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Feb 21 2013

Something that stays with people

Oddly enough, I find myself completely unsurprised to learn that childhood bullying is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. It’s more the other way. I find myself wondering why anyone would think it wouldn’t be.

A significant study from Duke, out today, provides the best evidence we’ve had thus far that bullying in childhood is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. The results came as a surprise to the research team. “I was a skeptic going into this,” lead author and Duke psychiatry professor William E. Copeland told me over the phone, about the claim that bullying does measurable long-term psychological harm. “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”

So before the study he thought it was something that didn’t stay with people?

Hmm. Maybe it’s not so strange to think that. There is that funny way that suddenly childhood miseries get much smaller once you are more or less adult and independent. I know that’s a common experience, at least in this part of the world where people go away to school or get jobs around age 18. It does seem to put it all in proportion.

Anyway. There is this new evidence.

I’m less surprised, because as I explain in my new book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, earlier research has shown that bullying increases the risk for many problems, including low academic performance in school and depression (for both bullies and victims) and criminal activity later in life (bullies). But the Duke study is important because it lasted for 20 years and followed 1,270 North Carolina children into adulthood. Beginning at the ages of 9, 11, and 13, the kids were interviewed annually until the age of 16, along with their parents, and then multiple times over the years following.

Based on the findings, Copeland and his team divided their subjects into three groups: People who were victims as children, people who were bullies, and people who were both. The third group is known as bully-victims. These are the people who tend to have the most serious psychological problems as kids, and in the Duke study, they also showed up with higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders, and suicidal thinking as adults. The people who had only experienced being victims were also at heightened risk for depression and anxiety. And the bullies were more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder.

It’s not just being bullied. Bullying is bad for you. Yeh I figured that.

It’s important to point out that Copeland and other researchers don’t define bullying broadly, in a way that encompasses a lot of mutual conflict among kids, or one-time fighting. Bullying is physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance—one kid, or group of kids, making another kid miserable by lording power over him. As Dan Olweus, the Scandinavian psychologist who launched the field of bullying studies in the 1960s, has been arguing for many years, this is a particular form of harmful aggression. And so the effort to prevent bullying isn’t about pretending that kids will always be nice to each other, or that they don’t have to learn to weather some adversity.

This is what makes the internet so peculiar in the context of bullying - it shoves us adults back into that stifling hermetic world of childhood, where physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance is just normal.

 

55 comments

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  1. 1
    Perchloric Acid

    I’m not surprised at all. I was assaulted (rather mildly, compared to reports of what has happened to other people on these blogs) when I was 15, Twenty-five years later, I still sometimes find myself daydreaming about fighting back and maiming the bastards.

  2. 2
    Argle Bargle

    “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”

    What did he expect, that people could shrug off years of abuse? I strongly suspect that Copeland was not bullied in school.

  3. 3
    sheila

    “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings. It has certainly given me pause. This is something that stays with people.”

    WTF?

    He thought that being told that you’re a worthless shit, 20-100 times a day, five days a week for ten years wouldn’t have a lasting effect?

    I’m doing goldfish impersonations here.

    Actually, it’s got a lot better in the last year or so. Watching the appalling treatment of you and the others has finally killed off the lingering suspicion that I deserved it. There were (pretty superficial) things I did that made them pick on me rather than someone else, but they’d have picked on someone or other anyway, because they got their jollies by destroying other humans. They didn’t hurl that stuff because they believed that it was true, any more than the mildew believe what they say.

  4. 4
    bcmystery

    When I was in 7th grade, two guys spent months stabbing me with needles at school. My teachers were of the “you boys need to work this out yourself” mentality. I was on my own. The torment didn’t end until school ended, when both moved on to high school.

    37 seven years later, I can picture the kid’s faces as they stabbed me. I remember their names even though I’ve forgotten the names of friends and acquaintances I’ve known more recently. I often find myself thinking about it, and I still write about it, and find it coloring the way I deal with situations today.

    Hell fucking yes it stays with you.

