*** I’m heading this post with a trigger warning. If you are sensitive to discussion about online harassment and rape, please do not read on. ***
I’ve ummed and ahhed about writing this post for quite some time now for a number of reasons. The main one has been that I just didn’t want to talk about it. The second one has been that this has, until recently, involved a minor. But last night something changed, and I stopped being angered and upset by the situation and instead felt an immense amount of pity and, well… schadenfreude.
So here I am to tell you the tale of my internet harasser. Not because I want to publicly shame him (there will be no name and shame here) but to talk about this experience that I’ve had; to add another number to the data of women who are harassed online simply for existing; to let others who may be affected by this know that they aren’t alone. And to laugh. Oh how we’ll laugh.
Let me start at the start.
This is a story about a fellow we’re going to call Blah (no, that’s not his real or gamer name, I just can’t be bothered dignifying him with anything other than boredom).
When I first joined my now ex-guild about a year ago now, I was keen to make some new friends and make a good impression. I was excited about joining a mythic raiding team, after all! I liked to help out when people needed help or answer questions if they needed them, let people know of rare spawns etc. and just generally have a bit of a chat in game. You know, what most humans who play WoW do.
I got along fine with most people and made some friends pretty quickly – all was going well. I hadn’t raided with anyone yet so this limited time in guild chat was the extent of the contact with anyone. A couple of weeks after I had joined I saw Blah had made a comment about something or other in guild chat. I asked a question about it – no response. Someone else asked a question and Blah responded, so I asked another question. I received a rude response back , and then he just stopped talking to me. At the time I thought it was incredibly rude (especially given he was happily chatting away to others at the time) but I ignored it and went on with my day. If he didn’t want to talk, fine. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to engage with someone who didn’t want to talk, so I just didn’t bother.
Not long after, I was brought in to the raid team, as a healer had left and they needed me in. Huzzah! I was so excited about it all. During raiding Blah was just a generally gross human being. Aside from the usual rubbish of someone who doesn’t care about a team, (like showing up whenever he wanted, not doing mechanics or anything or listening when he was there, and talking shit to/at everyone) it became apparent very quickly that he was in a level of his own filth. It was the way he would “speak”. He would “joke” about rape pretty openly and harshly about girls that he knew in real life. He would laugh about it, and make derogatory comments about other girls in the team. It was disgusting and disturbing.
Legion came along, and his behaviour didn’t change. The guild jumped on the Discord band wagon, which quickly turned into a cesspool. Most of it I could ignore. This, I could not ignore:
The first time
The raid team progressed through Emerald Nightmare pretty quickly when it first came out, clearing heroic in the first week. We were all pretty pumped. But it was early in October when we hit a slight bump when it came to mythic Ursoc. We had a tense night of wipes on that fight, having to call it before we got the kill. We were all running back in after the last wipe and the raid lead was talking about how to improve for the next night, when in chat I see
Blah spits on you.
I was grossed out, and angry, but waited to see how many others he would decide to /spit on (such a team player!) The answer was none. No-one else was going to be spat on, just me. He sat there, went through the raid frames, found my name, and spat on me. I was livid. I got up to calm myself, then sat down again and said to my heal lead, “Is it ok if I don’t heal certain people in the raid anymore?” I was half joking, but frustrated – this was really shitty behaviour! My heal lead said “Blah?” to which I said “yes”. He replied “We saw. We’re talking about it in officer chat now.”
I felt immediately better. This act hadn’t gone unnoticed. And more than that, the fact that the officers were talking about it indicated that I wasn’t overreacting and it was a shit thing to happen.
This is the part where guild leadership is an important part of determining whether or not a guild is going to be right for you. It doesn’t matter how many officers or fellow guildies might feel about a situation, if the guild master doesn’t agree, nothing much happens. Which was the case here. Blah was given a warning by one of the officers, but that was as much as they were able to do given (from what I understand) the guild master didn’t see this, or anything else Blah had done/said as a problem. (I don’t fault the officers for this at all. They have been brilliant throughout all of this.)
The next time
The warning seemed to have at least a small impact on Blah, and he was quiet for almost an entire month. I (stupidly) thought this meant everyone had moved on and we were done with it. Remember, I don’t engage with this person at all. I don’t speak to him, I just go about my business healing people and doing my thing. Which is what makes it all worse, I think. So many times I’ve sat here asking myself “what did I do?? What was it that I did that made him hate me??” And I come up empty. It always seems to come down to the fact that I just exist, and that I am a female.
I’m getting off track, but in some ways, I’m not. Because what happened next quite literally came out of nowhere at all.
