Cyber bullying: Victim denies infecting men with HIV
Venessa Cherutto Chettle, 19 knows only too well the value of a good name after hers was muddied by a malicious blogger.
All it took was one article peddling lies about her. They spread like wild fire. She now fears they will follow her into the future and even shut down opportunities.
“It all started last year after a photo I took with radio presenter Shaffie Weru went viral and everyone had their own interpretation,” said Venessa.
Most people concluded the two were having an affair but she dismissed them as idle gossips. After all, she said, there was no truth.
Her co-accused, used to having such rumours peddled about him, did not also give the stories much thought.
“Shaffie is simply a friend. We meet in different events, chat a little and go our different ways after each meeting,” she said.
This year, just after Valentine’s Day celebrations, social blog Daily Post ran a story claiming she was on a mission to kill Nairobi men.
She was HIV positive and was dating several celebrities and even taking part in orgies, the story claimed.
“I received a phone call from my boss telling me she had read something about me that was very disturbing. She directed me to the web site. I broke down in tears as I read the malicious story,” she said.
Fearing that the rumours would particularly hurt her family, Venessa had to explain everything to them to try and control the damage done.
“They did not buy into the rumours because they knew me. They told me to be strong, that it would all pass,” she said.
Her father was quick to understand her predicament. Her elder siblings did not, however, let her go without a reprimand.
They felt her lifestyle had attracted the rumours and given her accusers some semblance of credibility to peg their lies on.
Venessa attends many parties in town and hangs out with local celebrities, something that has led to her being tagged as an emerging socialite out to seek fame.
But she said she was only interested in having fun and that it was cruel of her accusers to use her name in an effort to drive traffic to their web site.
“Even if I wanted to be famous, that is not the way I would go about it. I would have to be a retard to go around saying I am HIV positive and sleeping around with married men,” she said.
Were it not for her strong will, Venessa said she would have easily slid into depression. Almost a month down the line, the rumours had not stopped people from talking behind her back.
They even did it when she was in the same room. Although she tries to put on a brave face, Venessa said she was afraid that it may affect her future job prospects.
“I am scared that some employers will find it hard to hire me thinking I might ruin their company image. The saddest part is that there is nothing I can do because even if I report the case to the police they will most likely tell me they do not have a cyber-crime unit,” said Venessa.
Cyber bullying has been on the rise in Kenya. Some of the celebrities that have gone through the same ordeal include radio presenter Tina Kagia when it was falsely alleged she battered her husband and comedian JB Masanduku.
Linda Nyangweso, a presenter with Radio Africa was also bullied because of her weight.
“The government should do something about bullies because people’s lives are being destroyed by few individuals who know they can get away with it,” said Venessa.