Guest blog: Facing harassment? Be gentle to yourself

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

This guest post on harassment is going live at the same time as my post on the same topic, because it’s a perfect partner to that blog. When I spoke at Eroticon, lots of people joined in during the Q+A to discuss their own experiences, and @DJFet74 gave some seriously great advice – from a practical as well as a psychological perspective. She’s kindly written it up so I can share it with you…

I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to GOTN’s talk about how to deal with internet trolls. She is a fireball of energy who will give everything she has to make thing fun and informative. There was a lot of practical help there about laws, but then someone spoke up about how they have been harassed by one group of trolls who allegedly call themselves fully paid up members of the human race. I call them scum personally. That these people had changed email addresses so that they can repeatedly get around blocking, changes in facebook and twitter accounts for the same reasons. It sounded like hell to be honest.

Anyway being the quiet, retiring, wallflower that I am I opened up my mouth and gave, what I think was some sensible advice. GOTN bounded up to me afterwards in her deliciously lolloping way (even just writing about her gait makes me smile) and asked if I could write something about internet safety, trolling, and how to stop it bloody hurting so much.

Here it is:

Practical tips to combat harassment

1) STOP. Stop what you are doing an breathe. It is OK for you to exist. It is not right to be harassed, so stop what you are doing, go make a cup of tea (or beverage of your choice) and breathe. Don’t do anything rash. Do not delete accounts, do not delete emails. Shut the laptop and let the whole thing marinade. No one is going to die by chucking a bit of time at this problem.

2) Put a sub folder in your emails and set up a rule. I know that from personal experience when I have been stalked that every time my phone went off to say that I had an email I would have acute anxiety. This means that everything from certain email addresses or with tagged words go straight into that file so you can open it when you are feeling emotionally and psychologically resourced.

I actually did this for my boss at one of my jobs who would send emails every 5 minutes. I would open that folder twice a day and read them but it stopped me from being driven demented by her constant barrage of information.

3) Set up a paper trail. Really simple but most people do not. Save everything you have about the troll/stalker/bully, everything you did too regardless of whether or not it shows you in a good light. Take it to the police. Some people do not want to go to the police which is fine but that is what they are there for. There is a whole raft of anti harassment laws out there. Each country has some.

UK:

Citizens’ Advice guide on dealing with harassment

DPP guidance on dealing with threats online

Europe (countries under ECHR):

Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This lays out the right to freedom of expression, and it’s important mainly because 2. details the limitations to that – namely that countries can impose restrictions on freedom of expression where it harms others.

US:

Atlantic article on the possibilities (and limitations) of dealing with harassment online

General:

Overview of different attempts to tackle harassment across the world

iHeartmob – emotional support for those dealing with online harassment. Their list of other organisations who can help you.

Crashoverride – crisis helpline for people who are dealing with online abuse. They also have lots of resources you might want to look at.

Note from GOTN: if you have any more useful links to add, which would help people who are dealing with online harassment, please leave in the comments and I’ll add to this list.

I know that some people have not found the police always helpful, but that is their job. If the person you are dealing with is willing to help ask to speak to their supervisor, make complaints about them. Go in again on another day. Go in with a friend who will stick up for you, but go in and see them!

Now the thing with harassment laws is that the abuse needs to not be a one off thing in the main (unless they are threatening to kill you) so you need to gather all of the emails, tweets, screen grabs you can and send them in. Then (this is the bit you need to take heed of) KEEP GOING BACK! Each time you go to the police they have to log that incident. Each logged incident starts to make up a whole bigger picture.

When I went to the police the first person was nice to me, the next time I went they were a bit cool towards me, the next time they asked what I wanted to do and hinted heavily that I should drop everything which I did not do. I kept going back and back and eventually they were able to see that I was being harassed and then they took action which resulted in that person leaving me the fuck alone, which was all I wanted in the first place.

Psychological tips for dealing with harassment

1) Be gentle to yourself. Being on the receiving end of trolls/bullies/stalkers ranges from being annoying to fucking terrifying. It can shut down all cognitive functioning because it makes us feel scared and threatened. Never underestimate this level of fear and anxiety, it is serious and should be taken seriously. When I have heard others in the past talk about this they have minimised it by saying that they are just being “silly” or others dismiss it by saying that someone is “overreacting”. This simply is not the case. It is OK to feel however you feel: angry, scared, worried, fearful, sick; all of these are valid emotional states. Deal with them as you would in any other situation where you would experience them: scream, shout, cry, get rip roaringly drunk, mainline chocolate, have frantic sex, tell the world to fuck off.

2) Get your back-up team ready. No man is an island, everyone needs someone. Surround yourself with people who love you, people who believe you, people who have your back. This cannot be underestimated. Friends who will go to the police with you and hold your hand. Friends who will be at the end of the phone when you have had your fourth vile email of the day. Friends who will drink wine with you and plot your enemy’s demise!