  5. 5
    evilDoug

    While many of us may find this to be “well, duh” stuff, it constitutes something very valuable to shove under the noses of the types who use phrases like “boys will be boys” or cop other feeble excuses for failing to take action against bullying.

    It has been several years since I read it, but I recall Barbara Coloroso’s book the bully, the bullied and the bystander as being quite good.

  6. 6
    Beth

    Could you describe what you see as the parallels between the “stifling hermetic world of childhood, where physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance is just normal” and the Internet? You’ve suffered a lot of harassment, for which you have my sympathy.

    I’m not sure I understand why you feel it involves a power imbalance or why you feel it creates a stifling hermetic world. The Internet seems an equalizer to me and we are not required to interact with anyone we don’t want to associate with. With the harassment you’ve endured, you must have a very different perspective than I do.

  7. 7
    Great American Satan

    @6, Ah, the “not required to interact” changes the more public you are. Heck, even nobodies are public enough to feel the burn. See “cyber-bullying” in the recent news, including incidents that led directly to suicide.

    There’s a lot more that could be said about that, but I have a bathroom to clean. This B&W post has a good example of the kind of cyber harassment that the victim cannot simply ignore: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/02/sock-puppet-harasser-heads-to-prison/

  8. 8
    jenniferphillips

    Beth, I think it’s all in the phrase

    we are not required to interact with anyone we don’t want to associate with.

    When people are emailing you, spamming your blog comments, tagging you on Facebook & Twitter, they are forcing an interaction. When people tell lies about you that are repeated and magnified and pinged back to you, they are forcing an interaction. There is no choice to engage when it’s all flowing into your personal virtual space.

  9. 9
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh, I think it’s much worse than people not realizing the long-term consequences. The cultural conversation about childhood abuse (be it sexual, bullying, or any variety) is stuck on the perverse question of whether the abuse “causes lasting damage.” We talk about abuse that does, and then we talk about resiliency and how we can successfully get past many things.

    But so what? Children are people capable of suffering right here, right now. Just because some kids may grow up without horrible complications from abuse is NO DAMNED EXCUSE.

    Why do people have such a hard time seeing children as humans with the same interests all humans have? We’d never say, “Many people can live to a ripe old age even if they spend 20 years in solitary confinement.” No. We talk about how it’s unacceptable and inhumane right now to make someone suffer that way.

    This makes me really, really angry.

  10. 10
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Shorter: we have a moral duty to focus on reducing the right here right now suffering for its own sake. Do not even open your mouth if you can’t talk about this without weighing it against “lasting damage.”

  11. 11
    sawells

    “…we are not required to interact with anyone we don’t want to associate with”.

    I think you misspelled “I am incredibly privileged and don’t understand other people’s problems.”

  12. 12
    Stacy

    On the other hand, Josh, if you don’t have the evidence of lasting damage, people who are still suffering the effects years later will have their suffering dismissed. “Oh, that was a long time ago, you should have been over that by now.”

  13. 13
    psocoptera

    I think, as distressing as cyber-bullying is, it is often more traumatic to be bullied in person, where the threat of imminent physical harm can also be present. I was going to defend Copeland a little, but then I read the whole quote. Guess there is a reason he works with statistics and not people. Even on face value, being skeptical about this is stupid. If you are depressed and harrassed during a time when you are supposed to be concentrating on the steps that tend to determine your future career and social situation, there will be lasting effects. That and it is traumatic. but kids will be kids, amirite? ugh.

    Ophelia, I think you may have the causal relationship on bullies and ASPD facing the wrong way, though. Not that I think these data show a causal relationship. Individuals who are diagnosed with ASPD have a history (by definition) of childhood anti-social behavior. Their bullying behavior is likely a symptom of an underlying condition, one that may even be present from birth. If it were, as you say “bad for you,” they would probably have anxiety and depression, not ASPD.

  14. 14
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Oh, the irony: Emily Bazelon, slut-shamer of a girl who was bullied to death, writing about a study on the long-term effects of bullying. And she had the nerve to write a book about bullying? That utter asshole.

