Many people take their own safety for granted. They read the papers and listen to the news and think, “that will never happen to me.”
Many women might think that domestic abuse or sexual violence only happens to women who aren’t strong enough, or who take unnecessary risks. They make judgements about victims. They think they’re weak, or irresponsible or stupid.
Men spend a lot of time online explaining to women how they’re over reacting, or being dramatic or exaggerating. Men tell us all the time that we don’t have the right to speak out on issues that affect us. They do this in a variety of ways. Sometimes through old fashioned sexism and misogyny. But more often through online abuse and harassment.
One example of this is the sustained abuse experienced by Jean Hatchet. Jean has been campaigning about Ched Evans for some time now. She started a petition and, as a result, has been targeted by the worst that the Internet has to offer. She has been vilified, bullied, harassed, threatened with rape and murder, been abused, stalked and hacked. All because she spoke out.
This is not new, if you’re a woman online then the chances are, at some point you’ve been told to shut up, fuck off, die, get raped.
Online, there is an opportunity for women to speak out in a way that they may not be able to do in their real lives. They can be who they want to be, talk about their experiences, gain support and strength from other women in similar circumstances.
There is a reason why so many women choose to be anonymous online.
Imagine you are, or have been, in a relationship with someone who has been consistent abusive and violent towards you. This man has threatened you, harassed you and stalked you. He regularly attempts to bully you, and knows exactly how to frighten you into compliance.
Online, you have a space to talk. You don’t need to watch your language, tread carefully or have to think about how he might react to you. You can be free to be yourself – often for the first time in your life.
Now imagine that someone threatens that anonymity. What does that feel like? How does it feel to know that you are potentially about to be exposed, laid bare for everyone to see? Your real name, your address, your family, your friends. All deliberately put out there online. And more importantly, your abuser will see it. He will know what you’ve been doing. He will be able to see what you’ve said.
Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you think that anyone is fair game. Maybe you don’t believe women when they say they need to be anonymous to stay safe.
Jean Hatchet is anonymous for a reason, and that reason is her own safety. She has had to deactivate her twitter account because she is so frightened of being doxxed.
So, ask yourself this. Why is it so important to you? Why are you so obsessed with uncovering a woman with the sole aim of making her unsafe and vulnerable to more attacks? What will you gain from this? A moments notoriety? The kudos from your Internet peers? Respect for placing an already vulnerable woman at risk?
I suggest that you take a long, hard look at what you’ve become and back off.
Just for once, don’t be that person.