Cate Campbell's horrifying threat from stranger at 1am

The four-time Olympic gold medallist was threatened with sexual assault just days after speaking out against social media abuse.

Cate Campbell.
Cate Campbell has detailed how she received a disturbing, anonymous phone call threatening her with rape. Pictures: Instagram/Getty Images

Olympic champion Cate Campbell says she received an anonymous phone call from a stranger who threatened to rape her, just days after publishing an article discussing abuse levelled at female athletes. The 30-year-old superstar had written about the toll online abuse takes on female athletes for the Herald Sun, only for the anonymous threats of a coward to prove her point within hours of it going live.

Campbell has often been an outspoken voice calling for change on social media, and continued doing so earlier this week. She says it's not as easy as simply abandoning social media - particularly for female athletes, who generate a substantial income through paid sponsorships and the like.

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The disgusting call came through at 1am earlier this week, Campbell told the Today show, with a message threatening sexual violence should the three-time Olympic gold medallist not pick up the phone. As the chair of the Australian Olympic Committee's athlete's commission, Campbell is no stranger to what is facing female stars.

Statistically, just over 85% of all abuse directed at athletes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was towards female players and competitors. Other studies have also shown the vast majority of abuse directed at women online contains some type of sexually explicit comment.

"I had a scary experience just the other day, I released an article talking about the online abuse that I had received and that night I received a phone call at 1am," Campbell said. "They left a message saying that if I didn't pick up the f***ing phone they were going to f***ing rape me.

"I think that that experience isn't unique to me, it's not unique to many female figures online and the scary thing is how threatened I felt about it and that my personal safety was in danger."

Cate Campbell discusses personal toll of social media abuse

Campbell was quick to acknowledge that online abuse wasn't just a problem for women, with several AFL and NRL starts calling out abuse in previous weeks. Abusive remarks about Indigenous players in particular have been a consistent problem.

"I'm not saying that online abuse is unique to females, I know that we have seen some horrific racial abuse levelled in the NRL and AFL," Campbell said. "But I think that the nature of the abuse when it is directed at females is much more predatory and feels a lot more threatening because by nature we are a bit more vulnerable.

" For those people who say, 'Just get off social media'. You are victim blaming. Just as we think that women should be able to walk home at night, women should be able to exist safely on social media.

"So, if you're pointing this out, you're victim blaming and you are part of the problem because you are pointing at the victim and not the perpetrators. It's not fixing the problem."

Campbell says she has taken steps back from her own profile online, admitting it was disappointing not to interact with the majority of fans who she says have offered nothing but support. Like everyone though, Campbell said, one negative comment can overpower 10 positive ones.

Cate Campbell.
Cate Campbell is in the midst of preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

" I don't want to wade into the muck and so I have to completely abstain, but it's really hard because what do you do? Because if you're ignoring it are you then condoning it? If you're not engaging with it and calling it out, then you're not standing for change," she said.

"But there's a huge personal cost of going through and looking at what people have said about you.

"These are often the things you secretly think about yourself and when you see that confirmed, it's like your deepest, darkest fears are confirmed at that moment and it can be completely devastating."

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