Since the Manti Te'o incident and the popular TV show, the word "catfishing" is now in the public lexicon. If you don't know what it means, it's when somebody pretends to be someone else online. Now there's a story about a woman who was catfished for 12 years!
Susannah Birch was 15 years old when she began a relationship with a "boy" named Richard Martin. He told Susannah that he was 17 and lived in Queensland, Australia.
For three years, Susannah and Richard had "an intense online relationship" and fickle friendly relationships on and off for the remaining nine. Every time they planned to meet, Richard found a reason to break off the reunion.
He would claim that he was busy with homework or university obligations and was unable to meet her time and time again. In addition to the failed meetings, during their relationship Richard began demanding sexually explicit webcam photos and would threaten to leave her if she didn't comply.
Finally, in 2014, Susannah discovered that she was the victim of a 12-year catfishing charade. Richard Martin was not her ex-lover's name and he was not as young as he claimed, far from it actually.
"I actually found out that he's 63 years old, with children and grandchildren," she told the Huffington Post.
The person Susannah thought she knew and loved was actually an elderly man who used photos of one of his sons to convince her of his age and identity. And this is not a new concept. Catfishing happens all the time to men and women alike.
Today, Susannah is working to help other victims of catfishing and online abuse. Her website holds details and warnings about the mental anguish catfishing causes, and she encourages others to step forward and share their stories.