Charlotte Dawson, the beautiful TV star from Australia who lost her battle with depression during the weekend and took her life will now bequeath her name to Charlotte’s Law. Thousands are calling for Charlotte Dawson’s campaign against cyber-bullying to carry on and to become punishable by law.
The petition has been started by Charlotte’s close friend Em Mastronardi, following her tragic suicide on Saturday. It calls on both the federal and all the state governments in Australia to stand up to cyber bullies and to demand that the social media companies take greater accountability.
Charlotte Dawson had been subject to twitter troll abuse and had previously been driven to a suicide attempt in September 2012. At that time, she took prescription pills washed down with wine and posted a retort “You win.”
Although she recovered from that episode and fought back valiantly, there was too much else in her life that was troublesome and difficult, and she succumbed to the demon of depression.
Em Mastronardi does not want Charlotte’s death to be in vain, and to that end, she demands that the current anti-bullying and harassment laws be enforced and that appropriate action is taken against those who violate them. She calls for a united front in the name of Charlotte Dawson – Charlotte’s Law – to take on the bullies once and for all and to stop the ability for anonymous trolls to post spiteful, hateful and malicious remarks; even death threats, and get away with it.
These haters should not have a platform, and the fact that they do, has to change. Continuing Charlotte’s battle after her death is a way of honoring her courage in standing up to the abuse she received, and in trying to ensure it cannot happen to others. The petition has been launched on Change.org and signatures are pouring in. Its ultimate aim is to eradicate negativity from social media and silence the anonymous cruelty.
Alastair Nichols, a former chief justice in the Family Court of Australia, said that there was a bit of an attitude, “Oh yes, we were bullied at school and we got over it” and that the problem was much more serious than previously accepted. Policy at present focuses on child victims. Paul Fletcher, parliamentary secretary for communications has said focus has to be on children because of their vulnerability and powerlessness to protect themselves. Nichols joins the voices clamoring for new laws to be brought in to safeguard all users of the internet.
The New Zealand prime minister, John Key, who was one of the first to express his sadness and shock at the death of Charlotte Dawson, is pessimistic about the prospect of complete eradication of cyber attacks. He accepted there was a problem in New Zealand, as in all other countries, but he doubted with the internet being such a “free and open place” that people would ever stop putting up whatever they felt like. He does however have legislation going through his parliament to try to control it better.
Charlotte Dawson was originally born, adopted and brought up in New Zealand, and her family have flown over from there to start to make arrangements for her funeral. Her sisters Vicky and Robin have spoken of their pain at the loss of Charlotte, who was only 47, and how the family were “totally devastated.” Vicky had been emailing Charlotte earlier in the week and she had shown no signs of being in such deep distress.
Meanwhile, Fred Nile of the Official Christian Democratic Party has quoted sections from Charlotte’s autobiography Air Kiss and Tell, on his Facebook page, to lend credence to his own anti-abortion ideas. This insensitive and self-serving act has brought him a torrent of criticism. Charlotte terminated a pregnancy in her marriage to swimmer Scott Miller, as it was during the run-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and he wanted to concentrate on his sport at that time.
Nile’s remarks have earned him scorn, particularly as Charlotte was on record that she had never got over the heartbreak when her marriage ended. Despite the fact she cut off all contact with Scott Miller, she said her “entire being was broken” and it was “the beginning of the end” for her.
A leading mental health charity, BeyondBlue, has agreed that online abuse can be another tipping point for those with fragile mental health. Kate Carnell, the CEO of BeyondBlue said that many factors contribute to the cocktail of complications that may end in suicide, including genes, but she also hit out at Twitter and Instagram, for their failure to protect their users.She thinks that the “significant stress” that the cyber-bullying posed to Charlotte, would undoubtedly have “made things worse.”
If calls for Charlotte’s Law are successful, Charlotte Dawson will still have a chance to win the fight, and to leave behind a lasting legacy.
By Kate Henderson