lifestyle

On the day of her memorial, a friend pays a personal tribute to Charlotte Dawson.

Charlotte Dawson and Tully Smyth.

Warning: this post mentions suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

Most people that have spoken out since the death of the effervescent Charlotte Dawson have opened with how they came to know her.

My story is a little different. It was a while before I actually met Charlotte in person.

She was however one of the first people to get in touch with me after I was evicted from the Big Brother house last September, worried how I would handle the huge amount of online backlash I was about to be exposed to.

“Doll, don’t read a word of it. It’s all bullshit anyway.”

And let’s be honest, she would know.

I remember being shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Charlotte had been taken to hospital in August 2012 after one night of particularly brutal online attacks from gutless trolls and internet nobodies.

“How could someone let absolute strangers get to them like that?” I thought to myself.

Unfortunately for me, I now understand better than most.

The first time I met Charlotte, I had just finished a segment on MORNINGS and she was waiting to me to come off set.

She held her heels in her hands and stood barefoot but looked incredible as always.

“I heard you were on today and I raced down from hair and make up to catch you before you left. Look at you, aren’t you gorgeous!”

I was quietly starstruck. Having watched her as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model for years, I knew full-well she was Australian royalty and wasn’t surprised to discover she was just as commanding and glowing in person as she was on screen.

It wasn’t long until our paths crossed again, at an Alfa Romeo event the following week.

“When this is over, come up to mine for some champagne.”

She spent the night introducing me to her friends, cuddling me up on her outside lounge, offering me priceless career advice and slapping my hands away from her cigarette when I kept asking for just one drag (as I tended to do when I’d had a few).

“Bloody well have your own one- here!” and gave me an entire packet of cigarettes. You didn’t have to know Charlotte for long to witness how generous she was as a person.

I still blame her for my pounding hangover the next day.

Charlotte and Tully.

The next I heard from her was via a Twitter DM. “I want you to be my date to this event next Wednesday.” I didn’t even like NRL but I wasn’t about to turn down a date with the Charlotte Dawson.

We’d never make it to the date.

Whilst my love affair with Charlotte was brief and fleeting, my goodness her loss was felt. It’s been six days and I still haven’t been able to shake the goosebumps that run up and down my legs. I can only imagine the pain and heartache those closest to her are suffering right now.

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She seemed happy enough when I saw her last, excited about her new homeware business…but then again, how many times before had she put on a happy face for the benefit of others?

Perhaps one of the hardest things to swallow however – for me personally at least- has been the frightening realisation that I can understand, maybe even empathise what Charlotte may have been thinking that night.

Imagine, for a second, feeling like you’re worthless. That you’re a terrible human being. That you’ve made awful mistakes that you will never be able to take back, never be able to apologise enough for… never be forgiven for.

Imagine feeling hopeless. Like it’s never going to get easier, brighter or better. Like you will constantly be swimming upstream, isolated even if you are in a room full of people. That no one will ever fully understand. Imaging finding yourself crying in your kitchen for 20 minutes, only noticing how long you’d been standing in there when you slip on the puddle of your own tears. Imagine not being able to be alone, for fear of being left with your own poisonous thoughts. Not being able to sleep. Turning to drinking and partying as a way to delay the inevitable darkness of reality and your own stupid brain that just, won’t, stop.

Now imagine you have hundreds of thousands of people online- people on Twitter, on Facebook…on Instagram and on blogs, websites, forums…telling you that you’re right.

That you ARE a piece of shit, ugly, fat, a nobody. That you deserve everything you’re getting. That you will never amount to anything. That you should just go die because you’re a waste of space anyway.

Let me tell you- because Charlotte is no longer able to – it’s absolutely fucking heartbreaking.

It’s damaging and terrifying and breaks down your self-confidence and resilience one piece at a time.

Charlotte Dawson.

I’m a firm believer that online bullying and trolls were probably not the only demons Charlotte was facing. She herself spoke out about her struggles with depression and other mental health issues.

But does that make what these people do any less horrific? Does it take the blood off their hands? No.

Cyberbullying, trolling and tormenting the way it stands today cannot continue. It cannot go on being unpunished. Being hero’d even at times. Being laughed at, repeated and encouraged by other social media users.

It needs to stop and it needs to stop today.

Please, if not for Charlotte then for me, or for the millions of others who suffer from online torment and bullying day in day out- support Charlotte’s Law for tougher cyber bullying legislation. It shouldn’t have to take the loss of one of Australia’s brightest shining stars to make us open our eyes.

We face enough challenges in life. There’s simply no need to make life a misery for others.

If you’d like to sign the Change.org online petition, you can do so here.

If you, or anyone you know needs someone to talk to- call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Tully Smyth is an ex-Big Brother housemate, journalist, social media strategist and TV personality. More importantly, she is a fast food and cocktail connoisseur who is totally obsessed with her dog, Luna.
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