Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

I do not read comments on articles I write, or watch reviews after a TV or radio appearance or follow the comments in the newspapers where I am quoted. It turns out that this is a common practice for many for my other epidemiologists during these long hard days with COVID, where many of us have endured trolling, abuse, and threats of violence and even death.

I regularly post on social media during periods when the feeds are getting too intense. But this phenomenon is not new to me.

Lisa Jackson Powder, an epidemiologist and vice chancellor at the University of Sydney

Lisa Jackson Powder, an epidemiologist and vice chancellor at the University of SydneyCredit:Jessica Hromas

About 10 years ago, I dropped all social media after threats of violence and threats of a sexual nature. My former workplace received many undocumented complaints about me from “anonymous” colleagues, the public and so-called “concerned citizens”.

These complaints and concerns were about how I got my job, where my grant money came from, about my qualifications, my professionalism and my character. I also received junk and sometimes threatening letters in the post. My workplace took the threats seriously. I ended up having to be escorted in and out of my office and I took several routes to get home safely. Others checked the mail and opened packages addressed to me.

I failed to obtain an AVO against one of the “threats” whose identity was known to me. I don’t think I did a good enough job of expressing how scared I felt at the time. I looked – apparently – too calm to the court.

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During this time we had a burglary. Police called it a “home invasion”. We were at home at the time, and my husband disturbed uninvited guests; his partner lurked outside. My husband was thrown down the stairs. He was shocked as he lay injured on the ground. He sustained 11 broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a torn liver. He almost died.

I took this attack professionally and personally. Why? The only things that were taken were some of my research diaries and personal files. My office was searched. This is an extreme example of what happened to me. Trolling had escalated.

But these experiences are not unique. They are experienced by many of my colleagues. But we are not really talking about it – until now.

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