I come from a close-knit conservative family and I’m gay. I’m only out about my sexuality with a few of my friends.
I was keen to meet someone, so I signed up to a dating app. I didn’t use my real name and I only posted a few photos of myself. At first, it was great – I chatted to guys, and I even went on a couple of dates. I was careful about where I went, as I’m a private person. The dates didn’t go anywhere, but it felt good to meet other gay guys.
A few weeks later, I started getting messages from an anonymous account. At first, we flirted and exchanged a few pics. But then things turned nasty, and they started to send homophobic messages.
Soon afterwards, one of my cousins posted screenshots of my private messages from the dating app on social media. He posted my real name and address and told people to come around to my home and bash me because I am gay.
I was terrified, and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing, as my family were trying to reach me. I had to go into hiding.
I couldn’t go home or to work. I didn’t know what to do. It felt like my world was collapsing.
A friend helped me to take screenshots and report the posts to eSafety. The eSafety team helped me to get counselling and support to keep me safe. They got in touch with the social media service and the posts were taken down as quickly as possible. They also helped me to secure my social media accounts.
With the help of an LGBTIQ+ support organisation, I went to the police to file a report about what had happened. The support organisation also helped me to find a new place to live and a new job. It was devastating, and I’ve had to rebuild my life, but I’m grateful there was help and support available.
Note: Toby’s story combines experiences and emotions of a number of individuals in this situation. Stock photo. Posed by model.