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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
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.
is Cyber Bullying?
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,
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
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
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
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
Local Law Enforcement May Not Be Equipped to Deal
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
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
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
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: 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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