I’ll preface this part by saying that I don’t talk about my blog or podcasts in guild. Mostly because I don’t think anyone would be interested in them, but also because sometimes it just feels like showing off. So they don’t come up.
On Tuesday evenings we live stream our recording of Reins of Azeroth on Twitch. It’s fun! We get a couple of people come along in the chat, and it feels more like we’re actually talking to other people rather than just each other. On this particular evening in mid-November we were in the process of setting up when Spazz comments that someone is already in our twitch chat room. Then he went a bit quiet. I asked what the comments were (I wasn’t logged on yet) and he said something about “Blah says you’re a shit healer”. It took a bit to register, because like I said, I don’t have anything to do with this guy. And what’s more, I’ve never spoken to him or anyone else in guild about that podcast, so it took a bit to put two and two together.
I asked Spazz to send me a screenshot of what was said.
The text is small, but it reads
“blah says you’re *** healer”
I then looked at who was in the chat at the time and saw Blah with 2 of his mates. This was an attack perpetrated by Blah, and they were all sitting in twitch chat waiting for me.
I’m going to interject here with a note: I don’t care what people have to say about my healing. I really don’t. I’m not the best healer in the world – I certainly don’t proclaim to be! – but I’m not the worst and I do the best that I can. I’m not offended by someone saying I’m shit – sometimes I am!
So believe me when I tell you that it wasn’t the comment that upset me and freaked me out.
Here’s what did freak me out. Firstly, this is a person who thinks rape is funny. Secondly, the amount of work involved to find where I was going to be at that specific point in time is too much for this to not be premeditated. As I said, there’s no previous discussion of my blog or podcasts anywhere. So for him to find me he had to:
- google my toon name
- find my blog
- find the podcasts I worked on
- see that Reins was recorded live on twitch
- set a reminder to go to our twitch page at the time we start recording
- and then have someone harass me on there while he watched.
That’s a lot of effort. That’s also a lot of evidence that it was a targeted attack designed to publicly shame me. He could have just tweeted abuse at me if he wanted to, but he chose to do this in a public space, to publicly humiliate me.
The users were banned from the channel, and they were reported for harassment to twitch. Which is about all you can do in these situations.
The kick & the aftermath
I still had a show to do, so after taking a breath to calm down and talking with Thor, we got on with recording. That was fun! /s But while we were recording Thor logged in game and immediately talked to one of the officers that he gets along well with. Thor explained what had happened, and showed him the screenshots of what was said and who was there. I understand that a quick discussion was held with officers who were logged on at the time, and shortly after Blah and all of his alts were removed from the guild, regardless of what the GM thought.
After recording, I warily logged into WoW and immediately received a whisper from the officer Thor had spoken to – he was checking up on me to make sure that I was ok. We had a bit of a chat. It was greatly appreciated. (Like I said, the officers have been great).
The aftermath was unexpected, though. I went to bed that night feeling hot with shame. Why is that? I hear this a lot from women who have been harassed, and one of the first emotions they feel is shame. Where does that come from? What on earth did I have to be shameful of? I racked my brains to figure out what I had done or said to Blah that made him hate me. What did I do? I would replay the raid nights over and over in my head trying to pinpoint the moment that made me a target, and I couldn’t find it.
Then the anxiety and the fear joined in with the shame. It was a lovely cocktail that kept me from sleeping properly for quite some time. In the middle of the night I panicked about ways Blah might find my personal information, and had Thor calm me down by setting a few things differently to help me feel better. (What would I do without Thor? He has been my rock).
It wasn’t a good time.
I worked really hard to push that cocktail of emotions aside. I had to go to work and function as a human being. And I sure as hell was not going to let a useless turd stop me from playing WoW (which I guessed is was goal?!). So I went into raid, and it was great. Not having the constant negativity from Blah made it a really great time for everyone. And so I tweeted as such afterwards.
Blah decided to reply:
Again, I can’t stress enough that I don’t give a hoot about what a person like Blah thinks of my healing. It’s not his words that are the problem here – it’s the targeted harassment that is the problem.
Except this time, he messed up. He tweeted from an account that uses his real name. So not only is he a disgusting, rapey asshole, but he’s a stupid one at that. This was the first time that I actually laughed about the whole situation. How could someone be that stupid. It took literally 5 seconds to google his name and find his facebook page which showed where he lived, what school he went to, and who his family were. I had a face to the name. It was also apparent from this publicly facing information that he was underage (17), which immediately stopped me from naming a shaming or progressing with anything publicly any further.
What I did do is start writing a letter to his mother to let her know about his behaviour. It was therapeutic for me to write it, and so by the time I finished it, I had calmed down and I didn’t send it. Also by then, time had passed and I thought things would end because Blah was no longer in the guild and would find something else to occupy his time.
