15-year-old girl was tormented online before her death

Happy family destroyed: 'We feel that void, that hole in our heart that can't be filled.'
Happy family destroyed: 'We feel that void, that hole in our heart that can't be filled.' Photo: Andy Zakeli

When a 15-year-old Kiama girl posted images of her self-torture on the internet, instead of concern, taunts of encouragement came flooding in. 

"Show us more" the nameless trolls prompted, "we love this, cut deeper". The words "go ahead and die then" flashed up on her feed. And then there was this: "Just do it and stop talking about it."

The shocking fact is that's exactly what Courtney Love did, she stopped talking about it. And now she's gone.

'She would often tell us she was fat and ugly': Ness Love-Monk, right, with her daughter Courtney.
'She would often tell us she was fat and ugly': Ness Love-Monk, right, with her daughter Courtney. 

Her devastated mother Ness Love-Monk tried desperately to make her voice heard over taunts from anonymous "freaks" in the online world.

Mrs Love-Monk is not alone. Thousands of parents are flying blind in their efforts to penetrate the online world that is swallowing up their teenagers.

She had put many photos up on Instagram, and these freaks would thrive on her horrible photos telling her to 'put more up' and comment saying 'just go kill yourself.

"My gut instinct told me something was amiss with Courtney," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"We did everything possible to help her. We know in our hearts that we did everything possible to help her. It just wasn't enough."

Courtney had been battling bullying, both online and to her face, and depression for about two years when she finally succumbed to the darkness on October 5, 2012.

"She had put many photos up on Instagram, and these freaks would thrive on her horrible photos telling her to 'put more up' and comment saying 'just go kill yourself'," Mrs Love-Monk said.


"What sick twisted people would openly tell another to 'go kill yourself'?

"Courtney wasn't in a good head space at the time, and her frame of mind was so fragile, that these comments etched into her mind and she believed what they were telling her to do.

"It saddens us so much to think of where her head was at, in order to take her own life and leave us all behind to try and make sense of it all. I'm not so sure we can ever make sense of it really."

Courtney was also having difficulties with bullying at school. Her death is the subject of a coronial inquest scheduled for this year.

"She would physically stand in front of the mirror and pick at herself. She would tell us often she was fat and ugly," Mrs Love-Monk recalls.

Words of reassurance and validation from her family were not enough.

After her death Mrs Love-Monk saw traces of her daughter's torment.

"We found copious amounts of razor blades from sharpeners, blades from shavers, laxatives and torn-off clothes with blood on them which she obviously cleaned her cuts and wounds up with to hide it from us," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"Cleaning the room was the most confronting thing I had to deal with besides her death."

She blames social media for its role in the demise of an outgoing teenager who loved drawing and playing soccer for Kiama.

The girl who was presented with a framed jersey signed by her coach and teammates for her contributions to the club was nowhere to be seen in her online profile.

Instead, the girl who loved learning to play guitar with her mum's partner, who she called Dad, was secretly uploading self-harming pictures.

"Sick, twisted freaks" were free to view and leave a comment about her misery.

"These individuals were thriving off her what I would call very confronting photos. I don't understand how these people think," Mrs Love-Monk said.

Courtney would post when she was feeling down and revealed she wanted to end her life, to which she received comments such as: "We don't want to hear a sob story just kill yourself."

In the end, Courtney listened to the bullies. She saw no way out.

It destroyed a happy family.

"We feel that void, that hole in our heart that can't be filled. We miss her every day that goes by," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"We have our good days, but there's more bad than good. The kids miss her so much that all we can do is be there for them."

Courtney left behind her brother Faolan and sisters Chloe and Aylish.

"We have moved house. We couldn't bare to remain at the house any more," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"All the memories ... but it was hard to leave because this was her last resting place."

Mrs Love-Monk tries to come to terms with the fact she will never see her little girl join the navy, just like her aunty Kristy.

There is no more watching her girl share a blanket with Pop on a cold night, glued to the sporting channels.

"She was Poppy's girl, their bond was inseparable," she said.

Courtney's drawings are all she has left, and the memories - good and bad.

"Courtney was a very talented artist. Her drawings were amazing and we often wondered where it would take her," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"She also loved her music, unfortunately in the end the music she was listening to was very dark."

Now all Mrs Love-Monk can do is use her never-ending nightmare to show others that suicide isn't the answer.

"We couldn't help Courtney in the end, but if through her story we can make someone think twice about suicide, then we have done our duty to the public," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"My advice to other parents would be to monitor their children's internet access and their accounts that they know of.

"Ask your kids if they are OK and somehow push the issue if they feel their kids aren't OK."

Mrs Love-Monk is among an increasing number of parents who are calling for tighter control on all social media sites.

"It's too easy to gain access to these unmonitored sites," she said.

"The likes of Facebook, as much as it is monitored and inappropriate photos aren't allowed, it still allows easy access for kids."

Courtney had two separate Facebook accounts that her parents were unaware of and still can't shut down because they don't have the required security information.

"I have sent several inbox messages to Mark Zuckerberg, the guy in charge of Facebook, but no replies to date," Mrs Love-Monk said.

"I managed to have Courtney's Tumblr account and her YouTube goodbye video shut down, but only through the help of the police.

"I can't have her full YouTube account shut down because once again I don't have the details needed, even though I've sent a few emails stating that she is deceased."

Kids lie about their ages and access is granted, Mrs Love-Monk said.

"Why is it so easy to lie and gain access for bullying to be so easily rampant? I just wish people would stop sitting behind a keyboard and ruining lives."

Getting help

Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) is a free and confidential telephone counselling service for 5 to 25-year-olds in Australia. kidshelp.com.au.

Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors. lifeline.org.au.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (1300 656 419) has a complaint-handling service that may investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying. humanrights.gov.au/complaints-information

What is cyberbulling?

• Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of technology, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

• Using the internet, a mobile phone or a camera to hurt or embarrass someone is considered cyberbullying. It can be shared widely with a lot of people quickly, which is why it is so dangerous and hurtful.

What does cyberbullying look like?

• Being sent mean or hurtful text messages from someone you know or even someone you don't know.

• Getting nasty, threatening or hurtful messages through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or through sites where people can ask/answer questions such as Formspring or internet forums.

• People sending photos and videos of a person to others to try to embarrass or hurt the person.

• People spreading rumours via emails or social networking sites or text messages.

• People trying to prevent the victim communicating with others.

• People stealing passwords or hacking accounts and changing the information.

• People setting up fake profiles, or posting messages or status updates from someone else's account.

How to prevent online bullying

• Do not share your private information like passwords, name and address, phone numbers or photos with people you don't know.

• Don't respond to messages when you are angry or hurt – either to strangers or people you know.

• Log out and stop messaging if you feel you are being harassed.

• Remember you have the option to block, delete and report anyone who is harassing you online and on your mobile.

• Find out how to report bullying and harassment on each of the different social networks that you use.

• Keep a record of calls, messages, posts and emails that may be hurtful or harmful to you.

• Set up the privacy options on your social networking sites like Facebook in a way you are comfortable with.

Each state and territory in Australia has different laws for bullying. Visit: humanrights.gov.au for details.

Illawarra Mercury