Thu, 08 Oct 2020
A NEWBURY optician has revealed she was abused and received death wishes for her business after turning away a client who refused to wear a mask in her store.
Valarie Jerome, who runs an optometrists in Northbrook Street, tweeted to her 350 followers last Thursday that she’d had her first “anti masker” after a client wanted an eye test, but refused to wear a mask out of choice rather than necessity.
That tweet went viral, amassing almost 9,000 likes, 500 retweets and more than 545 replies.
Although Mrs Jerome said 90 per cent of the replies were in support, she was horrified to find a number of four-letter expletives aimed at her, as well as comments saying she was discriminating against the disabled, that she should be sued and hoping that her business went bankrupt.
Had my first anti masker today. Wanted to come in and have an eye test but said she wouldn’t wear a mask. I turned her away.— Valarie Jerome (@DrValarieJerome) October 1, 2020
Since last tweet went viral, I’ve had death wishes for the business, threats of being sued, accused of discriminating the disabled & called disgusting & a piece of s***. There’s a difference between medical exemption & rollin your eyes when asked to wear a mask for an eye test.— Valarie Jerome (@DrValarieJerome) October 3, 2020
Mrs Jerome – who originally moved to the UK in 2009 from the US – said that initially the comments hadn’t bothered her, but had started to affect her as the day went on.
She said: “I thought at first these people are a bit harsh, but as the day goes by you see another one, and wonder ‘am I a bad person?’
“They’re saying all these things about me, and I’ve never been called these things before.
“I don’t think it makes you a weak person for someone to bother you, it just makes you human.
“What hurt me the most was people saying I was discriminating against people with a disability.
“One of my good friends here is disabled and for people to say that I’m discriminating against the disabled... that’s the opposite of what my life is about.
“I just partnered with the Welcome app three months ago that allows people with any sort of disability, seen or unseen, to contact the practice via the app to let me know any kind of special assistance they need before they walk in the door.
“I’ve got nothing but positive compliments and feedback from local people.”
Mrs Jerome said that she could understand how the negative attention drawn by celebrities online could affect their mental health.
She said: “You can easily see how this sort of thing could tear a person down mentally.
“You look at Caroline Flack, celebrities put themselves out there a lot more than me just on Twitter, and you see how that stuff gets to them.”