2019. Writing what needs to be said.
(Women Harnessing Online Activity)
I want to share something that happening to me over the course of 2017/2018 that involves calling out disturbing online behaviour and how it impacted me. I feel is my responsibility as a woman in the feminist movement to speak openly about this experience; in the hope that the status quo will be moved; that there will be a cosmic shift in how women are treated online; and how this shift will positively impact our real lives. The incidious nature in which women are being profiled, stalked and manipulated through social media platforms is pathological behaviour; and the only way to stop this behaviour is to expose and interrupt it.
IF IN DOUBT TALK IT OUT
Due to the experience I have dealt with, I have had to undergo a process of greif, resolve, patience to deal with the hyper-criticism, cold manipulation, exploitation, subsequent harrassment and emotional trauma. This has been met with understanding whilst I rebuild elements of my intuition that were assaulted during this period.
I want to share with you my experience, and the extend of this manipulative behaviour, to show how the internet and social media can be abused. I want you to look beneath the surface of these behaviours, and make sure you ask about the real relationships in peoples lives. Had I done this. I would have noticed that this person was intentionally isolated. He chose to move from group to group, dependent on what resources and personal gains he could aquire and manipulate. He found personal pleasure investigating women through social media, infiltrating and disrupting their lives, and then quickly moving on to the next woman without thinking of the subsequent consequences of his actions.
My ex-partner 'found' me on Facebook and began contact. I learnt later that at this point in time he was coming out of a relationship, and was looking for the next woman he would move on to. He messaged me, and also made contact with a friend of mine at the same time, with undoubtedly the same trajectory.
He had applied for an exhibition opportunity advertised within an arts organisation I run. I accepted his proposal and artwork for the exhibition. He never turned up to the exhibition. He later told me he hadn't turned up because 'he wasn't ready to meet me'. I was under the impression at this point he was an artist that needed a platform and was not trying to establish a personal relationship – it was all purely professional. He continued to message me on Facebook and ask me questions about why I do the work that I do.
I put a call out for a use of equipment online, he answered. He wouldn't leave it somewhere for me to pick up, I had to meet him. I then used the equipment and tried to return it to him, but the same thing happened; he wouldn't let me leave it somewhere safe and convenient for him to pick up, I had to meet him. He turned up at my solo performance. I had no knowledge of this, he never mentioned it, a friend told me of it a lot later. By this point, he and his girlfriend have split up.
He turned up at a meeting for my organisation. He decided to sit right next to me. Up until this point we had still never had a full face-to-face conversation.
He had not made clear of his intentions for being there to establish a personal realtionship, he ket quiet this alternate agenda, as well as the fact he had profiled me online before meeting me.
So, at this point we have met. I take his equipment back to him. We have a conversation. Again, I'm under the assumption that he is an artist wanting to establish a professional network; not aware of any alterier motives. He has now also connected to me via Instagram, and he sent me a message to ask me out on a date. I accept.
We were now in a relationship. I was still not aware of the social media profiling he had done on me, or that I had been researched targeted. He showered me with care and attention. We were seemingly the 'perfect match'. We trauma bonded over our past relationships. He told me his ex-girlfriend was crazy and abusive; as well as his girlfriend before her. (I find out this was all untrue after we break up). During this time, I confided in him about my experience of being in an abusive relationship.
DECEMBER 2017 to JULY 2018:
Our relationship continued. He told me I was the love of his life. He continued the narrative about his abusive ex-girlfriend even when the things didn't seem to add up. We had a series of challenges. He ended up living in my house. He never offered rent or to pay for anything – including food. I asked him to stop bringing things back to my house, he continued. He left his dog's excrement outside my front door. He rarely cleaned himself, or any of our shared belongings. He dissapeared into the night, sometimes he didn't return home. He was private with his phone. During this time, I find out he had been using my network of friends to message them and sell 'things' to them (they had not asked, it was all unwarranted though messages on Fcebook and in person). He would also search his ex-girlfriend via Facebook, at my house, in front of me. He had fed a narrative to his parents that I am unstable (related to having severe menstral cramps).
A series of events lead me to ask for a weeks break from him to clear my head. I had been in hospital for a minor procedure, and I was appalled by his lack of empathy when I was medically vulnerable. He was cold, measured and cruel to me. He did not even offer to make me a cup of tea when I had returned from hospital, let alone cook me a meal. He had been feeding me continued false information, and my intuition was in knots. He began to start his online behaviours again. He started following and messaging a series of 22-25 year old brunette women on Instagram. I challenge him on his behaviour, but he did not reply. He began messaging and commenting on their photos regularly (by this point we were still in a relationship).
We subsequently broke up later that day, when he refused to reply to my messages or answer my calls, but he was steadily using his phone to further profile women on Instagram. Later that evening, he messaged a friend of mine (that he did not know, had only met very briefly) trying to flirtaciously persuade her to invite him over to her house. She refused.
He chose to ignore and answer my messages requesting him to retrieve his belongings, or to return my house keys. I had to go to his place of work to ask for the keys back; whilst there I asked him why he was messaging unknown women on Instagram.
He replied: 'what women?…I don't know what you're talking about…'
I showed him a screenshot of the evidence. His activity had been exposed.
I blocked him on all social media channels. I removed him from online Facebook groups which he was party to and exploiting. I found out about his exhibiting behaviour in my home town such as unwarranted loitering, delusional comments, and comments against my family.
He blocked my number. He told his family that I was harassing him, and messaged my friends and family asking them to 'check up on me', under the proviser I was 'mentally unwell'. He contacted all of my friends to explain my 'mental unstability' and what was 'happening to me' – of course this fell on deaf ears, as they knew the reality of the situation; but this was challenging for both them and me none the less.
Remember what they did to women in victorian times?, yeah – basically that.
I messaged one of the girls he was making consistent repeated contact with, to warn her of his behaviour. I was humiliated to do it; but I couldn't stand the possibility another woman would go through what I went through.
After our break up, I heard from people within my local community say the following statements:
'Yeah, this is what he does to women'
'Yeah, I've always known he's done that, but he's been perfectly nice to me'
'It's a shame, we liked you! You were much older than his other girlfriends?'
It is not flattering for strangers to begin establishing relationships with you online. It is a space that is unmoderated, and sometimes dangerous.
Ask yourself: would you think it was flattering if it was happening to your daughter? If, at 22, a 33 year old man with a history of pathological behaviour began trying to gain her trust, based on profiling her online, and 'turning up' in her life, saying all the right things (because he's researched her). Waiting, patiently for more information to work his way in.
I will not accept these behaviours. I will not remain silent. The revolution is in my skin, my bed, my bones. The revolution is in my heart and it begins at home.
WHOA is harnessing your power in online spaces. Remembering it is not flattering, it is not romantic, it is not acceptable to repeatedly treat womens Facebook profiles as an online catalogue. I will not see it happening in my community without openly speaking about it.
And if you're having a WHOA moment? Ask your friends about it. Do your research. Recently I went on a few dates with someone. I stopped myself and thought what have I learnt from last year. I looked at who he was 'following' on instagram. 85% of his followers were young women. Similar interests. Not magazines, not funny profiles. Just women. I subsequently have unfollowed him from social media, and have chosen to no longer have contact with him.
DON'T FALL APART - GET SMART
No one is moderating these spaces for this activity. Take ownership. ASK QUESTIONS. We are worth so much more than this. Men should be held accountable for their actions.
I am counting down the hours, minutes, seconds, until misogyny is recognised as a hate crime.
Love, Light and Safe Spaces to All <3