This was not the case.
Again and again…
Since being removed from the guild over 3 months ago, Blah came been back time and time again to harass me in new and interesting ways.
He came back to another live recording on twitch:
You know there are other words, right?
This one was interesting – he logged on to our team speak server during raid one night (so in front of the entire raid team). He kept logging on and off and on again, making a sound in the channel each time it happened. So we checked the log to see what was going on, and he’d done this:
Hi-larious! He was banned from the server.
Up until this point, the worst thing that he’d said was that I was a bad healer. But then he started to bring in more profanities. And in this case below, other people.
This was posted on the guild’s Discord server at around 11:30pm one evening:
In this instance, white male = Blah
Delightful. And not only was he attacking me, he lashed out one of the people who had stood up for him in the past. Again, he’s not the brightest crayon. This was quietly deleted from the discord server by the GM in the middle of the night. Part of me is glad to have seen it when it happened – it just adds to my body of evidence.
During all of this there were comments made in guild and raid chat from his friends who were still in the guild, saying things like “Let Blah out!” etc. It made it easy to know who to avoid. (A side note – I did find it incredibly amusing that his “friends” didn’t jump ship with him. Rather than sticking with their friend, they stayed in the guild and just bitched for awhile before giving up. I can only assume they weren’t all really good friends after all, or didn’t care enough to follow him.)
Then the guild fallout happened and we all split up. When the new guild was formed, it was very easy to know who would not be invited to join the team. People who wanted to be immature and harass other people could go their own way, and the rest of us who weren’t like that could go the other way. I truly thought that would have been the end of all of it. The guild fell apart, his mates were free to play with him if they wanted to – it should have been over.
But we wouldn’t be here if it were, would we? 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day!
This Tuesday just gone, Valentine’s Day, was a recording night for Reins of Azeroth again on Twitch. We were having a nice time talking about WoW reputations and things like that, when this appeared in chat:
For those who can’t read the name, it’s posted from “Cindersllut”.
This was a new one – I’m a slut now?
The comment was deleted from twitch very quickly by speedy Spazz, and the user banned from the channel. Sure enough, a few minutes later in the list of viewers, Blah’s twitch handle appears, confirming that he was the perpetrator.
This time, though, it didn’t bother me. I actually laughed. As lame as it may sound, I was in a nice guild! That’s apparently something to be ashamed of? That’s something to try an embarrass someone about? I mean, you’re really reaching with that one.
I spoke to Thor about the latest Blah episode after we had finished recording and he said:
“So you’re telling me, on Valentine’s Day – a day that you spend with people you love and who love you – Blah had nothing else better to do than go on twitch and harass you? He had no-one to be with?”
It really doesn’t get any more pathetic than that, does it?
This was the big turning point for me. I had always known Blah was a waste of space and oxygen, but the image of him being completely and utterly alone on Valentine’s Day, and choosing to harass someone as a way of dealing with that was just plain and simply sad and pathetic. It’s where the schadenfreude comes in. Every single time he has harassed me, he has done so in a public way, with the goal of trying to make me look stupid in front of other people. Which means he was tracking my movements, know where I would be and when I’d be there. It’s creepy, yes, but it also means other people are seeing him behave this way, seeing how pathetic he is.
This whole thing isn’t about me. It never has been. Blah is not a happy person, and I am. I work hard, I have fun, I laugh with friends – I have a good time, and a good life that I am immensely grateful for, and I think that shows. He does not have that. I didn’t do anything to make him treat me this way other than live my life and be happy. He sees that and can’t stand it, and tries to shoot me down. Well, I’m the personification of this song 🙂
I’m bored of this, I really am. I don’t have time for someone who gets their jollies by bringing others down. It’s gone on long enough. I have kept a record of every time Blah harasses me, and I’ve already built up quite a collection of evidence. 4 months, 5 different platforms and multiple instances of tracking down my location at a specific time are all enough for police action to be taken. And thanks to Blah’s non-existent facebook privacy settings, they will have no troubles finding him.
As for me, I’m not going to stop playing WoW, or stop being a nice person or enjoying my life. I will continue to block and report any attempts Blah makes to humiliate and harass me – and I will watch him self-destruct as fewer and fewer people want to be around him as a result. Because at the end of all of this, he’s not making me look bad, he’s just showing the world what a pitiful human he is.
Thank you to Thor, Spazz, Sirius, my guild officers, Z, and Spanky for their (sometimes unknowing!) support in all of this. If you are being harassed online, please talk to someone. If you are in Australia, visit the SmartSafe website for more information on where to go and what to do.