  15. 15
    chrislawson

    I’m going to defend Copeland here — not for his bug-eyed original beliefs, but for deciding to test it properly, collecting solid evidence, and then changing his mind when the data came in. Whatever you may think about his initial presumptions, this study is a huge blow to the “toughen up, sunshine” school of dealing with bullying.

    It’s really hard to wave away odds ratios of 26.7 for agoraphobia (in female bully victims) and 18.5 for suicidality (in male bully/victims).

  16. 16
    Argle Bargle

    Copeland’s research was good and deals with the “kids are resilient” meme in a reasonable manner. What surprises me and other commenters on this thread is his surprise at the result. It’s purely anecdotal but while I can’t remember the last name of my best friend in high school I can remember the name and face of the kid who made 5th and 6th grades a hell for me.

  17. 17
    Great American Satan

    daisy cutter- shocking. i’m fuckin’ shocked. people suck. especially this bazelon.

  18. 18
    clamboy

    For some years I have thought that the term “bullying” is inadequate. It conjures up innocent images like Bugs Meany in his Jughead cap, and so lends itself to the dismissive attitudes that adults often take: “Oh, just ignore it.” “That’s just his insecurity talking.” I would like to find a properly descriptive term for the behaviors being discussed here. I’ve thought of “social torture,” (sounds like a band I would like, but then again I am highly partial to old Napalm Death and the like) but am not sure. I would love to know what others think about whether “bullying” is appropriately descriptive, and thoughts on other names.

  19. 19
    Simon

    There was a 2009 documentary about Bogota Colombia called I think “Cities on Speed” that discussed the reforms of mayor Antanas Mockus to combat crime. I’ll never forget how they said that when they heard the stories of violent criminals, almost all of them had been abused as children. It was this that prompted them to set up a help line for children to call if their parents abused them. He also shared his experience of being abused and called on people to not reciprocate and instead take their aggression out on a balloon as a way to break the cycle of violence (which he also did).

  20. 20
    trina

    I still remember the name and face of the girl who pushed me head first into a wall, and later down a flight of stairs in year 6. I also remember the teacher who saw me seconds later, (I only got a bloody nose) rolling her eyes and walking past.

    I vividly remember the shame I felt as I was being harassed, verbally and physically assaulted, by a group of year 7 girls when I was in year 12. Too embarrassed to ask for help, since I was 17 and they were 13, and unable to do the only other thing that would have stopped them (I.e kick the shit out of their leader) I still reflexively flinch whenever I see one of them from a distance in my home town- that was almost 8 years ago!

    Don’t tell me that the scars from that don’t last.

  21. 21
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    great1american1satan: IIRC Bazelon is friends with the mother of one of the defendants in the Prince case.

  22. 22
    Ophelia Benson

    sheila @ 3

    Actually, it’s got a lot better in the last year or so. Watching the appalling treatment of you and the others has finally killed off the lingering suspicion that I deserved it.

    Well then it’s been useful, in that one way.

  23. 23
    A Hermit

    To This Day…a poem by Shane Koyczan

  24. 24
    A Hermit

    Oops, didn’t mean to embed that. But do watch it…anyone who was bullied in school will identify.

    I also liked his “Instructions for a Bad Day”

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth @ 6

    Could you describe what you see as the parallels between the “stifling hermetic world of childhood, where physical or verbal harassment that takes place repeatedly and involves a power imbalance is just normal” and the Internet? You’ve suffered a lot of harassment, for which you have my sympathy.

    I’m not sure I understand why you feel it involves a power imbalance or why you feel it creates a stifling hermetic world. The Internet seems an equalizer to me and we are not required to interact with anyone we don’t want to associate with.

    Stifling and hermetic because always there, not escapable, always blocking exits, getting in the way, clogging things up. A power imbalance because it’s a lot of people, because they are happy to use weapons that I refuse to use, because they have a systematic avowed campaign going (with the aim of completely silencing me, and a number of other people), because they have ways of thrusting their harassment on my notice, because they tell many vicious lies about me and get them repeated. It’s not just about interaction (and that’s not as subject to choice as you seem to think). It’s also about destruction.

