Three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is no stranger to cyberbullying. And now she has a message for other victims: “You are not alone.”
According to ABC News, Douglas has signed on to be the first Change Ambassador for Hack Harassment, an initiative among media and tech companies and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
“I just want to say that you are not alone,” Douglas said in an interview that aired Friday on “Good Morning America. “And even though it may seem the world’s against you—and I definitely felt like the world was definitely against me in Rio—I’m here today to tell you that’s not the case.“
“I am encouraging everyone to take a pledge. It’s called the hackharassment.com/pledge and you read it and you follow it,” she stressed.
She added: “It’s pretty simple. You take the pledge and you don’t be mean online anymore.“
The 20-year-old also stressed that parents have a role to play in stopping bullying.
“It starts at home. If you’re a good example to your kid, your kid’s going to follow that example. If the kid sees you nasty, he/she’s going to take over that role.“
As HelloBeautiful previously reported, Douglas received online harassment in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics about everything from her hair to her facial expressions to her not holding her hand on her chest during the national anthem. During the Rio Games, fans rallied around the athlete with hashtags such as #Love4GabbyUSA to remind the young woman how much she is loved and respected.
However, even with all of that support, Douglas admitted how hurt she was by the tough criticism she’d received over the years.
“I started Googling myself, which I probably shouldn’t have done. There were so many things about me,” Douglas told GMA. “I was so hurt because people brought up my past and all the things that I did wrong.”
Douglas’ mother can also attest to how hurt her daughter was by the constant bullying.
“She’s had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn’t smiling enough, she’s unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your team mates. Now you’re ‘Crabby Gabby.’” Natalie Hawkins told Reuters in July.
“You name it and she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?”
It’s important to note that online harassment and cyberbullying are serious issues that most young people face.
According to the Pew Research Center, it affects nearly 70 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 with young women disproportionately experiencing the most severe forms of harassment with 26 percent being stalked online, and 25 percent the target of online sexual harassment. And this type of bullying can take a toll on a person’s emotional health leading to depression, isolation, truancy from school and even suicide.
Bullying is not mere child’s play and we’re happy to see Douglas take on this crucial cause.
Learn more about Hack Harassment and Douglas’ involvement here.
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