Fighting Back Against Cyberbullies: Speaking Out Anyway - A Guest Post By Stephanie March
I spend enough time on Twitter to know that certain types of tweets will attract harassment and bullying. Sadly, most of it is directed at women participating in trending hashtags meant to bring people together on issues like domestic violence or mental health. I’m always moved by people willing to speak out and bring awareness to topics shrouded in silence. Unfortunately, I’m also always angered by people wanting to silence and shame those brave enough to share.
When someone has the courage to speak out about a traumatic topic like abortion, rape, or domestic violence it should be encouraged and applauded. And it is to a large extent. However, it immediately opens the door for cruelty to enter. I cringe when I see this happen and can only hope that the person being attacked is strong enough to handle what is being thrown at them. With suicides occurring at an alarming rate among teenagers, it frightens me to think how many were because of cyberbullying and how many might occur in the future as a result of it.
Occasionally, cyberbullies can escalate into cyberstalkers. One study provided by Norwich University Professor Peter R. Stephenson suggests that cyberstalkers are often vindictive and fall into several personality categories described as: Power Assertive, Power Reassurance, Anger Retaliatory, and Anger Excitation. The study expands on these personalities but they all carry two things in common- they are angry and searching for power and control.
It is important to keep in mind when you encounter a cyberbully that engaging them in any way is what they want. It is encouragement for them to continue. It is also important to remember that cyberstalking is very real and very dangerous. Immediately block the offender and report them to the social network you encounter them on.
So what can you do to fight back? When you see it happening on Twitter, for example, you can report the offender even if they are not attacking you. Send a tweet to the person being attacked to counteract the negativity. Show your support by retweeting them and cheering them on. If you see bullying that involves threats against a person’s safety you can report those to the police. And if you are the one under attack, it is completely up to you to have a public profile or lock it down and make it private.
Be aware of any information you share and accept from others. Always remember you do not truly know the person on the other end of the computer screen. Educate yourself about the prevalence of cybercrime, cyberstalking, and data breaches and how you can better protect yourself from becoming a victim.
What you have to say is valid, important, and needed. Recognize the bullies for who they are and do what is best for you. Protect yourself and ask friends, family, teachers, and advocates for support when you need it. Call a hotline like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you are feeling depressed or suicidal. Talk it out and don’t let the bullies win.
Your voice is valued and survivors like me find encouragement in your bravery and willingness to speak out about controversial topics. We need to create a society that no longer sees them as controversial and there’s only one way to do that- through awareness and standing united against those that wish to shut us up.