Natalie and Mark Weaver have been fierce advocates for their 10-year-old daughter Sophia Weaver.
Sophia was born with deformities on her face, hands and feet. Natalie was 34 weeks pregnant when doctors told her and husband Mark what to expect.
“My world just felt like it crashed down,” Natalie said. "We tried to take her out (in public) and were met with stares and cruelty that destroyed me.”
Natalie said the family became very private for a while, then, there was another blow. Sophia was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, an extremely rare and degenerative condition.
“When she was five, we found out she has Rett syndrome. It was the reason she had lost any abilities that she had gained. It makes you unable to walk, talk and do things for yourself,” said Natalie.
Sophia has endured 30 surgeries and gets her food through a feeding tube. She has type one diabetes, daily seizures and choking spells.
“There’s no one else in the world like her with the combination of conditions, and there's no one else in the world who looks like her, so we are learning as we go,” Natalie explained.
Sophia's condition turned Natalie into a public advocate for healthcare and people with special needs. There are pictures of Sophia everywhere. It’s easy for someone to access her photos.
And someone did take her photos. Internet trolls.
“When I saw that posted my heart dropped, it was incredibly painful,” said Natalie.
A stranger took a picture of Sophia from an online article and used it on Twitter to promote abortion.
“Someone had been using my child’s image to promote eugenics. She was the poster child of who should be aborted and doesn’t deserve healthcare,” said Natalie.
Natalie said she spent weeks fighting with Twitter to get Sophia’s picture removed and the account taken down. The social media giant complied.
Still, to this day, Natalie is fighting for Sophia and other children with deformities on her social media platforms. This time she’s calling on Instagram to take a stance against hate speech, threats and encouraging violence towards children with disabilities and facial deformities.
Natalie said in the six months she’s used Instagram, she has received three times as much hate than on Twitter and Facebook combined.
“I’m not just thinking about myself. I am strong enough to handle this type of pain because I am used to it,” Natalie said. “I am thinking about all of the other people out there who might not be able to handle this type of pain.”
Natalie received a response from Instagram when she reported a comment that read:
Instagram said in part, “while we reviewed your account you reported for harassment or bullying it does not violate our Community Guidelines.”
As of May 8, Natalie is currently talking with the head of Instagram hoping to get some kind of change to their policies.