5 women writers talk about online abuse & harassment

Today is International Women’s Day and as such, I decided to speak to several female writers regarding the topic of online harassment, inappropriate messages and abuse.   

banner 5 women writers talk about their online abuse

These ladies are all at different points on the writing journey, and have received different levels of harassment from inappropriate messaging to threats of violence.

MELKA STANSAH 

Author of The Raven Trilogy | Website

1 – Have you yourself ever been a victim of harassment, abuse, or just inappropriate messages?

So far, mostly inappropriate messages asking for a date but not to the stage of abusive or harassing (I didn’t feel it that way).

2 – Do you do anything specific to protect yourself from being harassed or contacted inappropriately?

Lesson learned, I tried to be more careful in accepting friends request.  If I don’t feel comfortable accepting them, I just ignore the request completely.

3 – What advice can you give to young female writers about this?

Maybe try to establish standards in selecting your friends on the internet / any media.  If there is any harassment / abusive interactions to try contacting the appropriate channels such as FB admin etc.

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JENNA MORECI

Author of The Saviour’s Champion | Youtube Channel

1 – Have you yourself ever been a victim of harassment, abuse, or just inappropriate messages?

Of course.  I mostly receive sexist messages and sexual harassment, but I’ve also received rape and death threats as well as… How do I put this… Inappropriate inquiries? Basically, men have asked to purchase my worn underwear.

Fortunately, that’s not quite as common as the other, more generic forms of harassment I receive from men.  I’ve also received abuse from women, but it’s a lot less frequent and not of the sexual variety.

They usually attack my work or platform.  I’ve also had a cyber stalker who was pretty relentless, but she seems to have backed off for now.

2 – Do you do anything specific to protect yourself from being harassed or contacted inappropriately?

I’m not sure there’s anything you can do to avoid this type of contact outside of blocking every jerk who leaves a comment.  When I first got started, that’s what I did, but now at over 120k subs and 7 million views, that’s just not possible.

These days, I don’t read most of my comments, not because of harassment but simply because there’s no time.  As for vitriol that’s sent directly to my email or blog, I block ‘em.

3 – What advice can you give to young female writers about this?

First and foremost, understand your worth.  These comments are never about you—they’re a reflection of that particular person’s insecurities and fears.  Confident, happy people don’t waste their time harassing others.  It takes a certain kind of person to go out of their way to deliberately try to make someone else uncomfortable or miserable.

Second, don’t be afraid to block.  I’m not recommending you block everyone who offers up criticism; that’s just petty.  But if someone is abusing or harassing you, you aren’t obligated to tolerate it.  Send them packing.

Lastly, keep going.  A troll’s objective is to silence you.  If you quit writing, you’ve given them what they want.  The easiest way to stick it to them is to write your stories, pursue your dreams, and live your best life.  You are bigger and stronger than the haters.  Do not give them the power to stifle your voice.

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R B McConnell

Writer | Website

1 – Have you yourself ever been a victim of harassment, abuse, or just inappropriate messages?

Yes I have, to all of the above.  From both women and men.  I have been called various names, which could only be described as hurtful.  That is putting it mildly, I can’t even bring myself to repeat some of the things that have been said to me.  They were that bad.

Some people don’t believe I am a woman, that a woman couldn’t possibly write horror. That I clearly must be a man in disguise.  That alone is insulting on so many levels.

2 – Do you do anything specific to protect yourself from being harassed or contacted inappropriately?

Not really, if I get something through on twitter, I just block and report them and then I move on.  But, I do write it down, in some form and I get my revenge in a story, or in a scene in my novel.  Life is too short to worry about people like that.

3 – What advice can you give to young female writers about this?

Best thing you can do is to ignore them.  Do not engage with them, if you are able to block them, do so.  If you are able to report them do so.  Then move on.  It takes more out of you than it takes out of them.