  26. 26
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s ok to embed, I don’t mind. (Well, depending on what it is. No mildew vids, but otherwise…)

  27. 27
    Robert B.

    Uh. Yep. I knew that. I still have flashbacks to some of the worst bits of bullying I underwent.

    Though actually… most of my mental issues were already present when I was a kid, though they hadn’t all been diagnosed. What if instead of (or in addition to) bullying causing lasting mental harm, the mentally ill are at greater risk for abuse?

  28. 28
    Feline

    The hell…
    This is firmly in the folder of “No shit, Sherlock”. I mean, I can enumerate the ways in which I am a crap human because I spent too much of my formative years being kicked in the face rather than interacting with my peers. And I am sure that the list will expand, since social interactions is something I manage by trial and error.
    But this is one thing that nearly gave me a goddamn aneurysm:

    and criminal activity later in life (bullies)

    Did it ever occur to them that the actions of bullies are criminal and they get told that it’s a fucking okay way to behave? That our societal complacency towards bullies serve to make violent criminals? That when I was jumped after school and brutally beaten and the school did nothing because no teacher saw it was a dual message, the first to my bullies that they could get away with anything, and the second to me that I can never get justice?

    Me, I can identify bullies pretty good these days. I am also familiar with their giggling cohorts, who make make sure that you are not save from their attacks even when they can’t hurt you physically. It’s a part of the complete package, you know?

  29. 29
    athyco

    Ophelia:

    It’s not just about interaction (and that’s not as subject to choice as you seem to think). It’s also about destruction.

    Yes, even when pretending to be mild and rational, it’s tear “them” down even if you must be hypocritical to do it. Their biggest thing is their freedom of speech, their right to debate and dissent. But they see nothing wrong with these directions to others who feel bullied (those little sissies):

    ♦Do not directly or indirectly engage with dissenters.
    ♦Avoid commenting on websites of your ideological opponents.
    ♦Refrain from attacking individuals; stick to criticism of ideas rather than persons.
    ♦Consider how people might respond to what you write. Can something be reframed so as to not lead to undesirable criticism?
    ♦Avoid sharing content when experiencing heightened emotions (great anger, disgust, stress, etc)
    ♦Consider sharing something with friends before it becomes public. A second (or third) set of eyes might suggest helpful edits which would avoid negative feedback.

    Those are from Justin Vacula’s post “Negative criticism and the Internet,” his advice for those–like Amanda Marcotte–who are squeamish(?) about the nastiness. They sound to me like grown up versions of “Ignore them!” and “Stay away from their lunch tables!” and “Watch what you say!” and “What did you expect?”

    Can you imagine if he suggested these guidelines for his own cohort?

  30. 30
    theoreticalgrrrl

    I got verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse by classmates and older and younger relatives nonstop. When I complained to teachers they would get annoyed and say, “what do you want ME to do about it?” And my parent would ask “why do you care what they think” or “just ignore them.” My mom was a little worse, she would tell me they must have had a reason, because people don’t do things for no reason. She didn’t say it in a mean way, she acted like it was just a given that I must have done something to make people bully me.

    It’s not just a matter of flashbacks, for me it’s a crippling self-doubt that affects my everyday life. It affects everything I do. Does anyone else get that? It’s like it’s so ingrained that often I don’t even consciously think about it anymore, it’s just second nature. It even took me a long time to work up the courage to comment on blogs, I always imagine my comments are completely unintelligible to people.

    But I see such similarities in the way people justify the way they harrass Ophelia and other women blogggers and the excuses my bullies used.

