Everything else in Melissa’s e-mail inbox was perfectly innocent on this day. Everything else about that day had been totally unremarkable. Until Jessica appeared on Melissa’s screen: “I am single-minded enough to find you…and slit your throat from ear to ear.”
“You’ll hear from me again soon”, wrote Jessica. And Melissa did—thousands of times, over what would become a waking nightmare. Melissa recognized Jessica as an offensive commenter she’d banned from one of her other sites. “I thought if I just blocked her e-mail address and refused to respond, it would all go away,” says Melissa. But Jessica invented countless new aliases and flooded Melissa’s e-mail, message boards, and social media accounts with death threats, love letters, rape threats, and pleas for attention.
I beg you, give me the time of day… I’ll throttle your neck… Don’t leave me hanging… You are a dead woman walking…
Melissa knew cyber harassment existed; as a site moderator and self-employed writer, she practically lived online. But she’d never realized just how vulnerable she was.
About 55% of women are harassed online. Worse, as ever more people use the Internet to work, chat, shop, and play, and as the lines between online and off further blur, the virtual abuse is spilling over into real life. And nearly 70% of those, know who their harassers are.
Unfortunately, there is no one “best” way to respond to sexual harassment as every circumstance is different, in either public places or the workplace. Harassed persons must decide for themselves based on what is happening, where, and by whom, which response will make them feel both safe and empowered and where to report it. Online Harassment is Technology Facilitated GBV and needs to be reported – and needs to end. #EnoughIsEnough!