Getting support

Online abuse can come in different forms. It is never acceptable.

 

People have the right to expect the same standards of behaviour online as those expected in face-to-face interactions. If something is illegal, unfair or unacceptable face-to-face, then it is illegal, unfair or unacceptable online.

Contact an independent support agency

Online abuse aims to hurt and it can escalate very fast. You may feel out of your depth in terms of taking action to make it stop. This is when contacting an expert support agency can really help. It will help you feel more empowered and help ensure agencies take effective action to stop the abuse. Some support organisations offer legal advice and others can make reports to the police on your behalf.

 

The Resources page has links to useful organisations but key ones are:

 

Supporting your friends

Online abuse can make people feel isolated. People may cut themselves off from the online world or from sources of support because they don’t know if they can trust people online. The stress of online abuse may lead people to become withdrawn and make it harder to maintain friendships, activities and work.

 

Support from friends, family and other online users can be very helpful. If you know a friend, family member or colleague who is being abused online you can help by:

 

  • Treating them with the respect and care that the abuser is denying them

  • Reassuring them that you believe them and will support them

  • Keeping their confidence and keeping private information private

  • Offering to help research useful information and resources

  • Offering to help them put into practice all the internet options available to prevent and stop abuse, especially if they are not familiar with them. Go to the Taking Action page for more information.

  • Offering to help them complain, report and seek help.

 

However, it isn’t helpful if you jump to someone’s defence online and end up being abusive yourself, or escalating the abuse by making it more public, or inadvertently disclosing more private information. So proceed with caution and calmness and, if the person is your friend or family member, ask them privately how they would like to be supported.

 

If you don’t know the person but feel the abuse is wrong, there are things you can do:

 

  • Complain to the website or administrator

  • Report the abuse to the police

  • Speak out against abuse (noting the comments in the above paragraph)

  • Join campaigns against online abuse.

I’m not coping!

Sometimes, online abuse can feel overwhelming and very distressing. As well as the content of the abuse, the fact that it is very public and you may not know exactly who is doing it, can be very difficult to cope with.

 

If you’re feeling scared and upset, there’s nothing wrong with you – it is a natural response to what you are experiencing. Your gut instinct is telling you 'this is wrong', so trust it.

 

If you find you are adjusting your behaviour to try to limit, stop or control the abuse (for example, changing how you act online, making adjustments to your behaviour offline, affecting your relationships), then get some support.

 

There are organisations which will listen to you and give you help- talk to someone.

 

Samaritans

Victims Support

National Stalking Helpline

London LGBT Switchboard

Broken Rainbow

Galop

Harnessing the internet

The experience of Anita Sarkeesian, described on the Taking Action page, is a good example of how people can fight back against online abuse using their creativity and networks. Anita challenged the sexism she found in the gaming world and received a wave of graphic and violent abuse online as a result. So Anita used the internet to raise money to make more videos to challenge this abuse and share useful information with others.

 

There are many examples of a collective and creative response to online abuse. It all starts when people refuse to keep quiet about abuse and seek others to share, support and campaign together.

 

Don’t put up with online abuse! Take action!

 

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Case Study

Who: Sapna was a young lesbian who had recently split from her girlfriend. Sapna lived with her parents and had not told her family about her sexual orientation.

 

The case: Sapna’s ex-partner began to follow Sapna and harass her. She would turn up at Sapna’s home and outside the office where Sapna worked. The harassment also involved constant texting and telephone calls, many dozens per day, abusive in nature and threatening to ‘out’ her to her family. The ex-girlfriend posted derogatory comments about Sapna on her Facebook page, which her sister read.

 

The impact on Sapna was huge. The erratic but constant nature of the harassment by text was unsettling and upsetting. Sapna felt unable to change her number because she didn’t want to have to explain the reason to her family. She also worried that if she blocked her ex-partner, then she would be more likely to harass Sapna in person and/or contact her family directly. Sapna was reluctant to contact the police, as she felt the harassment, including by text, wouldn’t be taken seriously – particularly as she’d responded to her ex-partner’s messages on several occasions. She thought people would not think another young woman could be so threatening and she was worried that her family would find out.

 

The outcome: A friend of Sapna, who knew about her sexual orientation, decided to help and researched if there were independent agencies which could help. The friend found out about one agency and rang them confidentially for advice. The friend supported Sapna to a meeting, where she learnt that the harassment was domestic abuse and she had the right to take action. The agency supported Sapna to report it to the police and visit a solicitor, who supported her to take out an injunction to stop the harassment. Sapna was helped to build a network of friends around her, to speak to her sister and to seek support from the HR department where she worked. Sapna contacted Facebook and made sure her ex-girlfriend was blocked.