  31. 31
    left0ver1under

    jenniferphillips (#8) and sawells (#11) said it better than I could. Beth’s (#6) comment is as ludicrous as telling a child being hit daily by bullies to “just ignore them”. Jorge Saavedra tried walking away, too, and look how that case of bullying ended. (Mentioning his case is not an advocation for other victims to attack or kill bullies)

    Some here have noted that teachers are the problem, condoning bullies by ignoring them instead of doing their jobs and stopping it. I teach ESL to kids in Taiwan and sometimes encounter bullies among the kids. One thing which has been fairly effective at stopping it (in my school, anyway) is to say :

    “He/She (the victim) is my friend. If you (the bully) want to be my friend, you have to be her friend too.”

    It tends to have a positive effect on their behaviour.

  32. 32
    Marcus Ranum

    Richard Rhodes’ “why they kill” describes a criminologist’s research into the motives and past of imprisoned murderers. One of the conclusions that the criminologist draws is that many murderers were “violentized” – systematically subjected to violence – as children and eventually discovered that by adopting violence as a method they could get what they wanted. There’s a bunch of stuff about how many of the murderers said that violently standing up to an abusive parent and succeeding (in the use of violence) had a great deal to do with their subsequent adoption of violence as a one size fits all solution. In one of the schools I attended as a child there were several children that appeared to use threats as their first line of interaction with other kids – I wonder know what they grew up to be like.

    Disclaimer: I don’t buy a lot of social science in general and this was a “popular science” book that was very favorable to one guy’s research and didn’t (as I recall) search hard for criticism of the researcher’s findings or methods. So I’d personally chalk it up as interesting but not conclusive.

  33. 33
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Feline

    *headbonks*

    Did it ever occur to them that the actions of bullies are criminal and they get told that it’s a fucking okay way to behave? That our societal complacency towards bullies serve to make violent criminals?

    THIS! 1000X THIS!

    I don’t know why we don’t call out bullying for what it is — ABUSE — and treat it the same way!

  34. 34
    ischemgeek

    I’m not at all surprised at the results. Heck, I could’ve told them that when I was eight – abuse doesn’t stop being abuse just because the person abusing you is a kid, too, speaking as someone who has experienced many kinds of abuse, including bullying.

    I think our society dismisses the effects of schoolyard bullying as a result of its institutionalized ageism. Kids’ concerns can’t possibly be serious – they’re children, after all. The traumas they experience aren’t real trauma (except in cases where it’s acknowledged as actual trauma, in which cases, kids are resilient and should get over it within the set amount of time or else they’re just little crybabies), and if they protest the dismissal of their pain, they just need to get out and experience a bit of the “real world” since holding down a job is so much more stressful than fearing for your life and limb from your peers on a daily basis, amirite?

    Besides, bullying victims should just stand up for themselves – if they fight back hard enough or say no strong enough or scream loud enough, it won’t matter how many are ganging up on them, because bullies are cowards even when the odds are overwhelmingly in their favor and the evidence suggests otherwise. And even when they’re not cowards, teachers uniformly care about students and are infallible in determining who the victim or and the aggressor is, and totally won’t punish the victim for complaining because the complaint ruins the image of a bully-free school that the teacher has a vested interest in maintaining. And even if that’s not the case, the principal will totally take the word of a child over that of a valued employee, and parents totally won’t dismiss their child’s reports of bullying with exhortations to be “less sensitive” and “stop over-reacting.” And the kids should always report, since there’s absolutely no risk of retaliatory bullying or dismissal from the establishment, and if they don’t report, it’s their fault for being bullied because they didn’t report.

    Sound familiar? It should.

    It’s the exact same sort of victim-blaming and trivialization our society gives to victims of rape and sexual harassment (speaking as a victim of all three). And it makes me angry.

  35. 35
    Hein

    @theoreticalgrrrl #30:

    for me it’s a crippling self-doubt that affects my everyday life. It affects everything I do. Does anyone else get that? It’s like it’s so ingrained that often I don’t even consciously think about it anymore, it’s just second nature. It even took me a long time to work up the courage to comment on blogs, I always imagine my comments are completely unintelligible to people

    Very much yes to all of that!

  36. 36
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Feline:

    Did it ever occur to them that the actions of bullies are criminal and they get told that it’s a fucking okay way to behave? That our societal complacency towards bullies serve to make violent criminals?

    Christ, this.

    One bully I dealt with in school was the son of a high-powered attorney. That apple didn’t fall far from the tree, shall we say. Some years after graduation, I was acquainted with a fellow from my hometown who had some association with the bully as an adult (at this remove my memory of the details is hazy), and I wasn’t too surprised to learn that the latter continued to lack personal ethics and indeed was engaging in criminal activity of a different nature.

  37. 37
    ischemgeek

    Did it ever occur to them that the actions of bullies are criminal and they get told that it’s a fucking okay way to behave? That our societal complacency towards bullies serve to make violent criminals?

    Hell yes, this.

    I remember frequently asking my parents why if they’d treated an adult that way, they’d be arrested, or if an adult treated me that way, the adult would be arrested, but it was just fine and dandy for them to treat me that way.

    And I still don’t fucking get it.

    If it’s assault if a kid does it to an adult, and assault if an adult does it to an adult, and child abuse if an adult does it to a kid, why the hell is it not assault if a kid does it to another kid? How does that make sense?!

    It doesn’t.

    Unless you accept that kids aren’t fully people, and that their victimization isn’t real victimization – which suddenly makes it make sense that there’s a separate charge for “child abuse” that has a higher threshold than that for assault, meaning that parents are allowed to assault their kids, so long as it doesn’t rise to the higher standard of “child abuse.”

  38. 38
    Beth

    Ophelia: Thank you for answering my questions.

    Stifling and hermetic because always there, not escapable, always blocking exits, getting in the way, clogging things up.

    This is the part I’m not understanding. The Internet seems to me a place it is easy to exit and easy to avoid others. While I can understand that this view is not accurate for your situation, I’m not understanding why it isn’t. Could you give some further explanation on why you feel this way?

    A power imbalance because it’s a lot of people, because they are happy to use weapons that I refuse to use, because they have a systematic avowed campaign going (with the aim of completely silencing me, and a number of other people),

    This is quite disturbing and may be the answer to my previous question. How many harassers do you have to deal with daily?

    because they have ways of thrusting their harassment on my notice, because they tell many vicious lies about me and get them repeated. It’s not just about interaction (and that’s not as subject to choice as you seem to think). It’s also about destruction.

    When I was bullied as a child, my harasser would follow me on my way to and from school. Changing my route was not helpful. I can believe that your harassers have ways of forcing you to notice and interact with them, just as mine did. But I don’t know what those ways are. How do people force you to notice and interact with them on the Internet?

    I ask because I am starting a blog of my own. While I find it unlikely that I would attract anywhere near the number of readers yours does, I would stop if it were to attract the sort of attacks you have endured and I was unable to block them.

  39. 39
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Beth: Why should victims of harassment have to “exit” the internet? A great deal of life is conducted online nowadays, both personal and business; the distinction between “real life” and “online” is becoming more and more obsolete. Telling someone they must unplug their computer to avoid online harassment is like telling someone they must stay in the house to avoid street harassment.

    How do people force you to notice and interact with them on the Internet?

    Sending email.

    Pinging her on Twitter under an account she has not blocked.

    Leaving hostile comments on this blog. If she sets up a filter, the comments go into moderation and she must see them in order to approve or reject them.

    Those are just 3 that come to mind.

  40. 40
    Darjien

    Interestingly, as a bully/victim, I get an equal quantity of nightmares about each half, but I can only remember the name of the person I bullied, and am regularly tormented by guilt over that. It kinda provides a feedback loop with the stuff mentioned by @theoreticalgrrrl in #30.

    I am curious about the causality here, though. I don’t remember being happy even before I fell into that pattern of behaviour (though I recognize the self-fulfilling nature of memory).

  41. 41
    Beth

    @ Daisy: Why should victims of harassment have to “exit” the internet?
    They shouldn’t have to. Is that the only solution to avoiding harassment on the internet?

