true. So, there needs to be more education of the police force on the coal face who are taking these reports.” Since the 47-year-old former model and anti-bullying campaigner committed suicide in her Sydney apartment, a change.org petition for Charlotte’s Law has gained over 93,000 supporters. The petition calls for the Australian Government and state governments to enforce the existing anti-bullying and harassment laws and to take action against those who violate them. It also appeals to social media companies to take further efforts in monitoring what is published on their platforms. The police and the populace both need to face the facts that the any boundary between the online world and the real world has blurred. Being stalked, insulted or defamed online has similar affects – in some occasions worse, because of the larger audience – as it does on our streets, homes and workplaces. We need our law makers, law enforces and the social media companies that profit off our use to acknowledge this fact before more people suffer. Lifeline 13 11 14