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After finding myself on the receiving end of rather vicious cyber harassment, I learned revenge is a dish best served with coffee.
An old high school acquaintance has contacted me out of the blue, leaving me a message online saying that somebody has been posing as me on some social media site or other, and sending them lewd images. My response, as you may imagine, is one of shock.
I went to several high schools, a product of bullying and nomadic parents. Having graduated over half a dozen years ago and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) degree since, alongside launching a career as an emerging artist and small business owner, I believed days of harassment to be well and truly behind me. Overwhelming feelings of horror wash through me. This, again? Why now, why me?
I have come a long way in the last few years. I can comfortably state that years of self-reflection, for the purpose of working on my flaws to become the best human being I can be, along with being in a supportive and loving relationship, have given way to a maturity and mental clarity that I could not have foreseen, once. I remember a time of confusion, of emotional chaos and vulnerability, where the harsh words and scorn of some would have driven wedges deep into my self-belief – a time we all know as adolescence.
My coffee long forgotten and hot tears streaming down my face, I stare at the computer screen with desolation and hurt. It is still beyond me to understand how and why people try so very hard to make others crash and burn. Habits formed from years of tertiary education suddenly kick into gear and I jump online, researching what I can do about this ugly, hurtful mess. My search leads me to several websites dedicated to the victims of cyber-bullying. Some have legal foundations but most are dedicated to high school victims, a horrific reminder of the damage that can be done to a young person in this cyber age – as if rumours alone weren’t enough.
The anonymity afforded by the Internet has bred a new, cowardly and infinitely powerful bully. It is easy, now, to shred a person’s reputation to stagnant pieces. Where rumours once sufficed, a world of images and text accessible to absolutely anyone completes the task with alarming alacrity.
Finally, I find something to prop me up: “It is a crime in NSW to publish untrue information about someone in order to cause them serious harm. The maximum penalty is 3 years in jail.” In the justice system, this is known as defamation. Victims of such harassment can apply for an apprehended personal violence order (APVO) where applicable. What catches my attention, however, is the following: “When cyber bullying involves making comments or posting pictures which damage someone’s reputation, cyber bullies can be sued by the victim for defamation or other claims.”
A little research can go a long, long way. I sit back and take a sip of now-cold coffee, the icy grip of fear now receding with the new-found realisation that the law is in fact on my side.
I’m not sure if it’s a result of years experiencing the absolute unpleasantness of certain people, or the fact that I survived it all and am now the happiest I have ever been, but a blow that would have once crippled my ability to sleep for days on end is turning in to the unmistakable glow of defiance.
Next, I do what I do best. I jump on Pinterest, find my “Baking” board and choose the prettiest cake recipe there (a red velvet cake I have been meaning to try forever). As I cream the butter and sugar together, passages from the morning’s research pop into my mind: “Victims of cyber bullying often have feelings of guilt, as if it were their fault.” I instantly check the feelings of shame doing their due diligence on my self-esteem. I would like to claim an absolute and unshakeable strength, but I’m not quite there yet. I get that, I understand my personal strengths and weaknesses and so content myself with chanting “this is not your fault” until I really feel it.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Online harassment: To catch a troll, one must become a troll
- What is happening to our kids when they feel the only escape from bullying they have, is death?
- Newtown man charged for Facebook abuse
- Beyond Charlotte Dawson lies a mental health web of much complexity
- Those who bully us can make us, but what do we make of them?
It suddenly dawns on me how widespread the issue of cyber harassment and bullying actually is. A million examples come to mind – from TV shows to newspaper articles – for the anonymity afforded by the Internet has bred a new, cowardly and infinitely powerful bully. It is easy, now, to shred a person’s reputation to stagnant pieces. Where rumours once sufficed, a world of images and text accessible to absolutely anyone completes the task with alarming alacrity. It’s horrifying, and as any victim can testify, the effects are terrifying.
An acrid smell fills the kitchen and I soon realise that I’ve forgotten to add flour to the cake mix. I’m obviously a tad distracted. Having rescued the cake tin, a second attempt at red velvet cake begins and it is at this point that the tide of emotion begins to swell and change. The blow from the morning had made me feel weak, vulnerable and even a little sick. As strength returns, the dominating feeling shifts from one of fear to contempt and even – I confess – a little bit of self-righteousness.
The truth of the matter stands thus; my life rocks. In all actuality (and putting any semblance of humility aside) I can say with the utmost certainty that I am doing with my life exactly what I want and what fulfils me. As I weigh the flour and incorporate it into the second batter with a shake of my head and a smirk at myself, I attempt a little objective psychology for a minute. Putting my own insecurities aside, I try to visualise the ugly lowlife who would actually bother to put their energy into something so utterly redundant to their own success in life. It’s at this moment I burst into laughter. Having been previously consumed in negative self-belief and the consequent (ever so slightly paranoid) assumption that everybody is out to get me, I had all but forgotten the seething jealousy it would take to even summon the want to do something like this. Not only is this sad sack a jealous piece of digested and excreted food, they must also be contending with some serious boredom, bitterness and discontent within their life, to want to mess with mine.
The law is on my side, as is anybody who posses the most basic fundamentals for compassion, or is contented with the effort they are putting into their life. If you actually choose to debase your time and energy in making someone else’s life hell, you are a moron. Let’s be honest, you’re the worst. By this time, my second attempt at red velvet has yielded a tantalisingly smooth and luscious batter. I pour it in the tin, put it in the oven and with a smile, think that today may yet turn out to be another success.
Find Juliette’s red velvet cake recipe (the one with flour) here: