It’s been over a decade since I received my online Scarlet Letter that nearly destroyed my career and emotional well-being. Until you become a victim of online harassment or abuse, it’s difficult to understand the darkness, loneliness and fear that you can feel. Being humiliated to death is not a joke — it’s sadly a reality when we read the headlines of many youth today. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Finding Online Support
A decade ago, there were few resources for those suffering online harassment, but today, there are many groups providing help to victims of digital attacks, from harnessing simple messages of support to full-on legal aid. When Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas received hate tweets during the 2016 Olympics over her hair and even her lack of a smile, a Twitter campaign—started by Leslie Jones—sprung up with the hashtag #Love4GabbyUSA, to rally support from a herd of fellow celebs. Everyone from Shonda Rhimes to Monica Lewinsky jumped in to bolster the gold medalist.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a high-profile friend who could do the same for you?
Enter HeartMob. The online platform was started by Hollaback so that individuals being harassed online can create a report and, within an instant, rally teams of people who send messages like “Stay strong!,” “I’m with you,” “We have your back,” and “You are not alone!”
The Cybersmile Foundation , an anti-bullying nonprofit founded in 2010, offers Total Access Support, where trained advisers give guidance to those being cyber-harassed. “We help thousands of people each year,” says co-founder Dan Raisbeck. “Our trained advisor teams work around the clock answering inquiries from all over the world. Our advisors are mostly made up of volunteers who want to help others or offer their time in some way.”
Online SOS is a California start-up that provides free legal referrals and counseling services to people suffering online harassment. Co-founder Samantha Silverberg, a licensed clinician, began it in 2016 with a pilot program helping thirty victims, and she aims to have a therapist and a legal resource established in all fifty states.
Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Are you a victim of revenge porn? The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has created an excellent “Online Removal Guide,” which offers step-by-step instructions for requesting unauthorized images or videos to be removed from sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,Reddit, Tumblr, Yahoo, Google, and Bing.
Crisis Text Line is a nonprofit that provides free, twenty-four-hour therapeutic assistance for victims in need of support, handling issues from depression to bullying (if you’re in crisis,text START to 741741). In March 2017, it was announced that Crisis Text Line was joining forces with Facebook. “We want to be wherever people are in crisis,” said Nancy Lublin, Crisis Text Line CEO, in a prepared statement. “And we’ll continue to be on the leading edge of technology, supporting people everywhere they are.”
The STOMP Out Bullying™ HelpChat Line is a free and confidential online chat that helps youth ages 13-24 ONLY with issues around bullying and cyberbullying; as well as providing support to youths who may be at risk of suicide.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
For more resources, advice and tips on surviving, preventing and overcoming cyberbullying, order Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks 2017).