MAFS participant Lacey Swanepoel got death threats
Married at First Sight's Lacey Swanepoel says she has received death threats from online bullies.
The threats got so bad yesterday that the Auckland-based consultant became distressed and had to leave work.
The cyber bullying seems to stem from an unfortunately-timed Facebook post by her TV husband, Raglan surfer Luke.
On Tuesday, Luke posted a photo of himself surfing to mark Mental Health Awareness week. In the image's caption, he said he'd had his own "battles" with mental illness.
The previous night's episode of MAFS had ended on a cliffhanger with Luke telling cameras that Lacey had decided to end their relationship because she'd been told a secret from his past.
Lacey says some fans of the show appear to have incorrectly connected the cliffhanger with the post and deduced that she had left Luke because she had found out about his mental illness.
In fact, Lacey did not know Luke had been mentally unwell until she saw his online post on Tuesday.
"I didn't know that Luke had a mental illness, it's something we never spoke about, it was never communicated to me," she says.
She said the abusive messages she received on social media in the past couple of days were the worst she'd had since the show started.
"When you start getting ridiculous and you start threatening my life and you say you're going to find me at work and hurt me, it becomes more than just a keyboard warrior saying something stupid," she says.
"It's just a bit s.... that something like this could affect me to the point where I couldn't be at work. My career is really important to me, and work's been really supportive, but that shouldn't happen to anyone."
Ironically, in the post that started it all, Luke spoke at length against cyber bullying.
She said she had expected some degree of social media backlash when she decided to apply for MAFS, but she didn't anticipate the physical threats.
"I definitely expected to be recognised, I definitely expected people to want to send me messages and to communicate with me. I expected the things I get often, which are 'You're a slut', or 'He deserves better', those kind of comments I expect.
"But the moment somebody starts threatening my life or starts telling me that if they see me on the street they're going physically to harm me, I'm like, 'That's not okay'. No one should expect that. A lot of the comments say, 'You signed up for TV so you deserve this.' I'm like, 'Actually I don't, no one deserves this.'"
She said the public were getting a heavily edited version of events on the show.
"For example the honeymoon, which I'm sure only aired for 20 minutes, that was six-and-a-half days for me. ... On Monday's episode I don't laugh a lot, and I don't look like I'm having a lot of fun, but I know I did."
But despite the backlash, she says she would sign up for the MAFS experience again in a heartbeat.
"Oh my gosh, so this experience has been amazing, it's been so much fun, and I've made so many friends and great connections, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. This is one of those small blips on the radar. ... If I knew that this was going to happen when I started it, I still would have done it."
And as for her and Luke? Things might not quite be as finished as they appeared on Monday's episode.
"There's definitely more to come," Lacey says.