Warning: this post contains descriptions of a graphic nature.
Currently a fund for the complainant in the Ched Evans case and for Rape Crisis England and Wales stands at around £23,000. I started it on behalf of a number of feminists and I have been working very hard to promote it so that as many women as possible are helped.
I do this against a very difficult backdrop. Most women who are working to help other women do. We can't do a single good act of feminist work without experiencing the dark side of male violence online.
In 2012 a man appeared on my Twitter notifications. He was a striking looking man and he had a long white beard in his avatar. His face has stayed with me because when I read his tweet I had to throw my phone far away from me. He informed me that my daughter, who was ten years old at the time, would be raped, many times, by numerous men. The men would have penes of different shapes, sizes and colours. I wasn't sure why race was an issue. The gang rape was still gang rape. He was a racist misogynist rather than "just" a misogynist.
Men who abuse women on the internet are a growing and pernicious problem. Most women have experienced some level of abuse online. Those who put "feminist" in their bio will have experienced a lot more than most and it will have been a lot more extreme.
I have experienced a high level of online abuse from thousands of men for quite a few years due to my feminist activity. Barely a day goes by without some man coming along to abuse me. A lot I don't see because I block very quickly and they continue to target me but I forget them instantly. I honestly can't remember all the rape threats and death threats. Though I do remember some, like the man with a very poor grasp of biology who wanted to rape me in my anus until I was pregnant and had a miscarriage. Or the one who wanted Ched Evans to rape me. Or the one who wanted me dead before he raped me. Some of them stick for different reasons. I think the one where I was dead was the most preferable.
One particular troll is quite something else though. I laugh at many of them as a way of coping. This one goes beyond the possibility of being a joke.
The "troll", or as I prefer, "woman abuser" has repeatedly harassed and stalked me. For more than two years. Every day. The intensity has been increasing and it has been life-changing.
He once posted a comment on his blog about how it would be good if someone turned up on my doorstep, waited until I smiled and then stabbed me to death in front of my daughter. He frequently posts that he is coming to see me. That he has walked past me in the street. That he is taking a plane and will be visiting my City very soon. He talks of his Stanley knife being at the ready.
He writes about my pets, my children, my ex-partner. He tries to name things that he thinks are relevant to my location and my family. He repeatedly posts pictures designed to harass me. He has made fun of friends who have died by saying they are burning in hell or "frying tonight". He joked online when in a weaker moment I expressed my emotion about a friend who has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. She is the woman dearest to me in the whole world. It nearly broke me in two that night. I was bereft at the news and he made it so very much worse. I know that he picks over everything I say. That he watches. That I can't possibly risk a picture of anything intimate to my life or he will "enjoy" it. He has talked of how he would rape me but my breasts are too small.
He talks of a night where I apparently attempted suicide and suggests I am mentally ill and neglect my child. He has said that I pass out drunk on my sofa and leave her crying alone.
None of this is true. I am a very caring and very able mother and I drink very little. I am very lucky indeed not to suffer with poor mental health. Especially after enduring a violent relationship. Many women are left with poor mental health after a man has abused them. I am very fortunate.
This man starts up to five Twitter accounts a day deliberately to harass me. Twitter tries to keep up with him and removes them but the effort of reporting is too much hassle and pointless these days. He has simultaneously run at least three blogs. All of them mention me. If I post anything online, or if anyone writes anything about me at all, he pounces on it immediately and starts trying to reveal my identity to them. He constantly tries to encourage others to come and harm me.
I long ago blocked the comments on my blog because he would appear there and post the name of a rape victim. He finds anything I post within minutes and will try to post something beneath it that threatens to reveal my identity or reveal the identity of others who for safety reasons want to be anonymous.
The catalyst for this extreme and obsessive behaviour was my objection to Ched Evan returning to Sheffield Utd before his conviction for rape was overturned. This man himself was once accused of rape though the case did not get to court. Even Ched Evans distanced himself from this troll publicly when it was clear that the media had linked them together.
He has repeatedly named complainants in rape trials. He has posted their names and photographs and has harassed the complainant in the Ched Evans trial relentlessly for the past five years. His blog was suspended during the recent trial of Ched Evans. He simply moved to another one.
I do laugh at him because in some ways he is laughable. Until you think of the dark side of him and the potential threat he is. I don't really know him or what he is capable of. He sounds dangerous and he might be.
I do try to laugh at all of the trolls. If you see my Twitter account I very rarely scream back. I screenshot and giggle at the most ludicrous comments. I don't know what else I can do.
Many of their comments reveal a total hatred of women. Many of them deny this and will offer up a shield if challenged. That shield will be a woman. "I can't be a sexist. See? I have this wife here under my arm!"
I have been to the police about the stalker man. The case has been passed forward to the CPS. There is a wealth of evidence against him. All carefully gathered and presented in the correct way. Let's see what the CPS does with a man that is this extreme.
Meanwhile what of the fund to help women? Well. How would I have time to look? Yesterday I was busy trying to promote it and gather more money for women and I arrived home late and tired and promising my partner I would put it to one side for a while and try to repair myself a bit. I said I would rest before battling on.
What happened? Today I turned on my computer mid-morning to find a Men's Rights Activist had targeted me and there were 563 notifications. The vast majority were abusive. The vast majority were harassing me for my feminist action. The man had directed his 16,000 followers to harass me. They enjoyed doing so in very graphic terms.
I wanted to thank the people donating to the fund. I wanted to tell them how grateful both I and the complainant and Rape Crisis are. I was unable to do that. Faced with hundreds of men screaming in my face about how terrible I am left me pretty weak for a while.
Then I got back on my feet. Women are always having to get back on their feet. Wouldn't it be lovely if one day we were safe in the knowledge that no man would try to knock us down?
[Shortly after writing this post I had to delete my Twitter account due to the abuse I received. I will get back on my feet but I might think carefully before putting them into Twitter]
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