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Adult Cyberbullying

The Anonymous Attacks of Adult Cyberbullying Cross the Line and Enter the "Real World"

Read this story from a former cyberbully who, after mending her ways, found herself the target of a vicious adult cyberbullying campaign.

 
   

By Chelsea Itson

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Cyberbullying does not just apply to children. There are adult groups dedicated to harassing and defaming others as well, along with websites created online specifically to make fun of and demean individuals. These people can be found in communities linked to blogs and chat rooms and they use the disguise of “anonymity” to harass their prey. Sometimes, these bullies will take their online squabbles offline and press people online to harass their prey's family and friends. As a bully myself, then a victim of large-scale bullying, let me tell you my story.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Definition:
"Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging (IM), defamatory personal Web sites, and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others." – Bill Belsey, Cyberbullying Expert

Common Variations:
Cyber Bullying
Cyberbullying
Cyber-Bullying
Cyberstalking
Cybermobbing

 
   

In November of 2006, my grandfather had a massive heart attack. My way of dealing with my pain was to go online and take it out on nameless, faceless bloggers, and I posted things to people that would probably result in me being beaten up if it were said to someone in “real life”. When one of these people I attacked told me my grandfather deserved his death, I upped my ante, lashing out at these words with racial slurs, vulgar names, and just about anything else you can imagine. The pain I felt inside was being thrown onto a screen. After I lost my Grandfather, something inside of me told me to stop, and I left the Internet for a short time to find myself and to analyze the situation I had put myself in.

The Internet, however, can be vicious, especially when you make the wrong people mad

In February 2007, I met my husband. When I met him, I showed him what I had done, and I reached out to him to help me make amends with these people I knew I hurt through cyberbullying. During the next month, I wrote personal apologies to each person I lashed out at, and all of them accepted my apologies, or so I thought. All of this cyberbullying took place in blogs, and I thought from there I'd be given a chance to change and make new friends online. Life in the “real world” went on as normal. Nothing I said or did online directly impacted anything in my “real life”, except for my personal psyche. The guilt I felt about the cyberbullying reminded me daily that this was not the person I really am, and I thought I could prove to people that the person I pretended to be online wasn't really me. The Internet, however, can be vicious, especially when you make the wrong people mad and get in with the wrong crowds.

I had made friends with people who promised to help me and support me through my pain and the change I wished to make. I had traveled long distances to visit some of these people I had met through my blog; 8 hours from my home south for a friend I knew from a cat community, 2 hours north for a friend I knew from a parenting community, and so on. These people led me to believe they were friendly and harmless, and I trusted them.

Retribution for Cyberbullying Begins...

The first set-up came from a friend I took to a concert. The concert and the “real world” things went over just fine. Along the trip, we met another woman. We had a wonderful night and I went home thinking all was well. I woke up the next day to find blogs about me and that night. She had written lies about me, telling people I spent the entire night saying terrible things about people and joking about what I felt guilty about.

This caused one friend of mine to drop me without a word. The other friend confronted me, because this woman had told her that I was going to hurt her family. The things said about me made me look as though I were a psychopath, and my husband and I sat in our computer room in horror as this woman continued to tear me and everything I was working for down. The group she hung with was a well known “drama” crowd. As for me, I had a few friends on my side. In the end, I told myself that I deserved this, and that this was my retribution for the things I had done last year. I wound up dropping the entire thing and just moving on with my life, both online and offline.

In July, I began a new job. It was the first job I had had in over a year due to personal illness, and I blogged about it often because I was excited to be starting over. I also became engaged during this time, which ended up in my blog as well. My friends cheered me on as all of these new facets of my life came to light. I didn't believe I had anything to worry about.

Cyberbullying Campaign of Misinformation

Three days into my job, my co-worker and I were having a slow night, so I checked my blog. I checked my information and realized that my list of friends was cut in half. An entire group of people I felt very close to were suddenly just gone. At this time, there was a blog created specifically for defaming and “outting” other people. Upon checking this site, I realized my name was all over it. This group of women had made an anonymous comment in a post telling a woman to die, and this was blamed on me.

They made claims to the people reading this site that they had “proof” it was me, and despite the fact that this “proof” was never made public, the readers believed them. Because of this setup, multiple days went by where my name would show up multiple times, each post about me would have a new claim of something new I'd done. Never was there any proof at all. I sat back and watched these people tear me apart and there wasn't anything I could do. Asking them to stop, begging them to stop, providing proof against their so-call proof; all of this made it worse. The only thing that kept from me being outwardly upset about it was the fact that none of these people brought it offline, and I thought I'd be safe as long as it stayed there.

I thought it would be alright, then the threats came. My full name would pop up in replies to posts about me and “anonymous” would begin Googling for me to find me in “real life”. The moderators in this blog did little to stop it. I reported the site to the blog's company to have the defamation removed. Then one night, I arrived to work and the co-worker who I was there to relieve pulled me aside. She told me to prepare for the next morning because my manager was going to be talking to me. When she told me why, I nearly collapsed. Somebody had made an anonymous claim to my boss stating that I was harassing people online from our work computers. This was grounds for termination. That night from my computer at work, I reported the site to the parent company again, including this new information.

