In Focus 23rd October, 2017

I Fed the Troll: My Response to Online Harassment.

“If you found a girl like “me” on the road, she would clobber the shit out of you, and squash your balls into a f***** pulp”

This was my response to a creep on social media who messaged me, “If I found a girl like you on the road now, I would rape”

Netizens came out in support by sharing my response hundreds of times and some even provided information on who this person was. Allegedly someone from Hyderabad who would regularly target women with these threats online. I did not stop with just this response. Filed an FIR (100) with the Gurgaon Police Cyber Cell Department, reached out to Andhra Police Cyber Cell, and I made it known on social media as well.

I had usually ignored such attacks in the past (none were tantamount to rape but they were vile nonetheless) not out of fear but simply because I did not want to engage with these low lives, giving them the attention they so desperately sought with these antics but I was also becoming more and more concerned about how our silence strengthened their voices and perhaps encouraged them to continue to attack more and more women online without any fear of any consequence whatsoever.

When this rape threat was thrown at me, I decided that enough was enough. I was going to report this to the authorities. Given our disdain to deal with the police generally, I did have my concerns as to whether this would be taken seriously but I resolved that no matter what, I will do whatever it takes for my complaint to be heard and duly registered. This time, I wasn’t going to let it go and he wasn’t going to get away with it. I had to let him know that he chose the wrong woman to mess with, this time.

I wanted this on record and action taken by the police and for that, the first action had to come from me. To actually report it. So I found out the location of the Gurgaon cyber cell police department and drove over feeling trepidation and determination in equal measure.

I was pleasantly surprised and duly impressed. The officer of the cyber cell department was highly professional. I submitted my complaint and all the screenshots along with it. The officer based on my complaint took rapid action by writing to social media platform asking them to confirm the person’s IP address. I made this known on the platform and that went viral too. The harasser deactivated his account and hasn’t been seen on the timeline again. Scared? Good.

In another incident, another person who would troll me online had unnecessarily written to me that I should endorse condoms. My response: “I would be more than happy to do so especially if it meant preventing guys like you from being born”

He ended up apologising to me and I thanked him for it. It’s not everyday that you see them realising the folly of their ways in engaging with a woman online and I appreciated the fact that he realised it and apologised as well. He didn’t bother me again.

There have been many such personal attacks online or attempts to seek attention in the stupidest and sometimes vile and vicious ways, not even sparing your families.

I got active on social media little more than two years ago and shortly I understood that social media isn’t for the meek or weak-hearted and to a large extent not for women who believed in speaking their minds or just for having a voice. Be it your political, religious, sexual or even just general views, women are harassed online. Why?

  1. Because they are women
  2. The harasser usually thinks they can get away with it as normally most women ignore. Some out of fear, some out of indifference, some may be out of shame.

Some because they think they do not want to encourage more of it (either from the same person or worse, others) by taking on such harassment head on, some also do not bring it to light given our propensity to blame victims. “She must have said or done something to “deserve” this”

Not much different from real life but when it’s online, you are dealing with a different beast altogether, because most times, these are anonymous or fake profiles, you can’t see them and you don’t know who these miscreants are. But they can be found out. The mental trauma, the anger and even the humiliation one feels is all very real when it comes to online abuse. Let’s never think otherwise and let’s not ever tell someone to ignore it, or “jaane do”

There have been incidents where online harassment and abuse have spilled on to real lives so one can also understand the fear in reporting those. I, however, decided early on that I will not keep quiet, not ignore it, not let it “jaane do” and would extend my support to anyone who did or wished to do the same.

I am of the school of thought that no matter what your gender, if you don’t stand up for yourself, have a voice of your own, fight your own battles, nobody else will do it for you. You’ll be surprised with the support you get from family, friends, strangers who are online and most importantly, you don’t know who you are inspiring to simply speak up. Even if there’s no support, this is YOUR fight and YOU fight it.

Social media platforms have more than enough bandwidth to allow for every individual’s voice and it’s incumbent upon all of us (all genders) to make them a safe place for views and opinions to be aired without being called names or worse, threatened with rape or an acid attack. Such elements need to be brought to light, weeded out and wherever possible, put behind bars. Demand for your voice to be heard in reporting these, outing them and action to be taken against them.

I may be reached on @priya_menon on twitter for any support anyone may need on the same.


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