Over the past week, our local news has been covering the case of a missing 31-year-old female firefighter named Nicole Mittendorff. She was also a local triathlete, so the triathlon community was also following the story and offering support.
Her body was found in a local park, and while the press hasn’t shared details (and rightfully so), they have released that a suicide note was found in her car.
Terribly sad that such a lovely young woman found herself in such an awful situation. But we can never know what another person is going through.
And then more information came out. She was apparently the victim of cyberbullies, people claiming to be her fellow firefighters.
Now, it’s unclear whether this led to her suicide, but it certainly can’t have helped. The information posted has been called “raunchy,” “lurid,” “sexist,” and “offensive.” Apparently some of the postings contained her locker combination and discussions of what was found in her locker.
Obviously, this bullying wasn’t all done online – I’m sure some of it was also in person, and it’s an unfortunate situation that women in firehouses find themselves in all too often.
But it always surprises me how much hatred people are willing to spew on the internet. There are entire blogs out there devoted to hate speech about a person. Now, I don’t mean those sites that are out there trying to counter what someone is trying to say. (Anti Dr. Oz sites come to mind, for example.) But there’s a difference between saying “Joe is wrong, and here are some facts to show you why” and “Joe is a moron. And ugly.”
Maybe it has to do with the general anonymity of the internet. After all, you can make an account on many sites without ever having to share your name or email address. Of course, people are just as happy to spew hatred on Facebook, which is linked to their real names.
Will the people who bullied Nicole ever be caught? Who knows, and at the end of the day, it won’t change anything for her. And obviously nothing I say is going to convince a cyber bully to stop his or her actions. But it’s an interesting time we find ourselves in, and is there anything we can do to change it?