I remember receiving my first death threat. I hadn’t seen my message requests on social media at all until a few days after the vigil on Clapham Common for Sarah Everard, in March, and my photo being plastered everywhere.
The first one was something I can’t even put into an article as it was that horrific – someone describing how they would do it, why they would do it and what an awful person I was. I felt hot adrenalin running through my body, and my face went numb.
I then went down the list and realised how many there were. I decided to check my other social media accounts, and sure enough – all the request inboxes were full of them. Quite a few had said about how I was an actress or a “crisis actor”, a conspiracy theory that had gone around when someone found an old Casting Now profile of mine from when I was 18.
They weren’t all from men – a few were from women, which were the most confusing. They called me misogynistic slurs or commented on my hair and looks. The reasons varied but the messages remained almost the same: “I will hurt you.”
I’ve had to put myself in a good space to write about this, as it still fills me with adrenalin and fear – but it’s an important topic to speak about. Many women face this online abuse daily, yet when it is reported, the police have to wait for the social-media platform to allow access to the data of the person who sent the threat.
So far, I have reported just one death threat. I got it in March, and it was my worst one. I can’t talk about it because it’s now being investigated. I only reported one because there were simply too many, and that would mean possibly going to court for each one, which would be immensely stressful.
The social-media platform has released nothing about that one threat to the police. They haven’t even responded. So the thought lingers in my head that women everywhere are being abused online – and nothing is being done to stop it. Social-media giants are not taking accountability – they seem simply to ignore it until it fades away.
The person who sent me the death threat that I reported is a real person, not a bot. He tried to call me, and I’ve even seen where he works and hangs out with friends. People often tell me to ignore it. “It’s just trolls,” they say. Well, he isn’t a troll.
Some of these people are real – and if they are saying these things online to women they haven’t met, I dread to think what they may be doing to women in their lives behind closed doors.
Everyone spoke of “incel” culture for about a month or two after the Plymouth shootings in August, but with another lockdown looming – and the fact that we know that domestic violence cases have spiked during lockdowns – why aren’t there more rigorous measures to check where these kinds of threats and comments are coming from?
To stop the violence, we need social-media firms to take these reports seriously – from the beginning. It’s the only way we have any chance of preventing violence against women.
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As for my original death threat, the worst of them all, well – I am still waiting for them to find out his address so it can be dealt with. But while I wait, I get new vile comments every day: calling me insulting names, spewing violent threats and misogynistic hate.
Online abuse is real, and it affects people. Online bullying and harassment has been linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
One in five women has experienced abuse online and a quarter of those report that the abuse came in the form of direct sexual or physical threats. In some cases, it can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm or even suicide. I’m lucky to have support around me, but we shouldn’t have to deal with it in the first place.
I can’t even count them; I can’t count the number of death threats I’ve had. Isn’t that scary?