Brave Terri Calvesbert hits out against online trolls after she is targeted on social media
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A teenager who was badly burned as a baby is taking a stand against cyber-bullying with a new campaign – after becoming a victim of online abuse herself.
Terri Calvesbert, now 19, was just 18 months old when she was horrifically burned in a fire at her Ipswich home in 1998.
Tiny Terri sustained 85% burns, and endured more than 50 operations to help repair her damaged skin.
Her story captured the hearts of the nation – with an appeal by the Ipswich Star collecting thousands of pounds for the youngster – and the teenager has since won countless awards for her bravery.
But in recent weeks Terri, now based in Sudbury, has been targeted by “trolls” on social media – an account followed by 10,000 people shared a photograph of her earlier this month with the caption “everyone is ashamed of me because I am deformed”.
The post asks users to “share” if they are “not ashamed” of Terri, but in among the 2,200 comments several of the teenager’s friends and acquaintances have branded it “sick”. Many suggest it should be removed.
Now the 19-year-old and her friends Michelle Wright and Gavin Jaques are kicking off a new social media campaign against cyber-bullying – and urging Facebook to do more to remove such posts.
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“It’s just awful and when I saw the post it really upset me,” said Terri.
“My friend Michelle told me that she had seen the post which had been shared thousands of times, and I was worried about clicking on it.
“It’s a foreign account, and I don’t know the person running it, but it made me feel really low, the lowest I have felt in a long while.
She added: “I don’t understand why someone would do this.”
Numerous attempts by Terri and her friends to report the post in question using the website’s dedicated function have failed, with Facebook suggesting the photograph is not against its community guidelines.
After spotting the post, which has been shared more than 9,500 times, Ipswich-based Mr Jaques, 30, contacted Terri through the social media site.
He and Mrs Wright, who is 53 and also from Ipswich, are now working with the teenager to set up a Government petition which raises awareness of cyber-bullying.
Mrs Wright, who has known Terri since she was a little girl, said: “We want to turn a negative into a positive with this campaign.
“It is disgusting how this particular person has treated Terri and we do not want it to continue.
“Terri is an incredibly strong person but she was deeply upset by this post.
“Nobody should have to deal with this kind of online bullying, and Facebook should be doing more to stop it.
“It’s sick and shouldn’t happen – it seems like this specific page is sharing quite a few photos of people with disabilities to get likes and shares.”
Mrs Wright also said that without Terri she “would not be alive”.
She added: “I battled with anorexia for many years but seeing how strong Terri was able to be throughout her ordeal made me realise how strong a person can be.
“She helped me through it, and without her I would not be alive today.”
Now all three friends have set up a Facebook page, and are planning to launch the Government campaign – which needs 10,000 signatures to be debated in Parliament – later this week.
“We need to get the Government involved as I think, in Terri’s case, they might listen,” Mrs Wright said.
“She is well-known locally and nationally and so many people have heard her story. These people sit behind their keyboards and get away with it. It’s not fair and something needs to be done.”
A spokesman said Facebook is investigating Terri’s complaint.
Visit the group’s campaign page at facebook.com/campaign-to-stop-cyber-bullying-802317289905758/