The sad, heart-breaking story of of Alyssa Funke is one every person on the Internet needs to hear. Alyssa Funke was a relatively normal freshman, straight-A student at the University of Wisconsin’s River Falls. However, earlier this year she made a video for the amateur porn site CastingCouch-X, which was released on the site in March. In the video — which The Daily Dot notes is still available on the site — Funke uses the stage name “Stella Ann,” saying she wants to major in biology and become an anesthesiologist. Sadly, she committed suicide April 16th, just over a month after the video went live.
Screencap via Daily Dot
According to an extensive report from KMSP in Minnesota, cyber-bullying may have played a huge part in Funke’s ultimate decision to take her life:
Just a few days after that video was posted online, Alyssa began getting taunting messages on Twitter and Facebook — mostly from old classmates at Stillwater High School, where students were abuzz and they were not kind.
Students huddled around their phones in the cafeteria, looking at the video. One student sent a tweet that said, “Wow your a thot” — slang for a prostitute — “Does her dad know?”
Another wrote, “Nothing brings a school together like a porn star who graduated last year. I guess you could say news spreads fast here at Stillwater hahah.”
Alyssa responded with her own tweets, “famous for dayzzz” and “pornstar status, a-okay” — but everything was not okay. Two weeks after the video was posted online, on April 14, Alyssa bought a 12-gauge shotgun, drove to a picturesque boat landing on Big Carnelia Lake and killed herself. She was only 19 years old.
It’s absolutely heart-breaking to hear that Funke was harassed to the point where she felt that ending her life was her only option. A look back at Funke’s own social networks suggests that at first she was relatively unfazed by the Casting Couch video. Via The Daily Dot:
Her family, however, told KMSP that she suffered from depression. She leaves behind her parents and her nine siblings. Via KMSP:
Yet, her classmates at UW-River Falls say they have little doubt about what drove her to suicide.
“A lot of people are really negative — troll-y — about it or standing up and saying it shouldn’t happen to people,” Katrina dodge said. “Sad it’s still happening, actually.”
The KMSP report plays up at length the contrasting stories about Belle Knox — a.k.a The Duke Pornstar — to Alyssa Funke. Belle Knox turned her story about being outed in her college peer group as a porn star into a story about female empowerment and sex workers rights. In an interview with KMSP about Funke, Knox’s response was the line she’s stuck to since day one:
“I am breaking down barriers between mainstream and the adult industry,” she told FOX 5 in New York City. “I think that’s great, and I want to keep getting my message about female empowerment and sex worker rights.”
But the issue remains: Many people seriously stigmatize sex workers who make the very adult decision to go into porn. In the social media age, where people tend to say things they’d never say in person to someone’s face, harassment is literally as simple as a Tweet or Facebook comment. Despite the fact that attitudes towards sex and sexuality have evolved greatly over the past 30 years, this type of Scarlett Letter-esque shaming happens all too often to porn stars. Dare I say more often than not it’s even coming from the people that are enjoying their product in private, as is their right to do.
In the wake of Funke’s death, her family started a crowd-sourcing campaign in Alyssa’s name to raise money for cyber-bullying charities. Sadly, it only raised $165 of a $1000 goal.
If cyber-bullying is indeed what caused Funke to commit suicide, that’s a damn shame. We as people should all be better.
People are still people, no matter what decisions they make. I wish more Internet trolls out to ruin lives could realize that.