British elite female athletes are asking for help to tackle “relentless” online abuse after a BBC Sport poll found that nearly a third had experienced social media trolls.
Three women shared their experiences after 30% of respondents said they had experienced trolling, a figure that has doubled over the past five years.
Here are the stories of the athletes in their own words.
Warning: Contains language that some readers may find offensive.
“It looks like harassment”
Wales national rugby team Elinor Snowsill describes the constant private messages she receives from some men in response to her posts as similar to harassment.
“It’s just a little relentless. Sometimes it feels a bit like harassment. It’s such a strong word but if that person was constantly approaching and reacting to everything you did in real life, that would be a little weird.
“They’re emoji reactions with heart-eyed eyes or kisses that send kisses. Or ‘very cute’, ‘looking beautiful’. Others are completely random like telling me something about yourself. If this continues, most of the time I block them.
“About four years ago, I had one who commented on something that made me think he was close and knew where I was. I had posted a post and was in a public place. This scared me a little. I blocked it. and he’s been pretty careful what I put on.
“It is never women who do it. It seems more threatening because if there has ever been a situation where someone took it to the extreme, generally men have more power in a situation than women because they are stronger. It has just that advantage other than it.
“What kind of mindset are they in that they would constantly do something and never get an answer?
“It just makes you wonder where their limit is. You don’t know them and they often don’t have pictures of their faces in their profiles. You can’t really find out about them. That’s what makes it most threatening.”
‘I was hacked and no one knew how to help me’
In 2015, hockey player Susannah Townsend’s Instagram account, Olympic gold medal winner, was hacked and she describes the lack of control she felt as “horrible.”
“I could not log into my account. I tried to find it and it said it could not find the user.
“I searched and searched GB Women’s hockey account to find myself and my name had been changed to” come in my face “.
“I couldn’t take it apart for about a week. There was no one who could help me.
“I can’t actually change my password on Instagram because the hacker has entered something I have no control over. I’m trying to get over it right now because I’m paranoid that something else will happen.
“They blocked about 3,000 followers. I lost about 4,000 followers. They deleted everything I posted but didn’t post anything.
“It was pretty awful because they had control over my account. They had control over my messages. They had control over everything. It’s all a little blurry because I was so panicked about how to fix it.
“The thing I struggled with is that I felt like I was fighting this battle to do it myself. Nobody knew how to help me.
“Giving athletes someone they can call if they get hacked or if something goes wrong is pretty important.
“Athletes are petrified of being hacked all the time, not because you have something to hide, it’s just your privacy.
“Every time I put #LGBTQ in a post, people insult you because you’re still gay. People say,” God will hate you. You’re going to hell. ”All that stuff is pretty common.
“It’s hateful stuff. For some people who post it for the first time with that hashtag, then they get it … I guess they won’t post it again.
“The implications could be that people won’t be openly gay, or whatever preferences they have. People just won’t be open because you’re afraid of being laughed at, criticized, fooled by other people.”
‘It’s never about football’
Northern Ireland and Charlton Athletic footballer Rachel Newborough mainly avoids social media due to the abuses suffered by sportswomen, but she knows this affects her sponsorship opportunities. She also knows the effects of trolling, having played with Renee Hector who plunged into depression after being abused online when she denounced racist discrimination.
“I have social media accounts, but I’m not particularly involved with them because you open up. The downside is that if you are a real presence on social media, you can get brilliant sponsorship and make a living. It’s a great opportunity.
“I know myself and many girls that the strange random person sends you private messages. It’s never about football.
“I find it frustrating. If you meet a lot of female soccer players, a lot is not about football, but how beautiful they are or whatever clothing they show off. It’s great, but you want to be. You said you’re great for your football.
“When you go into women’s football from the age of 16, you are still quite vulnerable.
“I know that the players on my team have really struggled with the situation. Renee Hector came to Charlton so I had the opportunity to speak with her. I know her involvement with social media has been really difficult.
“I don’t think any of us have been trained on how to deal with it. The Football Association comes in once a year and says what not to put on social media, along with the talk of not betting on football and things like that. Maybe at that point they should too. tell us how to deal with the backlash.
“Even from a mental health point of view, perhaps the psychologists we have in women’s football – the clubs that are lucky enough to have them – could do something to help us know how to deal with it or, in younger teams, have a person to report it with. to. “
Social media trolling is one of the many issues raised by the BBC Elite British Sportswomen’s Survey. BBC Sport will put the spotlight on others with full week coverage on the BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC TV. More information can be found Here.