Some people are jealous, others thrive on making others miserable.  Do not give out your personal email address to anyone, unless you are sure you can trust them.  Do not let a few people make your online time horrible.  If you want to take a break from being online, do so.  Also write the experiences down, it helps and you can always write those people into your writing… and make them die horrible deaths!

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CASS ALEXANDER

Author of the Persimmon Series | Website

1 – Have you yourself ever been a victim of harassment, abuse, or just inappropriate messages?

I have gotten so many inappropriate messages on SnapChat I ended up deleting every person other than my sister-in-law.  I thought it would be a fun app to use and try to promo some of my writing.  I put out a couple of tweets to Add me and 99.9% of the ones who did were male–which was totally fine.  At first.

Literally, minutes after Adding these people, I was inundated with messages.  Things like, “How old are you?” “Where do you live?” “Send me some pics of you.”  It weirded me out. Then came MULTIPLE dick pics.  I could not believe it. Seriously.  Who does that?

I deleted everyone and left the app alone.  Then, months later, I thought I’d try again. This time, I even included in the tweet “no dick pics plz.”  Same exact thing happened.  I still can’t get my head around it. 

I think the anonymity of being online makes people feel like they can do whatever they want. It’s disgusting.

2 – Do you do anything specific to protect yourself from being harassed or contacted inappropriately?

To protect myself, I had to delete all my SnapChat peeps.  I just can’t deal with it. Facebook has some creepers, too.  Some try calling my computer or sending messages.  I politely inform them I’m a mom and married.

If it doesn’t work to get them to back off, I block them.  Luckily, I haven’t been trolled aside from these men sending me unwanted messages.

3 – What advice can you give to young female writers about this? 

Advice?  Hmmm.  I’m still trying to figure out the best way to mitigate such occurrences. But be diligent about not posting locations or personal info that would give away your location.  If politely, but firmly, declining an advance doesn’t work, block them.  I wouldn’t engage with them–it might be the fight they’re looking for.

I’m a mother of two boys and you can bet your sweet ass they’re going to be taught that this sort of behavior is not only reprehensible, it adds to the narrative of online predators.  I read The Gift of Fear and it was eye-opening.

Every female needs to read it and learn to trust her gut.  Men fear that women are going to laugh at them. Women fear men are going to kill them.  That’s a lot of space between the genders. 

Trust your gut, ladies!  It’s better to be rude than to open the door to someone who may inflict emotional and/or physical harm.

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LORRAINE AMBERS

Writer | Website

1 – Have you yourself ever been a victim of harassment, abuse, or just inappropriate messages?

I’ve been lucky, I’m careful not to write anything that could be controversial or to make myself a target by revealing personal issues.  My media is a brand.  However, I do get men trying to call me through messenger, flirty texts asking if I’m single and once a photo of someone’s penis.

2 – Do you do anything specific to protect yourself from being harassed or contacted inappropriately?

I’m polite, say I’m married or block if they’re too insistent.  So far, I’ve not been trolled or harassed but I’m prepared for it to happen.

3 – What advice can you give to young female writers about this?

Treat social media as a part of your author customer services.  Being interactive is important but not when it comes to harassment or inappropriate messaging.  In those cases: ignore, block and move on.  Don’t engage and don’t warrant them with any of your time, which is precious.

Links you may find useful if you are the victim of harassment or abuse

Bullying UK

When to call the police if you are being harassed online

Victim Information Service

Citizen’s Advice – Taking action about harassment

What to do if you’re harassed online

Victim Connect Resource Center

Delete Cyberbullying – What to do if you’re a victim

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I want to say a big thank you to my guest writers, for sharing their experiences and advice on this topic.  It is not always easy to discuss this sort of thing and I thank them for contributing.

With the next generation of young women writers coming up, I feel this topic is an important one.

Please note, I am very aware than online harassment and abuse is not limited to women, however women are more likely to experience gender-based abuse and as this is International Women’s Day I felt this topic would be suitable to explore this issue. 

Also, the advice given here by these writers is advice for all, regardless of gender

Happy writing

Ari

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