The other day I started and actually almost finished a post saying farewell to WordPress. I have had a difficult time finding the words to say what I think and feel recently, that much has been obvious by my writing habits of late, but more than that, I was feeling unsafe and uncertain.
I am a survivor of intimate partner violence and abuse. I hadn’t been brave enough to actually write that publicly until this week when a man who has actually written “how to” guides to rape, manipulation, and abuse of women became a follower of this blog.
Of all the kinds of women to follow, he chose me because…?
Nothing he has said or done is criminal, he is simply an exceedingly detestable and repugnant git. I removed him as a follower several times because I do not want someone of his character to be reading what I have to say in order to create further “how to” guides to harming other women, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to report his offending posts (the process wouldn’t work). Eventually after a lot of back and forth with WordPress support, I was at my wit’s end and ready to bounce, as the youths say, because the only answers I received were that if I didn’t want to have him follow me, I had to make the entire blog private or move to a platform that allows one to block individual users because (according to one individual) the blocking of a single individual only adds the illusion of safety and security.
Anyone else who has also experienced rape, assault, abuse, stalking, or anything similar is likely screaming at the computer screen as much as I did when I read that myself. Admittedly, the support people probably were not prepared for the words I had to say which, I’m proud to say, were righteously indignant but also respectful. But the reality is that we live in a society and a time where victims of crimes are often more afraid to report the crime than they are to live with it, and where there still is lacking a basic understanding of the psychology of trauma from the viewpoint of the victim.
When women come forward 20 years later to report that someone perpetrated a crime against them and describe it in complete detail, that is probably because a crime was actually committed, not because they are trying to capitalize on someone else’s report. The amygdala speeds up when something is happening that is traumatic so that time seems to stand still and the brain recalls every finite detail. Could the perpetrator have no recollection of it? Absolutely, because if it isn’t a novel or terrifying or dangerous experience for them, their amygdala has no reason to drink in all those details; in fact, unless the person is a psychopathic serial offender, I don’t doubt that they probably would have no recollection of events.
I pointed out that the attitude and idea that blocking creates an illusion of safety is detrimental and false.
Let’s be honest: the lock on your front door isn’t actually capable of withstanding the simple efforts of the average healthy human adult in kicking down the door and yet we all have locks on our front doors and we lock them every night with a sense of safety that we will be able to rest knowing our spouses, children, pets, and belongings are going to be safe.
Is that safety that we sleep under each night because we locked our doors an illusion too?
Should we all just stop using our door locks, take them away, not even offer them as a part of basic home construction because Joe down the street or Mary around the corner could come kick the door in in a minute or two?
I equated a blog to a house on a street, perhaps during the holidays, even, when there are pretty lights and carolers going door to door. If the blog is in a public space, they are on a city street; if it is a private blog, someone has built a wall around it and has a gate so no one can see the lights or approach the house. The public space blog might allow people to drive by and look in the garden, at the facade, at the twinkle lights, or even to come to the front door and perhaps even into the house if the owner is amenable, but the owner can also say to some creep, “No, you may not come in,” and they can get a protective order to keep someone from doing more than driving down the street. So to say to someone that their only choice to keep someone from coming into their house to cause mayhem is to build a wall and deny everyone who may drive down the street the opportunity to even see the twinkle lights is… ridiculous.
Is a protective order an illusion of safety?
Sometimes, sure. It is only a piece of paper after all but at the same time it is ususally enough to keep someone from continuing to cross the line. Should we stop using them altogether because they sometimes don’t work? Absolutely not.
Telling someone who feels their safety, their boundaries, their body, or their comfort are being violated that the only course of action is to hide in the shadows rather than giving them a means by which to establish a clear boundary is a true perpetuation of what becomes rape culture.
“Hey. I get you don’t feel safe walking on campus at night. We aren’t going to add more lights because if someone really wants to rape or hurt you they can still do so in the light, but if you want, you can totally stay in your dorms forever! Have a nice day.”
“Wow. I’m sorry that man keeps talking in explicit terms about your body in ways that make you uncomfortable and he won’t stop propositioning you, but he has the right to free speech and he hasn’t actually touched you so we aren’t going to ask him to leave… But if you don’t like it, you can leave or just hide in the bathroom all night!”
“You know, I hear that you didn’t like when that guy brushed up against your breasts or your bottom, but it was totally an accident. He said so! But if you don’t like that that sort of thing happens in a bar, or restaurant, or grocery store, or gas station, or park, or car dealership, or school, or gym, you are totally free to not go there but no, we won’t do anything about the fact that he keeps doing that to you and that you are afraid for your safety.”
In 2018, Schweppes, the maker of club sodas, tonic waters, and ginger ales that are used to make mixed drinks the world over, commissioned the creation of a smart dress that would sense touch and took video to watch women at a party repeatedly have their body violated by men. In less than 4 hours, the 3 women were touched 157 times inappropriately; that is more than 40 times per hours.
And not one single woman reading this is surprised.
A woman, or man for that matter, should be reasonably assured that when they leave their home that they can count on upstanding people in society and law enforcement to hold the line for her so that she doesn’t have to be afraid that someone will violate her body and her sense of self and safety in the world. If someone crosses a line, she should feel assured that she can say, “no,” and have her answer heard and accepted. Telling her that the only means by which she can set a boundary for herself is to lock herself into her home and to never come out is absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable. It says to the victim or potential victim that their rights to safety are secondary to the perpetrator or potential perpetrator’s rights to do whatever they want.
We should also be reasonably assured that the same boundaries and safety exists online.
I understand how the internet works. I know that whatever I write is there… forever. I know that what I put out publicly will be available to a broad audience. That is, unsurprisingly, the point. That does not mean that I should have to endure someone repeatedly violating my space, albeit cyber, when I am uncomfortable with them.
I didn’t ask WordPress to take down his blog. He has the right to free speech even if he is a disgusting misogynist.
I asked for the right for me to draw a clear line that says it is not okay for you to be here and for you to use my words to find new ways to argue for and explain how to perpetuate abuse toward women.
As of the writing of this piece, I do not know what the status is with this individual. What I do know is that he now is remaining off my followers list and that his offensive “how to abuse” pieces are also missing from his blog, although the rest is still there with such stimulating and marvelous content such as how to leave abuse (ironic considering everything he describes about the way he was treated and abused by his father are exactly the kinds of emotional and physical abuse he advocates toward women), boost your testosterone, and get studly. For now, those are good enough for me.
Nevertheless, I’m not done asking WordPress to add a feature where we can block someone from a specific WordPress or email from following our blogs because…
I have the right to feel safe and to set a boundary for myself.
We all do.
Please — if this story speaks to you or you find it compelling, if you feel the same way but you don’t know how to speak up, share this post! If nothing else, sharing lends credence to my statement that I am NOT the only one who wishes for more safety features and a better response than to say my only choice is to make myself private or to run away.