Erin Molan once feared a troll who wished her and her baby dead had broken into her home in the middle of the night to attack her.
The Channel Nine sports presenter, best known for her role with the NRL, has long been the victim of online trolling but said it was comments about her unborn daughter, Eliza, which pushed her to campaign against bullying.
She is urging police to take a tougher stance against trolls, and said prosecuting ‘just five of them’ would be enough to end the majority of online abuse.
Prior to Eliza’s birth in 2018, Molan revealed she often ignored misogynistic and abusive comments made about her online.
During an interview with 60 Minutes, the 38-year-old said she was forced to stop reading NRL websites because of the constant stream of bullying.
‘Every single one was either that I was a woman, that I was ugly, that I looked like a sl*t, that I’d never played the game, that I belong in the kitchen,’ she said.
‘About different footballers that I’ve had dalliances with, about bosses at Channel 9 that I must have slept with. It’s just vile.’
But one troll in particular ‘took it too far’ by sending her a message which read ‘I wish you a f**king stillborn and you die in the process, hip, hip, hooray’.
The message took her to ‘some pretty dark places,’ Molan revealed.
‘It just really hurts.’
Molan revealed her older sister suffered a stillbirth in the years prior to her own pregnancy, leading her to have a ‘pretty anxious’ wait for the birth of her firstborn.
‘She carried a beautiful little girl to full term and to watch her bury that little child… It really impacted me.’
After the vile comments, Molan said she was at home in bed one night when she heard something which ‘sounded like a window smashing’ about 2am.
She immediately thought the troll had somehow figured out her address and broken into her home to carry out the threats he’d made online.
‘I thought he was just going to try to do what he said he was going to do to my baby… So I went to the police.’
Molan had nothing but praise for the police involved, but said they needed to be given more powers to prosecute.
At present, they need to collect a portfolio of comments, and the one threat made against her baby wasn’t enough.
Eventually, the abuse continued to build.
The perpetrator, who was revealed to be a young father of girls, was eventually tracked down and arrested, becoming a rare example of an online troll who was successfully convicted.
He received a suspended sentence.
Molan said harsher sentences need to be introduced to act as a deterrent to other trolls.
Former Brisbane Broncos coach Anthony Seibold appeared on the segment to discuss his own experience with trolls, which led him to quit his role with the club earlier this year.
He said the vile rumours made about him online effectively ruined his reputation and were damaging to his wellbeing, particularly the ones targeted at his young daughter.