For her work with male victims of domestic violence, one woman became the target of vicious online abuse and harassment…in a campaign populated by those anchored in the anti violence against women movement.
Social media has opened opportunities for all of us to have our soapbox on whatever political, social or ideological position we hold. As an informed society, we are quite rightfully taking advantage of our chance to share opinions with the masses in a manner that was not available in previous times. Naturally, this comes at the cost of being exposed to countering opinions from equally entitled individuals.
As someone who holds an alternate point of view on gender politics, I accept others will disagree with me. What I will not accept, however, is becoming the target of personalised attacks on myself and my family, and most recently my children, because my politics do no align with someone else’s.
It is widely known that women are the victims of online harassment. In fact, if we ended this story here, you would know enough from any of the plentiful articles of what women go through online. What is not widely known, however, and in fact is widely denied, is the volume of women who are committing these despicable acts – against other women, most definitely some men, and now children.
The investigating officer told me I have the right to stop using social media. This may be true, but I also have the right to use it free from stalking and harassment.
Those campaigning to end violence against women strongly argue through media that women are the victims of male violence, and that men are not victims in the same manner because women are targeted about their personal appearance or objectified through gender rather than seen as fellow human beings.
They are missing two key elements:
- men are denigrated in the same way as women (comments of penis size, shaming language and other personal attacks on appearance),
- women attack with equal force and frequency as what men do.
In the past 10 months I have been called fat, ugly, mentally ill, a liar, narcissistic, a fraud, uneducated, unprofessional, and a sex-crazed attention-seeking whore. I have also been brutally and relentlessly defamed professionally. All of this has been done under fake profiles hiding behind the further anonymity of a hate page platform, and all of this has been perpetrated by women.
Ironically, they claim to be champions of the anti violence against women campaign. The reason for their targeting me is because I work in a voluntary support role for men who are victims of domestic violence.
Recently, they reached a new low by defacing a photo of my 16-year-old daughter that I had posted on Facebook as she was celebrating her birthday at a family gathering. There is perhaps no act more despicable than to try to destroy what was a beautiful family memory of a mother’s love for her child, and a young woman’s cherished moment and birthday milestone.
Protecting individuals from online bullying appears to be a significant challenge for police. ACORN, who are charged with investigating cybercrime, (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network,) have not replied to my reports. Not once.
I was informed that I carried the burden to confirm the identity of my attackers. Asking me to identify an online troll is akin to asking me to identify a stalker in a balaclava.
Resorting to local police I received little more support. In every stage of investigation in my case, there has not been one officer who understands the significant impact of cybercrimes, including those charged specifically with investigating them.
How can we expect police to take these cases seriously when they do not understand the nature of the crime?
The investigating officer of my local area command told me that I have the right to stop using social media. This may be true, but I also have the right to use it and be free from stalking and harassment. I was informed that I carried the burden to confirm the identity of my attackers. Where else in law does a victim have to do the work of police? Asking me to identify an online troll is akin to asking me to identify a stalker in a balaclava. As it turned out, with enough work, this was possible.
In order to establish the identity of those attacking me, I had to become what I despised. I learned how to create alternate accounts and how to search in the public domain for people I had previously blocked. Those who have been targeted know that blocking means nothing. Anyone can find you with enough accounts. It took a team of investigators two months to unlock the identities of not only the two main offenders, but their cluster of friends in networks that are deeply rooted in those which claim to be working to prevent the very things they themselves are doing.
Also on The Big Smoke
Alexander Hayes is an Engineering and Information Services PhD candidate who has also been touched personally by cybercrime. Speaking of the intent of psychological harm caused by the warfare of online trolls, he said:
“Social media offers us great power to connect with our friends, colleagues, family and others that we may never meet in person. Online services such as Facebook give users a sense of power and authority, a perception that as users we are inspiring others, uniting intellectually and sharing important information. Despite the fact that such activity may catalyse vast social change, there is also great idiocy that permeates these digital spaces.
It is a known fact that much of what a person generates online is far from what the same person would say, act out, take ownership for or subject others to, in a face-to-face setting. The reality is that social media is a tool – it can be used for good and also for harm. Yet in a digital world, a cybercrime can be as cutting as purposefully alienating another human being using all the same techniques of what might occur in a social setting. Social media has the capacity to create or subject us to the role of victim or villain.”
The Internet is a playground for keyboard warriors, both male and female. It is a place where, when alternate points of view challenge someone’s ideology or belief, those offended will reign in others to fight back in a dirty game of online terror.
While some of those offenders are certainly men, many are also women who will indiscriminately attack individuals. And their children. And they do so in the name of ending violence against women.