Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff, 31, killed herself in Shenandoah National Park.
Investigators say cyberbullies, many identifying themselves as male firefighters, tormented her online and are still taunting her memory on social media.
Let’s hope the taunters were no more than fire department wannabes and not members of the Fairfax County squad where Mittendorff worked in a profession she loved.
Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers said the matter is under investigation and promises he will “take any appropriate actions needed.”
Mittendorff’s case offers a chilling window into the persistent harassment women encounter on a daily basis online and at work. In fact, those two forms of ugliness appear to be merging.
It means sexual harassment isn’t just lone-wolf bosses pawing at a secretary or men disparaging female co-workers at the water cooler. It can happen from a home computer and devastate a woman’s reputation and career.
The rise of cyberbullying is blamed for a sharp increase in suicides among women in this country.
It is also a sad, harsh reality in our schools and public abuse online has led to young suicides.
Pages exist on Facebook to taunt female firefirghters but the bullying does not end with women who try to serve as first responders.
At WGN television in Chicago, women who appear on the station revealed a pattern of abuse from emails, tweets and Facebook posts that attack their weight, their voices and their faces.
“Keep shoving food down that pie-hole of yours,” morning anchor Robin Baumgarten said, quoting one message. “It shuts up that annoying donkey braying noise you make when you talk.”
Columnist Petula Dvorack, who wrote about a bone marrow drive and Planned Parenthood, became a victim of online verbal abuse.
“Hey Petula, you [profanity] ugly [profanity],” wrote one poster in a Facebook message. “Too bad your mother did not have an abortion.”
That poster turned out to be an income tax specialist in Long Island.
Pregnant meteorologist Kristi Gordon of British Columbia’s Global News, got this from an anonymous viewer:
Nowhere on North America TV have we seen a weather reader so gross as you. Your front-end looks like the Hindenburg and your rear-end looks like a brick shit house.
Gordon was late in her pregnancy at the time.
Sadly, we see too much of this kind of attacks locally on Facebook posts on groups where obscenities and verbal assaults are encouraged and welcomed.
Perhaps that is why this nation currently has an obscenity-shouting, violence-promoting, hatemonger leading the race for the Republican nomination for President.
Let’s hope those responsible for turning Nicole Mittendorff’s chosen profession into a flaming nightmare are found and punished.
Their despicable behavior brought an end to a promising young life.
(The Washington Post, WUSA Channel 9 in Washington and the Chicago Tribune provided information to this report.)