    A great deal of life is conducted online nowadays, both personal and business; the distinction between “real life” and “online” is becoming more and more obsolete. Telling someone they must unplug their computer to avoid online harassment is like telling someone they must stay in the house to avoid street harassment.

    I agree. I was under the impression that rather than staying home, it was possible to simply avoid the ‘bad neighborhoods’ when going out. I’m trying to understand why that isn’t the case.

    Sending email.

    I’m not clear why this can’t be dealt with as a particularly nasty kind of spam. It may be the shear volume of it. I hope Ophelia will provide some indication of the volume if that is what she finds stifling.

    Pinging her on Twitter under an account she has not blocked.
    Okay. I’m not a twitter user, so this is an avenue I wasn’t aware existed.

    Leaving hostile comments on this blog. If she sets up a filter, the comments go into moderation and she must see them in order to approve or reject them.

    Those are just 3 that come to mind.

    Thanks. This helps. I will be interested to hear from Ophelia about these things if she replies again.

  42. 42
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth @ 38

    This is the part I’m not understanding. The Internet seems to me a place it is easy to exit and easy to avoid others. While I can understand that this view is not accurate for your situation, I’m not understanding why it isn’t. Could you give some further explanation on why you feel this way?

    Because the internet is where I do what I do. I’m a writer and editor and blogger, and I do all of that on the internet. I do have another non-internet job, but that’s not my only or main job. I write columns for three paper magazines too, but to the best of my knowledge that’s because I wrote a popular blog for many years first. Sure, the internet is “easy” for me to avoid in the sense of physically easy, but in terms of my life, of doing a kind of work that I want to do? No, that would not be easy at all.

    It’s not quite as subjective and woolly as that I “feel” this way. There are some hard facts involved. If I “avoided” the internet there would be some factual consequences.

  43. 43
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    … Yeah, it sticks with you. It sticks with you for-fucking-ever. I still get enraged when I see bullying.

  44. 44
    Beth

    @Ophelia,

    Thank you for that explanation. I did not realize that your blog was part of your professional work. For that reason, you are unable to simply block and avoid your harassers. You must either tolerate the environment, which includes these harassers, or give up career aspirations. Am I understanding you correctly?

  45. 45
    ischemgeek

    Trigger warning: Bullying & suicide.

    To This Day is a must-listen spoken word poem that is relevant to this. Transcript available at the site.

    I thought it relevant.

  46. 46
    ischemgeek

    Shoot, my link didn’t work. let’s try that again

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth,

    Well, no, not exactly, because you put it into different words, which aren’t words I would use. I wouldn’t call it “my professional work.” That’s too grandiose for my taste, and it’s not really accurate. It’s “professional” in the minimal sense of getting paid a very little now and then, but not in the more usual sense of meeting formal standards after years of formal training.

    And it’s not “career aspirations” either. One, it’s not exactly a career as a career is normally understood. Two, it’s not aspirations because I’m already doing it. Three, I’m a million years too old to have “career aspirations.”

    And no it’s not just a matter of tolerating the environment and being unable to block and avoid my harassers. Whether I avoid them or not, block them or not, they are making enormous efforts to harm me and silence me – by spreading vicious lies about me in as many places as they can find where anyone has the faintest idea who I am; by propagating degrading photoshopped pictures of me; by spreading the idea that I’m way too ugly and old and stupid and Nazi and evil to be allowed to talk anywhere in public.

    I hope that clears things up for you now. It gets a bit tedious having to explain it.

  48. 48
    Ophelia Benson

    But, one more thing, Beth – you mention that you’re starting a blog yourself.

    I didn’t get this stuff right away. I had years of harassment-free blogging and website editing. The harassment wasn’t foreordained or inevitable.

  49. 49
    Parse

    Daisy Cutter @ 39

    Sending email.

    Pinging her on Twitter under an account she has not blocked.

    Leaving hostile comments on this blog. If she sets up a filter, the comments go into moderation and she must see them in order to approve or reject them.

