10.03.2014

Harassment: Name and Shame?

Harassment through the internet is normal these days, and both the police in the UK and internet companies take it quite seriously. What I find fascinating is that the police have repeatedly told me when it comes to real, in person threatening, it can be very difficult for them to press charges because of the the current laws. With the internet they've gotten creative and whilst harassment is a genuine problem, I have also seen a few too many academics having their Twitter accounts suspended for challenging the rather bigoted views of self-proclaimed "community leaders" ...

There is a big difference between harassment and disagreeing with views, and unfortunately both seem to have been bundled into one label of "trolls" which does not differentiate between freedom of expression and genuine threat.

I will admit that sometimes w****s piss me off, and I just feel like fighting back, even though 99% of the time I ignore them. There are times when it is worth naming and shaming, and this is a case where I did, although the discussion thread seems to have now vanished from the internet.

Over the last dozen years I've occasionally acted as an external supervisor for students from various US colleges undertaking research in Europe. I prefer to be asked through the actual supervisor, but often grad students want to sound me out first.

So this exchange starts off roughly typically, although I was wary of the email address and wording ... but hey, students can be silly at times ...





The reply meant I clicked 'delete' rather than 'reply' and didn't answer. But boy did "Chris Gza" carry on ... and on ... and on ... Again, as with Waterstones, I don't think it is appropriate to give space to men's worst sexual fantasies so these are the most innocuous ones:

The vein was pretty clear, but just in case I was thick as two short planks, he kept elaborating. He was obviously a sad and lonely man as the emails continued through the holiday period when most people were busy with friends and family, and became increasingly ridiculous. Men don't seem to understand that graphically telling a women they are going to force a woman to have sex with her against her will is a crime in the UK - rape is a crime and so if threatening rape.


Ignoring emails was one thing, but I realised that he had obtained my email address through the Liverpool Classics List, and he could only have done so if he had signed up for it, so I posted a warning. My feeling is that he's more likely to be a sad idiot who won't do anything where he can't hide behind a computer, but if he's harassing me, then he's likely to harass other women and they deserve to be warned:


The only person to express any support and 'get' why this was an issue:



Did this work? Well some delusional idiot assumed that the only possible explanation for my unwillingness to sleep with him must have been that my email was hacked, as otherwise he would not have received the email through the Classics List ...


Then he dragged in a Classics student at a university, and I complained to his head of department; they were both horrified and made it clear that they had no idea who he was.


And on and on and on ... I blocked his email address but he continued to email for well over a month, often in the middle of the night, and this was the only non X-rated email.


Everyone deals differently with harassment and threats, and my attitude is that 99% of the time hitting on "block" is the best way to deal with things. When the person is likely to harass other women I also think it's important to warn those women. "I didn't want to get involved" is often the best response to silly fights, but to paraphrase Burke, when good women do nothing, then evil triumphs.

I don't know why my warning was removed, and maybe some people don't think a man using a List to threaten a woman with hunting her down in a dark alley and buggering her until she passes out is genuinely worth wasting time on.

Honestly? I have pretty good protection because of some of my projects, and I thought it was unlikely that he would have the balls to come anywhere near me anyway.

But thanks to the magic of the internet and algorithms ... this morning he popped back into my life. Should I forgive him? No. Should I name and shame him? Why bother.

Anyone with access to Google can find out within minutes that he's a "journalist" (and I use that term loosely because he's not a shining example of a profession full of talented individuals).

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