One day as I checked my e-mail messages, a new e-mail appeared from an unfamiliar address. When I opened it, I learned it was from my ex-husband. It had been over 10 years since our divorce was final and I had not seen or talked to him since. He found me through my website, he said. He felt we should communicate. He thought it was time for me to forgive him, so that we could both move on. Only, I had moved on more than 10 years ago. In fact, he was such a distant memory that if he passed me on the street I doubt I would recognize him. I could not even remember what he looked like. A fact I chose to relay to him in that moment. Along with, “Nobody owes you anything. The only thing that will ever matter is whether you forgive yourself.”
My reply struck a nerve. What followed was an incessant stream of e-mailed attacks. A senseless tirade blaming me for events in the past, according to his faulty recollection, and personal insults. Sentiments that made me both sad that he had not evolved and grateful that I was no longer on the front lines of his abuse. Each new e-mail was more abusive than the last. His offensive e-mails only confirmed that I had made the right choice by ending our marriage. In my heart I knew that if he were truly sorry for the way he had treated me, he would have reached out long ago.
The e-mails continued even after I made it clear that I did not wish to be contacted any further and I was forced to block his e-mail address. The unplanned interaction made me uneasy. I wondered why he had searched for me online after all this time and what was his true intention was. Was he able to trace any of my other contact information? Would he try to find me offline? The unwelcome intrusion left me feeling violated all over again, so I contacted my local police department to see what could be done.
Cyberbullying is harassment that takes place using any form of electronic technology. It occurs to both children and adults and takes the same mental toll as bullying in person, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Cyberbullying is popularly committed by e-mail and is a form of harassment linked to stalking. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services includes “hostile, vulgar and insulting” e-mails in its definition of cyberbullying. It also includes impersonation and posting derogatory, embarrassing and false information about a victim online.
Here are some steps to take if you are experiencing cyberbullying:
- Clearly communicate that you want the contact to end and then stop responding.
- Block their account and keep a copy of all communication.
- Make a report to their Internet service provider (ISP), or the website moderator, and keep the record of your report.
- File a police report if you feel threatened.
There are some additional things you can do to protect yourself. Ensure your private contact information (such as your address and phone number) does not appear on your website or social media accounts. Update your privacy settings on your social media accounts.
If the abuse continues, consider making an Internet harassment report by using the following links and email addresses to report cyberbulling:
AOL Offensive E-mail Reporting
Hotmail Abuse Team
Tubmlr Abuse Reports
Internet Service Providers (ISP)
For more information about how to report cyberbullying, visit Stopbullying.gov.