She’s been the victim of cruel online bullying when a photo showing her falling off a motorized scooter went viral. Now, a Missouri woman named Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson is speaking out about her experience as the subject of one of the many photos on the website People of Walmart, and how her physical and mental ailments are not to be laughed at.
The rise of the internet has coincided with the advent of cyberbullying, a form of bullying where the aggressors make offensive or hateful comments about another person online, as opposed to physical or verbal bullying in person. This may also include the posting of embarrassing photos on websites, even with the person in the images not identified in any way, shape, or form. And that’s where People of Walmart comes in — a website that specializes in photos of unnamed people doing things perceived to be unusual, or getting into embarrassing situations while at Walmart stores across the United States.
One of those people, however, has come out and shared her story of the abuse she has received from internet users over her appearance in the above website. Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson’s story, which was shared on Quora, was last updated on January 3, but it’s only now that media outlets such as the New York Daily News have picked up on her tale of cyberbullying, one that started in 2011 or 2012 when she had an unfortunate mishap at a Walmart store, and had her photo taken, albeit with her face hidden, and posted on People of Walmart.
According to Wilkinson, she was “at a very low point in (her) mental health” on that day, as she took a cart to gather groceries for her family. While trying to get a case of soda for her husband, both Wilkinson, who was riding on a motorized scooter, and the shopping cart had tipped over, which prompted some young girls to giggle. Jennifer claims she didn’t think much of the giggling at that time, as she was used to getting teased about her weight. But it was a completely different story when she had discovered her photo had turned into an online meme.
“A few months later, I see this photo on a site making fun of people of Walmart. I have also seen this photo attached to stories that aren’t even true about this situation. The only thing I am glad about is it did not capture my face.”
Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson also explained in her Quora post that she suffers from a spinal condition called spondylolisthesis, where the vertebra “slip forward and out of place.” This weakens her legs progressively as she keeps standing, and the condition sometimes causes her to trip or fall, like she did in the viral photo. This spinal disorder, she added, isn’t helped by her obesity, which she blames on her Western diet and mental issues.
“My obesity is caused by my American diet and also by my mental illnesses. I have major depressive disorder, PTSD, and avoidant personality disorder. I have experienced several cases of emotional trama [sic] that lead to these illnesses. So I ended using food to cope with my mental illnesses.”
— Sarah Shirley (@SarahShirley11) October 29, 2015
Although Wilkinson believes that her obesity isn’t a condition to be condoned, she stressed in a recent update that she isn’t asking for pity. Rather, she wants to call out for understanding and compassion, as people with conditions such as hers deserve to be treated like human beings and not objects of ridicule.
“The reason I am sharing this is because people think it is funny to laugh at people with disabilities. You can not [sic] see my disabilities but they are there and they are REAL. So next time you see photos making fun of people just remember you know nothing about these people or the struggles they face everyday. It is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone.”
So far, there haven’t been any recent comments on Jennifer Knapp Wilkinson’s story in People of Walmart‘s “Hate Mail” section. But the newest such complaint, which is merely dated June 19, asks the site’s webmasters to “grow a heart, a conscience, and a soul” and stop cyberbullying people by posting their photos on the website.[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]