Reality TV

Survivor’s Rachel on the ‘disgusting’ bullying she experienced

"They tried to shame my sexuality, they tried to shame my body."
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Rachel Downie is, in her own words, 50 and fierce – which is why she put her life on hold to take on Australian Survivor and represent not only women of her age, but the LGBTQIA+ community too.

WATCH BELOW: Australian Survivor 2021: Rachel’s backstory

But Rachel has found herself representing so much more, and that would be by bringing attention to the relentless bullying people face through discussing her own experience.

After surviving three gruelling weeks in the Australian Outback for a show that’s both physically and mentally exhausting, Rachel returned home to reunite with her loved ones and get back to her everyday routine.

One thing she wasn’t expecting to face on the outside however, was the intense bullying and hate she received online – all for how she looks.

“I got trolled disgustingly on social media when I put a photograph out there of my body,” Rachel tells New Idea.

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Rachel received intense hate after posting a photo of her body on social media. (Credit: Ten)

“I tried to do a brave thing,” she says. “I went in there to represent 50-year-old women.”

“I had the choice to put a photograph of me just in a bikini top and bottoms and my wife said to me ‘Rach, do it, just be yourself’, and I did and immediately for a few minutes regretted it because of the kind of things people said.”

“They tried to shame my sexuality, they tried to shame my body,” Rachel admits. “I’ve been told to go and kill myself quite a few times just because of the way my body looks like.”

After giving herself a few minutes to “go through the feelings”, Rachel opened up her thought processes and used it as a reminder as to why she does the work that she does everyday.

“What it also pointed out to me is that in our online lives there are lots of people who don’t get that love and that support.”

The work that Rachel does is help thousands of young kids deal with bullying – and the irony of her own trolling experience is not lost on her.

“There are kids everyday who get sent that kind of hate and they don’t have anyone on their team, and they don’t have anyone on their tribe,” she says.

“I’ve got something in store that the [other Survivor stars] and I are going to do in relation to that kind of hate that gets spread around.”

The work that she does as an educator to help young people was also her motivation behind going on the show, as she wants to highlight that kind of support for people who need it most.

“The work that I do with Stymie, the anonymous online reporting tool that was made for kids, that all came out of the suicide of the year 9 boy that I use to teach,” Rachel explains.

“The work that I do everyday is for young people and trying to teach them to be brave and to stick up for each other even when it’s really, really hard.”

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“I feel really privileged to be able to stand there and proudly be all of who I am.” (Credit: Instagram)

Armed with the love and support of her family and friends, Rachel was able to deal with her own experience of online trolling, and sees her time on the show as a “privilege”.

“Me being on the show as a proud 50-year-old lesbian with a beautiful wife and family at home who support me 100% is definitely something that I stayed everyday for,” she says.

“That kind of visibility is something that the LGBTQIA+ community have fought for forever and I feel really privileged to be able to stand there and proudly be all of who I am.”

If you are seeking mental support for yourself or a loved one, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

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