Way back year 2010, Jessi Slaughter posted a four and a half minute video talking about ‘haters’ to YouTube after rumors began buzzing that the 11 year old had slept with a 25-year-old singer. The video, mixed with curses and rash language caught the attention of the MySpace-era internet.
But when the child posted another video where her father, Gene Leonhardt, furiously defended his crying daughter, it was the turning point that transformed Jessi into a meme and her life into a living hell.
Six years after the internet began bullying Jessi – who is now going by the name Damien – says the video changed their life. Damien was ceaselessly harassed and shortly after the video went viral, Damien was placed in foster care when their father punched them and their mother.
Nowadays, people are a lot more understanding that, yes, there’s a person behind that photo, there’s a person behind that video. It’s not just a funny picture that has no meaning when you share things. It has a meaning to the person who put it there,” Damien said.