The mother of reality show celebrity Hana Kimura, who is believed to have died by suicide earlier this year, has called for increased education regarding the use of social media, saying that "online abuse can take away people's will to live."
Kyoko Kimura, 43, said in a recent interview that her daughter had been struggling due to cyberbullying on social media.
Hana, who was a professional wrestler, starred in the popular reality television show "Terrace House," in which several men and women live in a shared house.
In late March, disparaging comments against her started erupting on social media after she directed her anger at a male cast member in an episode of the show.
Hana, then 22, was found with no vital signs at her apartment in Tokyo on May 23 and was later confirmed dead in a hospital.
Kyoko said that her daughter spoke to her about the hardships she was experiencing from online abuse on May 15. She told Hana that she found it unbelievable that so many people would freely post abusive comments based on only the parts of her life shown on the TV program.
Kyoko said that Hana cried as she responded, "They don't think of the people on the show as humans."
Some 1,200 comments were directed at Hana's Twitter account between the end of March and her death. The Metropolitan Police Department picked out accounts from which malign comments were posted multiple times, and last week sent papers on a man in his 20s from Osaka Prefecture to public prosecutors on abuse charges.
Those found guilty of abuse charges are given only penalties of under 30 days of confinement or under ¥10,000 in fines.
"There's no balance between the psychological pain victims bear and the punishment for perpetrators," Kyoko said. "It takes time and money to identify offenders, and the bar is too high."
Despite such challenges, Kyoko is considering taking legal action against others who posted abuse aimed at Hana. She is in the process of requesting social media operators disclose information on the posters.
Kyoko is also considering establishing a nonprofit organization to offer consultations on online abuse, with the hope that other people will not have to feel the same way her daughter did.
She is also planning to visit elementary schools next year to spread awareness about social media education.
"People engaging in online lynching have no awareness as offenders," she said. "I'd like them to think about what they're doing before they criticize others on social media."
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a detailed list of resources and assistance.
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