I’ve never made it a secret that I was stalked and harassed online when I lived in WI. It is, in fact, the reason I pulled a lot of identifying information about me offline. The stalker also ended up harassing the woman I worked for and the heads of the volunteer organization where I volunteered.
I don’t talk about it a lot, other than to point out that it happens and makes me fully aware of why people might want to be anonymous online.
There’s been a lot of noise recently about women bloggers being harassed. It started with the post from Ittybiz (and the followup), and then a post from Gluten Free Girl. Both of them talked about the harassment and hate mail they receive regularly. Then one of my friends posted she stopped blogging about her (awesome and wonderful) cats because the cats were getting scary and all-to-real death threats.
Her cats. Were being threatened. With death.
I just… there are no words for how totally sick this makes me feel.
My own experience with online harassment was no where near that horrible. I wasn’t getting threats of rape, or death. It was just a sick woman down in Florida who took offense to something I wrote on Usenet about bunnies. She didn’t like my mocking response to her offense. At that time, I had a webpage that listed where I lived and where I worked so she found my home and office numbers to threaten me. The calls were frequent and annoying. She threatened me with some harm. She threatened my pets with some harm. She even threatened that her mother the IRS tax attorney was going to audit me, my boss and my volunteer group.
The calls went on for months, but eventually she stopped.
In the grand scheme of things, I wasn’t really ever in any danger. It was totally unlikely some twit from Florida was going to actually drive to Wisconsin and leave bloody animal carcasses on my doorstep.
But it was still scary. Very scary. To the point where I started to have dreams about people breaking into my apartment and hurting me and me being unable to move or scream or do anything. They’re dreams I still have almost 15 years later.
For a long time, I used a pseudonym online. It wasn’t a solid pseudonym, many people knew who I was. But it made me feel just a little bit safer. Maybe it was a false safety, I dunno. But it raised the bar enough to make anyone have to do a small amount of work to find me.
When I started the work blog, and then then one, I made a conscious choice to blog under my real name. And I think it is, absolutely, the right thing for me to do. But there are times when I realize that this seemingly normal choice is actually a bit of a risk. Some nutjob somewhere could decide that I shouldn’t be allowed to voice my opinion and then try and silence me through harassment and fear.
It saddens me that using my real name and using my voice to share my opinion is a radical and potentially dangerous act. But in many ways it is.
I’ll get past the concern that’s currently surrounding me. I’ll throw off this funk. I’ll continue to blog. I’ll continue to have an opinion. And I’ll keep making the contingency plans for dealing with threats and harassment.
I can’t do anything else.