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Bullying is no stranger to the news these days. With countless stories illustrating the damaging and even deadly effects of such behaviors – communities should be very aware of this epidemic. Anti-bullying programs have been instituted into curriculums throughout many school systems, and we have PSA ads to remind us at home. But one thing we hear little about is the bullying adults inflict on one another. Apparently, it isn’t just for sandboxes anymore.
I have to admit, one of my guilty pleasures is watching some of the lowest forms of reality television. I tried to avoid it for years and am still proud to say I have never once watched The Bachelor. However, reality TV sucked me in and now I know all of the Real Housewives by name. Talk about bullying. That is the life blood of reality television. So, if I were to really open my eyes, I would have to admit that I am contributing to the problem just by watching these shows.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the internet plays a huge role on the impact and volume of bullying. The anonymity of online dialogue can be the perfect venue to use weapons otherwise kept to one’s self. People do not hesitate to throw verbal daggers when their identity is masked by an avatar and a username. And even when one does use their real name and/or photo, they seem to feel protected by the screen as though it is a shield from consequence.
I have been on the receiving end of this type of behavior and not just since writing for Patch. I hesitate to speak of such personal and difficult incidents, but recent events have led me to this commentary.
Years ago, I was accused of a crime of which I could never commit. It was a heinous implication and it brought me to my knees. I certainly will not spell out all the ugly details here, but some actions were taken and words were spoken that can’t be taken back. In the end, forgiveness and healing has been the ultimate goal. But during the events which took place, I was at my very lowest.
A local newspaper ran a blurb on their website basically repeating the police report. I am sure most of you realize that anyone can accuse anyone of anything. And whatever is said is put into this report, lies and all. A police report is not gospel and should never be thought of as the whole truth. No one is safe from an accusation.
On this news site, the story was open to comments. A witch hunt/lynch mob ensued and since the piece did not reveal my name, people were demanding to know it. They called me names so vile, it turns my stomach to this day. After my identity got out, people were posting personal things about me and my family. People wanted to know where I lived and said my child (an infant at the time) should be taken away.
I have been physically attacked and I watched my father die before my eyes. I have been utterly heartbroken many times in my life. But never, ever, did I cry so gut wrenchingly as I did that day. I was taken to a place so dark simply due to reading the words of these anonymous people. If not for a supportive husband and family, a great therapist and my beautiful daughter – I may not be here today.
After this ordeal, I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and it has been a long road to put these events behind me. But sometimes the past is pushed in my face and those emotions rush back to the surface. This happened last week when a reader decided to post my personal information from CCAP.
CCAP, I believe, is a dangerous site which needs to be abolished. The information on there has interferred with getting a job, and it has allowed people to make judgments about me without knowing any real facts. What is said on CCAP paints a picture of me so opposite of my true self so I often do not get a fair shake by strangers. And I know this is the case for many people, not just me.
You can read a paragraph on a website, you can look up someone’s legal history, you can Google all you want – but none of that will tell you the whole story. And basing judgments, decisions and actions on that limited information can be devastating.
This week, a woman in Racine shot herself. Not long ago, accusations and personal information was posted about her on social media and tabloid-esque websites. Other than what could be read online, the truth is that no one really knows anything about this woman. She was 26 years old, and we don’t know what led her to take her life, but there are cases in the media that tell us online bullying can take people to suicide.
There by the grace of God…
Be smart people. Be considerate. Have some compassion and forethought. How can we teach our kids to stop bullying when they see adults – their parents – do it every day? Civility is becoming an antiquated notion. And hostility is becoming common place. We are the ones who need to reverse this course.