Kiwi YouTuber Kris Fox: 'They threatened to beat the femininity out of me'

By Emma Renolds

One in 10 New Zealanders have experienced harmful communications on the internet. Photo / Getty Images
One in 10 New Zealanders have experienced harmful communications on the internet. Photo / Getty Images

Kiwi YouTube sensation Kris Fox, 23, found that after he began posting his "fierce and flossy" videos and photos on social media, he faced a torrent of abuse, with around five vicious comments on every one of his posts.

The New Zealander, who describes himself as "androgynous gender fluid", says that at first, the comments left him doubting himself.

"It was quite shocking," he told news.com.au. "No one would have the guts to go up to someone and say, I hate you, kill yourself.

"I'm flamboyant, feminine, I'm different. That makes me an easy target. Recently, someone called me a half-breed of a human, that I'm not natural. 'You should go and kill yourself because you're worthless.' I've had people threatening to beat me up, beat the femininity out of me. They want to express hatred."

In the end, he developed techniques to deal with it. He will reply to the individual to say he has a screenshot of what they said, he doesn't like the comment and is blocking and reporting them to the social network - or even the police, in the case of fellow citizens who threatened to beat him up in the street.

"I've grown into a thicker skin," he says. "They immediately message back, 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I was bored or looking for attention.'

"No, no excuses. Don't do it."

"Everyone at school saw me having sex"

Jake Withers was just 13 when he received an angry phone call about something he had apparently said online.

It was the MySpace era, and when he searched his account, he discovered a cache of deleted conversations in which someone pretending to be him had sent explicit and aggressive messages to girls he knew.

"My account had been hacked," the now 23-year-old from northern NSW told news.com.au. "This went on for months. There were police involved."

This was Jake's first experience of online abuse, but it wasn't to be his last. As social media exploded, things got worse for the teenager.

"There was a group of boys who hacked my Facebook page and Photoshopped pictures of me with men of colour in graphic positions.

"They copied my MySpace page and rewrote it, saying I spent my afternoons down at the local headland waiting for men. They posted times and places.

"Three girls I was close with jumped on board. I was gay, I had no friends, obscene stuff."

Jake, an outgoing young man who was already working as a professional dancer, thought he could shrug off the cyberbullies. But then the harassment spilled over into real life.

His school had ID cards students had to swipe to get into the building. "These boys cracked open the boxes and put in the pictures of me.

"Everyone in school saw it, everyone knew about it."

That's what broke him. "There were days I didn't go to school because I was scared. I didn't want to leave the house or go out with friends. There was this fearfulness.

"There was one particular boy ... he was quite involved in gangs. I thought, don't say anything or you'll get in trouble."

Jake is now a dance teacher, and hears about the same thing happening to kids today. "People in their early 20s, young teens are caught up in this Insta-famous world, people are exploiting them for product.

"They put up photos of themselves in bikinis, not thinking about the impact on their future.

Just be really careful with what you say and how you act on the internet.
It's part and parcel of 2016. I look at my parents and I think, I have no idea how you dealt with it.

"We have a really big responsibility to listen to the next generation."

Research by the Law Commission found that one in 10 New Zealanders have experienced harmful communications on the internet. That number doubles for those aged between 18 and 29.

While women are more likely to face gender-based harassment, sextortion and stalking, men report abuse, death threats and threats of physical and sexual violence. Yet they are far less likely to see it as serious than women.

Australian research showed abuse toward men is overwhelmingly directed at LGBTI people (23 per cent of cases), men from religious minority groups (31 per cent of cases) and disabled males (14 per cent of cases).

"The survey findings indicate that many men apply the 'she'll be right' attitude towards their negative online experiences," said Mark Gorrie, Norton Business Unit director for the Pacific region. "Most men ignore, block or unfriend perpetrators, but this approach doesn't address the emotional impact these experiences may have."

A third of men who had experienced threats of violence and death revealed these incidents had extended into the offline world.

One in seven men surveyed changed the nature of relationships with some friends; 14 per cent lost friends; 11 per cent closed a social media account, four per cent moved house and three per cent changed jobs.

One in five men who had experienced threats of violence and death reported depression and 17 per cent of these cases prompted police involvement. Some of those who were harassed even resorted to physical violence to end the cycle.

"The younger generation needs to learn to watch what they say online, says Kris. "They need to be taught the consequences of their actions. We need to nip it in the bud."

- news.com.au

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