These friends make the whole process livable, they help you through it and stop you crumbling. Asking for help or assistance with this can be hard for some. One way of looking at it is; if your best friend was going through this and didn’t tell you, I am certain that you would be upset and/or offended. Your friends, your real friends, would bend over backwards to help you. Let them.

3) Surround yourself with niceness. It sounds trite but we might have lots of nice things said to us or written to us but we tend to latch onto the crap. Try as we might to put it into perspective the bad stuff nibbles away at our self confidence. I have a “cool messages” folder in my emails so if someone sends me a nice message I file it away there. We tend to delete a lot of messages but why throw away the nice ones? When I am having a bad day I look up all those kind words and I feel a bit better about myself.

Emails are not the only things that I see. I keep cards, but I also have pieces of jewellery, tattoos, painting, perfumes; anything that reminds me that I am loved and treasured. Some days I wear EVERYTHING so that I feel armoured in love and can say a big “fuck you” to all the haters out there.

Whatever you have that has been given because someone loves you… surround yourself with it.

4) It is OK to be a softie. I am a strong independent woman but I am also as soft as shit. It has taken me YEARS to realise that this is an ok thing. I do not need to justify anything, I am just soft. It is ok for you to be soft too.

5) Identify the barb. At times we find the same themes repeating and they hurt each time. If this is happening to you, perhaps it is time to look at those barbs and have a good think as to why they keep hurting you. Common things are lying, religion/going to hell, adultery. Try and have a think about what is your trigger, it may be something that happened years ago and you are trying to bury it or make it right now but these key words send you back down your own personal emotional black hole. Whenever you work out what it is then you start to realise that it is your past that is hurting you not your present, and certainly not the utter cuntnugget who is sending you crap online.

6) You are allowed to exist. I have a friend who wanted to friend me on facebook, this friend is a vanilla and tame as they come. Now my facebook is full of feminism, politics, bondage, with the occasional cat meme thrown in. I told her this before she friended me because I thought it was only fair to warn her. She wisely told me that I was allowed to own my part of the internet and post what I liked. It resonated with me. I, with all my kinks and fetishes, can be here on the interwebs.

7) If fanatics are allowed on the internet then so are you. I have had people comment that what I say or write is unchristian. In their opinion this might be true. However, I am also allowed to hold a religious stance too. I wanted to bring in religion because lots of people use it to justify some really horrible behaviour – from being bigoted to out and out inciting violence. If they can have their opinions then so can you.

The world is a better place with more variety. I hope that some of these things help. I know that none of this is really rocket science but we do forget to be kind to ourselves and put ourselves first a lot of the time.

6 Comments

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    I don’t have any direct experience of online harassment myself, so I can’t say I’ve used any of these organisations; but I am aware of a few that could be linked to here.

    Heartmob appears to a website for mainly providing emotional support for victims of harassment: https://iheartmob.org/
    But more importantly, they link to a whole bunch of anti-harassment organisations here: https://iheartmob.org/resources/supportive_organizations
    Some of those are US-only, but others appear to be international.
    One I would pick out in particular is Crash Override: http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com/index.html
    They help people dealing with particularly serious, large-scale harassment and ‘doxing’ campaigns, and have some helpful resources here: http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com/resources.html

  • Azkyroth says:

    Surround yourself with people who love you, people who believe you, people who have your back. This cannot be underestimated. Friends who will go to the police with you and hold your hand. Friends who will be at the end of the phone when you have had your fourth vile email of the day. Friends who will drink wine with you and plot your enemy’s demise!

    Remind me, which wand does one wave to make this happen?

    • Girl on the net says:

      I could understand your comment if ‘surround yourself with niceness’ were the only advice in the piece – and I’m sorry that it might not be possible for everyone. But surely it’s a helpful addition for some? I think there are also some for whom – although they may not have people who can do this with them in person – they may well have others online who they can turn to for support and comfort.

      • Azkyroth says:

        I guess. I just notice that a LOT of advice, especially in progressive spaces, is really, really glib about support networks in general and friends in particular, and it’s been wearing on me for a while. Maybe it’s really that easy for some people to make and keep friends and build a social circle, especially of people who are actually loyal rather than conditionally congenial, but if so then it seems a bit like when rich people give poor people money-saving advice like “cut back to getting Starbucks once a week instead of every day.”

        • Girl on the net says:

          I see what you’re saying, and I can see why that kind of advice might piss you off, especially when (and I think you’re right that) it’s often offered as a blanket ‘fix-all’ or advice that’ll apply to everyone. But I don’t think that’s particularly fair in this case – I think given that it can be helpful, and given that many people do have support networks which they are often nervous or unsure about leaning on, leaving that advice out would have been odd and meant that channel would be closed or ignored for people who are really struggling.

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