I receive so many requests for help from adults seeking relief from cyberbullying and harassment by another adult that I have come to wonder if the problem isn’t almost as prevalent among certain adult demographics as it is among teens.
Typically, both the victims and the abusers are women, and the abuse has gone on for at least 2 years by the time they seek me out for help. Two years is a very long time to put up with harassment, and my first advice is that you take action much sooner.
In about two-thirds of the cases I receive, the victim knows who is abusing them because the abuser doesn’t hide the fact. In the other one-third of cases, where the abuser has not specifically called out their identity, the victim is still likely to know who is behind the attacks if they think rationally about it, though frequently they do not want to confront the idea of who the abuser is. In these cases talking it through with an outside party that asks some basic questions will usually identify the abuser within minutes. In my experience it’s usually the wife/girlfriend of an ex, or an angry co-worker/employee, though the victim may reject this idea until confronted with hard evidence – and then ‘it all makes sense’.
Here is a typical email asking for help with a cyberbullying/harassment issue, and my advice:
I am 30 years old and I received your name from a counselor I have been seeing. I am having a problem with cyber bullying/harassment by a 27 yr old female-who happens to be the wife of my ex-boyfriend with whom I share custody of our child. She has been harassing me for more then 2 years. She stalks me, and posts libelous comments about me online using my full name, and has really damaged my reputation.
She has claimed that I have AIDS. She alters and posts pictures of me, calls me anorexic/mentally unwell etc., has filed false police reports against me, and writes blogs and comments attacking me among so many other things.
I have kept a log of all the incidences and it is now over 13 pages. I don’t want to play the ‘victim’, but don’t know what to do about her behavior. I need help.
Do you know of anyone who deals with this sort of thing? Libel? Restraining orders? etc? My attorney keeps telling me to ignore her, but I’ve had enough. I can’t sit back and continue to let her do this sort of thing toward me.
I would appreciate any advice you have to offer – xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with a jealous and angry woman. I’m not an attorney, so will not second-guess the advice you’ve received on that front. I’m surprised that there wasn’t police action taken against this woman when she filed a false police report.
I wish I could tell you how to solve this problem overnight, unfortunately I can’t. However, knowing who is harassing you is helpful. I recommend that you take the following 6 actions:
- Notify every online service that she is using to bully you on of the abuse. She is unquestionably in violation of their terms of service, and these websites should take action to block her behavior or kick her off their sites.
- Block her ability to contact you. Every service (including your cell phone) should have functionality that allows you to block her.
- Document any threats, or lies on any service – including text messages and cell phone calls (you can identify the incoming calls and times on your phone bill). If you ever feel there is a threat against you physically, report it to your local law enforcement office.
- Use a service like ReputationDefender to have unwanted content about you removed from the web, or buried so that others aren’t as likely to see it.
- Keep your lawyer up to date on any escalation so she can take action if appropriate.
- Ignore, ignore, ignore – unless there is a threat of physical harm. Any outward response by you will give her satisfaction, so ignore her and stick to your normal routines. In most cases, the fastest way to stop bullying is to do nothing – the bully wants a response and if they never get one, they tire and move on to someone else. As distressing as her actions may be, the person she’s really destroying is herself – most people will see through her deceit and find her pathetic.
The best revenge is a life well lived.