Content warning: This post contains details of cyber bullying and mental health some may find triggering.
Jasmin Newman was subjected to vicious online abuse and harassment for two years. In Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, on October 19 she was granted a two-year Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against her cyber bully.
The woman is Melanie Natasha Hamilton (known by the name Coutts) who used an alias profile online as “Annabelle Jones”.
Here, Jasmin talks to Corrine Barraclough for Mamamia about the nightmare that unraveled her life.
I’m in hiding. I went into hiding nearly two years ago. I support male victims of domestic violence and work in male suicide prevention. Sadly, we seem to have reached a point where extreme feminists don’t like women who support men.
A friend of mine alerted me to a Facebook page, ‘Domestic Violence Abuser Excusers’. It specifically targeted me. Posts became increasingly threatening. Coutts doesn’t work alone and I haven’t ruled out further legal action against other key people involved.
I was called “evil” and “dangerous”. Taking it one step further they called me a paedophile excuser, then a paedophile myself and claimed I had paedophiles living in my house.
It was all lies but they wanted to trash my reputation and my name. I started to live in fear – and I was worried sick about my two children. I have a son and daughter who are both school age.
The bullies posted online that I had taken “semi-naked photos” of my son. I had, in fact, taken a photo of him on his birthday proudly posing on the new bike he’d got as a present. It was a scorching hot summer’s day and he had pyjama bottoms on.
Again they claimed I was a paedophile. They claimed I was pimping out my daughter. It all made me feel sick.
They said I should be “run out of town”. It’s hard to find words to express how terrified I was at this point. It seemed as if they could just keep making up whatever lies they wanted and ruin my life, and that of my children.
I have a Labrador, a beautiful pet who is as calm and dopey as they come. One night he pounced up from the bed, raced to the door and was barking like mad. I heard footsteps outside.
That happened twice in one week. It was then that I moved into hiding, I was worried about my own life, and my children’s. I did a little work from home but became too afraid to leave the house. I was jumpy when I did go out for essentials and was scared about who I might bump into in the supermarket car park.
I couldn’t sleep and started taking sleeping pills to help me at least get a little bit of rest. I quickly became addicted. If I tried to sleep without them I had nightmares. Horrible, haunting, vivid nightmares about them killing my children. I’d wake up covered in cold sweat, my heart racing.
People behind keyboards, bashing away hatred from behind fake profiles have no idea the turmoil they’re causing.
There was one day when I was being particularly abused online. A message popped up in my inbox from a woman I barely knew offering to help. And so a two-year campaign to seek justice began. Hours and hours of research looking for clues, scouring the Internet and Facebook to find connections between people. We never did anything illegal in terms of investigation; it just took a very long time to piece everything together.
Trolls hide behind fake profiles because they’re cowards.
LISTEN: How to keep an eye on what's happening in your kids' online worlds (post continues after audio...)
Even when we had successfully identified who “Annabelle Jones” really was it took months going through the system. The police weren’t overly helpful; the emphasis was on me to prove.
There has been no apology for what they’ve done to me. There’s been no admission of guilt or even accountability for the destruction they’ve caused. Even during court proceedings I received a message saying, “can’t wait for you to go down”. It’s as if they’re still totally convinced that I’m the enemy.
I am not.
The relief in justice being served is overwhelming. It’s too soon to be making big plans but just knowing I can start living again is incredible. I hope my children’s lives can return to normal too. I’m still gobsmacked that these evil women drew my children into their imagined battle. They had never, ever done anything to deserve that.
Neither had I.
I will continue to fight to shine a light on male victims of domestic violence who aren’t recognised or supported by our extreme feminist society. I will also keep working in the field of attempting to prevent male suicide.
If anything, my depth of compassion for everyone struggling has become even deeper.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or cyber bullying, please seek professional help or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
Corrine Barraclough is a journalist with 20 years' experience on national magazines and newspapers. She started her career as a real life writer on women’s magazines before getting swept up in a whirlwind of entertainment journalism. She worked in London, New York and was editor of celebrity weekly NW in Sydney. She now lives on the Gold Coast, writes freelance and has her work/life balance in check. She’s very proud of to be two years sober, and believes passionately in alcohol education and personal responsibility. Find Corrine on Facebook here.