Workplace Affected by Cyberbullying

After an hour long talk with my boss about what was happening, she opted to believe me and let me continue my tenure as her employee. I also made a report with the local police department and checked the status of my report to the blog's company. The blog was suspended shortly thereafter, when I included my case number to the company, but another one was made in it's wake. This, however, kept her from fully trusting me.

Each time any concern would open up, the “online mess” would always end up in the forefront of our conversations as a reminder that I wouldn't be fully trusted. Separately from this situation, I was also dealing with a girl at work with a terrible attitude towards me and my assistant manager. When I sat down with my manager to discuss this problem with the co-worker, I was told “at least she is nice to the customers”. In our conversation, it was made clear that nothing was going to be done. I was forced to leave my job because my manager just could not completely trust me, and it all stemmed back to this fake complaint made by a woman online with an agenda. I know now to never reveal my employer information online.

The bully I am dealing with has crossed the line from
bully to stalker, and I am working to find out who
this person is and have this problem dealt with.

In fact, I know now to never reveal anything about myself online anymore. Now there is a website on another blog dedicated to “exposing” me. This site urges people to not only harass me, but now they are asking others to harass my husband and his family because my husband stuck up for me. The person who made this site has spent a good deal of time researching me, my husband, and my family, as has listed my father-in-law church address, phone number, and email address, urging people to “troll” (troll means to harass in “chat” speak and “a troll” is a harasser or a person who is in place specifically to drum up drama) him and write him emails to tell him how “evil and mentally ill his daughter-in-law is”.

This person has even told my husband that I deserve to have my name smeared all over everything for the rest of my life. This person claims that I have personally ruined people's lives, when it is in fact my life that has been targeted by a cyberbully. He or she has found numerous web pages that my husband had made years ago and has long since forgotten the passwords to, which state his full name and other personal information on.

Local Law Enforcement May Not Be Equipped to Deal with Cyberbullying

Defamation about me can be found on another website as well, provided by the same person who made the website dedicated to me; a website like Wikipedia that is dedicated to “providing comprehensive, reference-style parody, to poke fun at everyone and everything”. I have attempted to report all of this to my local authorities again as I did with the first website, and they have told me to go to higher authorities because they are not equipped to deal with cyberbullying. In total, I have had three blogs removed online for posting my personal information to urge people to harass me. I am currently working on these as well. The bully I am dealing with has crossed the line from bully to stalker, and I am working to find out who this person is and have this problem dealt with.

Be aware that you do not need to
make a mistake online to end up being
the target of cyberbullying.

Please be aware of everything you do and say while you enjoy your experience online. Don't rely on the so-called safety of being “anonymous” online. Keep in mind that online is “real life” too. Also remember that anything you say “can and will be used against you”. Words on a screen lack emotion. The words you write online can be warped and twisted to present a different and false picture if your cyberbully finds things you have said online. They often twist your words to fulfill their version of you in order to make you seem like the bad person in the situation.

Response to Cyberbullying Varies

Also remember that while some websites have specific terms of service set up to protect people from cyberbullying, not all do. For instance, Blogspot, a blogging service run by Google, has it written in their contact information that they will not take a blog down if the blog contained defamation of character unless by court order. Depending on where you live, getting this court order can be difficult as not all authorities are fully trained in cyber crimes or cyberbullying specifically.

Be aware that you do not need to make a mistake online to end up being the target of cyberbullying. My story involved me messing up first, but this is not always the case. Sometimes all it takes is your saying something completely harmless to the wrong person. Sometimes you will be attacked because of what you believe in. In any case, it is all cyberbullying, and you should follow the proper guidelines if you wish to stop the bully.

If you are active in the blogosphere, be very wary of any people who are wrapped up in “online drama” or associated with anything regarding “drama” (unless it's of the theater-type). These people will often turn on their own if you choose to not be a part of their circle. They are often just groups of cyberbullies, and if they decide that you have done something against them, you will become their new target.

Follow all of the guidelines set forth for child cyberbullying, including what to do if you become a target. Be aware that adult cyber bullies are just as ruthless and they know more about covering their tracks than child bullies do.

Never Respond to Cyberbullying Directly

The most important thing to remember about dealing with cyberbullying is to never, ever respond to the bully. I know it's difficult to do. I made the mistake of asking, begging, and pleading with my bully to stop this harassment, and it has led to a site dedicated to defaming and harassing me, complete with my full name, my husband's full name, and my family's information. Remember that bullies are often lacking something crucial in their lives and they seek pain in others, so do not fill this void for them by giving them a reaction. Your reaction is exactly what they are seeking. Instead, document everything, and seek the proper authorities (up to and including your local FBI bureau). Trust me, I know it is very, very difficult to not react when you see yourself and the people you love being attacked.

The bully will often tell their prey things such as “you deserve this” and “you need help” in order to convince you that you are in fact the bad person. Just remember who it is you are dealing with and report everything to the proper authorities so the real “bad person” can be dealt with legally.

Be careful out there. The Internet can be a ruthless place just like life can be. Good luck, and may peace be with you.

 

 
 

For further reading about cyber bullying:

Cyber Bullying Books

Cyber Bullying

Cyber Bullying: The New Face of Bullying

www.cyberbullying.org or www.cyberbullying.ca in Canada

 

Return from Adult Cyberbullying to Cyber Bullying

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