Since opening this blog, I’m happy to say that I’ve met some really neat people although it’s sad that the path of being victimized is the reason we met.
I’m also happy to say that there were good exchanges with people that I would not have had if not opening this blog.
I take my hat off to Michael Thacker who is the only person I originally named as a harasser who was ethical enough to apologize for his participation in harassing and doxing activities.
I also take my hat off to Rumpole. Some might disagree with his opinions on some issues, as I do, but he never took part in the doxing, slander and harassment. When Rumpole saw a harasser going overboard, and particularly in harassing women online, he spoke up.
Pew research statistics show that more women are harassed and stalked on the internet than men.
Based on my experience and observations, there are women who look for, and collude with men to harass and stalk other women on the internet. Many of the cyberharassment victims I met last year were women who were attacked by a man who targeted them because of a woman.
There are also men on the internet who look for and collude with women to harass other women. I’m currently going through that experience with a man using a woman to verbally abuse, threaten, and harass myself and others.
The internet harassment that I speak about, that I experienced, and that other victims who I’ve spoken with experience, goes beyond name-calling. When harassers seek out or have your personal information and that of your family, where you live, where you work, where your spouse works, etc., it is no longer internet harassment. It has crossed the line into your personal life. Even when harassers have the wrong personal information, the fact that they are looking feels like a personal violation.
Many states have laws against cyberharassment and cyberstalking, but those laws aren’t being frequently enforced. Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland who has studied online harassment since 2007 stated; “Frankly, police at the local level have a very hard time figuring out how to investigate it. And they don’t want to say they don’t know.”
When I came to the internet in 2012, it was because of my interest in Florida’s stand your ground law. I opened a blog and we followed the cases of George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn, Trevor Dooley, Anita Smithey, and Ted Wafer, all of whom claimed self-defense. What many of us have come to learn is that regardless of the race of the killers and victims, it’s the system that gets the final say. And, it’s the system that often demonstrates bias and double-standards.
Some victims of internet harassment have come to learn about the system.
Through the years, I’ve communicated with State Attorneys, legislatures, senators, state Attorney Generals, detectives, and FBI agents. There are laws against harassment using electronic means. Many states have them. However, based on the experience of many victims of internet harassment, unless harassment involves minors, beauty queens or movie stars, the average citizen has no form of redress other than going to the civil courts.
State laws on the books against harassment using electronic means are as good as blank pieces of paper in some states, if not most states. The same is true for protective orders or injunctions. When those court orders are violated, it is up to the person granted the order to return to the civil court.
This is not to say that law enforcement is disinterested. I’ve spoken to law enforcement in several jurisdictions. No matter how much local law enforcement wants to help, many will tell you that the decision to investigate is not up to them. They work as part of the system. They have to refer the case to detectives and when detectives decide not to investigate, they blame it on State Attorneys who they allege only want to prosecute violent crimes.
There Is a Known Problem
Alice E. Marwick and Ross W. Miller wrote a paper titled “Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape,” (June 10, 2014, Center on Law and Information Policy Report, Fordham University School of Law).
They point out some of the problems;
“Although online harassment and hate speech is a significant problem, there are few legal remedies for victims. Law enforcement has limited resources, and prioritize other cases over prosecuting internet related issues. There are often state jurisdictional issues which make successful prosecution difficult because in many situations, victims and perpetrators reside in different states.”
Every victim of internet harassment who I’ve spoken with — every. single. one. — has said that their local law enforcement has given them the waiting treatment and eventually told them there was nothing they could do unless an actual, physical crime was committed. Some local law enforcement agencies refer victims to the website ic3.gov. ic3.gov has become the dumping ground for law enforcement the moment they hear the word “internet.”
The questions on that website are not geared for internet harassment. Most victims of internet harassment take the advice of some sites and ignore the harassment. As it escalates into threats, the posting of their real or purported personal information, threats of contacting their family or spouse, etc., victims then file complaints with the social media hosting site, such as Twitter for example. They wait. They wait and usually receive an automated email that tells them no violation of rules were found. It could be weeks or a month before victims seek help from their local law enforcement.
By that time, harassers have caused damage in their personal lives or the lives of others associated with them.
What Internet Harassment and Systemic Racism Have In Common
Victims of cyber-harassment and systemic racism have something in common; i.e., until you’ve walked in their shoes, you cannot understand the actual experience.
The experience can, at times, turn into a life of walking on eggshells.
Just like in real life, environments differ. I’ve learned for example, that the environment of blogs is much different than the environments in forums, Twitter and Facebook. When stopping harassment depends on the decisions of others, it can be the perfect environment for unabated harassment.
The same is true for race discrimination in employment, housing, banking, and yes, even contact with law enforcement. When decisions depend on those in authority who readily dismiss complaints and concerns, victims can feel helpless.
The feeling of helplessness can be followed by a feeling of anger, which is followed with taking independent actions. Independent actions might meet the problem head-on and eliminate it, or escalate the problem.
I’ve been on the receiving end of hearing gatekeepers at the DOJ tell me if I don’t want to be called racial slurs, to stay off the internet. Based on what other victims have shared with me, they also meet challenges from gatekeepers and often get no further.
Do those in positions of public trust feel the same way about employment; housing; walking down the street? Would personnel with EEOC tell victims of employment discrimination that if they don’t want to be called racial slurs, or mocked about their religion at work, or bullied because of their sexual orientation, to quit their job? Would police departments tell young Black men that if they don’t want to be racially profiled, to stay in the house? Would they tell rape victims to put bars on their windows and doors and not leave home?
For victims of internet harassment who are not a minority, and whose complaints to social media and/or law enforcement were downplayed, imagine how you felt, and imagine if the abuse took place in something that you could not give-up, such as employment, housing, transportation, health care — walking down the street.
It has already been conveyed to you by those in authority that you are too sensitive; that you were involved in a controversial issue when you should have remained silent; THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED HARASSMENT BECAUSE IT’S THE INTERNET. Just imagine for a minute of being told that you should expect discrimination, hate speech, and unequal treatment because of the color of your skin.
Ultimately, the nature of man’s indifference, biases and pre-judgment is revealed in many situations. It all boils down to saying you are not important. Your individuality, emotional stress and fears mean nothing to the system.
I have a friend with experience in forensic profiles who has been helping me lately. There are also some good articles explaining the forensic profiles of harassers/bullies. Some include how to deal with them. There are also videos. Not all of the articles and videos are on point for cyberharassment, but they are informative. In the coming weeks, I’ll try to post articles and videos that I find on the subject.
To victims of bullies, whether real-life or in the cyber-world, you are not alone. Do not remain silent.