    To add to this (for people like Beth, who don’t realize the scope of harassment that’s occurring):
    – Creating new email accounts to send abusive emails from, and encouraging others to send similar emails (so the victim can’t simply mark-as-spam the original user and block the emails that way)

    – Creating Twitter accounts with similar/identical names as the victim, so the victim needs to keep an eye on them so they know what people think they said.

    – Creating new Twitter accounts to harass victims with, to circumvent block lists.

    – Using proxies and throwaway accounts to circumvent getting comments stuck moderation.

    What I’m trying to add to Daisy Cutter’s comment is that even when Ophelia (or other targets) takes the right steps to cut out the negative portions of the internet, the bullies take steps to force their way back in.

  50. 50
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Parse – thanks.

    Also, Beth, it really shouldn’t matter whether or not Ophelia or anybody else uses the internet professionally or not. As I said, people also conduct their social lives online. They should not be encouraged to stop doing so in order to avoid bullies.

  51. 51
    TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

    Could you give some further explanation on why you feel this way?

    I’m sorry, but why should she? Why should any victim of harassment have to justify their feelings toward said harassment? I just don’t understand why “Because she feels that way, and that’s that,” wouldn’t be a sufficient answer for you.

    How many harassers do you have to deal with daily?

    Does that really matter? One is one too many.

  52. 52
    TerranRich, Yet Another Atheist

    For that matter, why should any victim of harassment, bullying, etc. be forced to change their route, alter their routine or their entire lives to avoid the harassment/bullying? This stems from our victim-blaming culture, where These Things Happen, so all we can do is tell the victims to avoid Those Things.

  53. 53
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Beth, you’re (unintentionally) making the same mistake that people make when they treat any form of abuse (rape, bullying, etc.) as a Force of Nature. Assuming that people just WILL do it, that it cannot be stopped, that no progress can be made in changing the culture, that we should focus first on getting the victims to retreat or modify their behavior.

    It’s toxic and it’s morally wrong. Most of us have fallen into this trap from time to time, but we should recognize it for what it is and resist it.

    Abuse is not a Force of Nature. People can and should be held to account. Consequences can and should accrue to the aggressors, not the victims. We only treat these things as inevitable because we were reared in a society that starts propagating the meme early. Starting in kindergarten parents and teachers sagely intone to victims that sticks and stones hurt but words don’t. Parents and authority figures tell victims they’re “easy targets,” and they need to stop doing/being X to make themselves less enticing prospects for harassment.

    This is an utter moral failure. It’s a story we need to stop telling ourselves and stop telling victims. It’s relied on so unquestioningly because what it’s really about is letting adults or others unaffected by this escape responsibility for a problem that seems intractable. It isn’t intractable, but it requires hard work and suffering some slings and arrows by good people who commit to placing blame where it ought to be. Make no mistake—every time someone resorts to the Force of Nature position what they’re really doing is salving their own conscience and trying to prop up the Just World view because the consequences of frankly assessing the situation seem too dire.

    I think you’re doing this, but don’t mistake my statement for an accusation that you’re willfully being irresponsible. Remember that I said we all do this and we’ve all done it. But it’s worth confronting and getting past.

  54. 54
    sawells

    I have to say I’m tremendously unimpressed with Beth, showing up her with these chirpy little questions about could you very sweetly explain for her personally… the stuff the Ophelia has exhaustively explained and given examples of, on this blog, for years now.

    You’re JAQ’ing off, Beth. The conversation did not start when you got here; why not educate yourself before trying to contribute?

  55. 55
    Perchloric Acid

    This cartoonist (who is usually on the mark) seems to think that bullying makes one stronger.

    http://www.viruscomix.com/page576.html

    The general may be correct with respect to his own cowardice, but he can’t judge the happiness of his victim by one wedding photograph. I’m smiling in my wedding picture, and you can find pictures of me with my happy family, but the pictures don’t show the lack of self-confidence obtained over twelve years of being told I was the stupidest kid in class (something even my university degrees can’t wash away).

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