When Curt Schilling’s daughter, Gabby, first found out that her dad was going to respond to her cyberbullies, she thought that he was overreacting.
But then the 17-year-old saw some of the vulgar, sexually explicit Tweets about her and, she tells PEOPLE, “I realized this was different.”
Gabby gave her dad – the 48-year-old ESPN Sunday night baseball analyst and former Boston Red Sox pitcher – the go-ahead to write the blog post in which he named the men who refused to abide by his requests to recant and stop harassing his daughter. One is a student at Brookdale Community College, who has been suspended due to his comments, and another, who was employed by the New York Yankees as a part-time ticket seller, was fired.
“It means a lot that [my dad] defended me, but that’s just what fathers do for their daughters,” says Gabby of her dad, who also pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies during his MLB career. “He has been, and always will be, there for me no matter what.”
She also feels lucky to have the support of her mom, Shonda Schilling. “She is my best friend,” says Gabby. “I tell her literally everything, and she knows exactly how to deal with every situation. I would be nothing without her.”
The 47-year-old mom of four says she was shocked last week when her husband first showed her some of the messages that were being posted in response to Curt’s Tweets congratulating Gabby for getting into Rhode Island’s Salve Regina University, where she will play softball in the fall.
“I was stunned that anyone would say these things, knowing people would see them,” Shonda tells PEOPLE. “Then angry they ever felt it was okay to ever say those things to my daughter.”
It was “devastating,” she says of Gabby coming home from school in tears. “This was supposed to be a time of celebration,” she adds of her daughter’s college acceptance. “No one deserves this! It’s never okay to speak to anybody like that, especially a 17-year-old girl.”
As painful as this experience has been, Gabby says, “I’m very glad that this all happened. The amount of awareness that’s being spread right now about cyberbullying and bullying in general from this situation is incredible. I’ve had girls and parents and adults reaching out to me saying, ‘Thank you so much for what you and your dad are doing, spreading awareness to these kids about what their words can do and what consequences they have.’ ”
Asked what she thinks about the consequences some of her harassers have suffered, she says, “I do and I don’t feel bad. It’s really sad that one thing they said could cost them their entire career on a sports team or their job, but I think it’s even sadder that they don’t think that should have happened.”
Adds Gabby, “They think, ‘Oh, it’s just social media. It’s just a Tweet.’ People don’t realize how serious social media is.”