Monday, November 17, 2014

(Series Piece 6) Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Column - Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime

Written by: Anna Kavanaugh, Syndicated Columnist
Published for syndication by: The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

"It’s you. Not me.”

This is just one of the psychological manipulations that cyber-abusers use to posture control over their victims. But, they’re wrong.

A study of the mentality and inner mechanisms that lie beneath the manifestations of the deviant and criminally minded behaviors executed by a cyber-abuser can be an intimidating and downright frightening experience. That is, until we begin to recognize the pathological commonality seen in all cyber-abusers that really makes these individuals seem rather ordinary. There is nothing unique about any of them and their predictability can be easily measured. They employ the same tactics and display the same triggered responses seen in their tell-tale escalation of abuse, and their deflective reaction to being exposed for that abuse. Once this is understood they become much less scary, which often allows victims to maintain a higher level of emotional strength for a longer period of time. But tragically, for many victims of cyber-abuse, this understanding does not come before they have fulfilled suicide as a means to escape the trauma they have endured. The relentless abuse and resulting damages sustained by a victim will eventually begin to erode their sense of spirit and scar them with profound wounds to their soul. By the time a victim seeks the desperate relief of physical death, they have already died. The act of suicide becomes only a means to an end of their ongoing pain and suffering.

Cyber-abuse is a cruel act of dehumanization. This is a commonly seen trait among online abusers but is not a conscious process, rather an instinctual one. It is an inherent part of abuser pathology. The dehumanization of a victim allows an abuser to cast aside all human decency, morals, and compassion, and entitles them to simply ignore all governing laws. They strip a victim of individuality and identity; thereby justifying what is heinous and illegal behavior. By denying a victim to hold any level of human quality, abusers can then effectively manipulate a set of conditions in which to steal and bring a figurative end to the life of their target prey. It is the pinnacle we see among cyber-abusers of both cowardice and insecurity, ironically masked by an arrogantly self-inflated sense of power and influence. Cyberspace becomes their own personal domain where in their warped perception they can rule omnipotent and go unchallenged in whatever behavior they display. In their minds, they truly believe they deserve to abuse, humiliate, violate, defame, and assault the human dignity of their victims.

Cyber-abuse is selfish at its motivated core. Once abusers excuse themselves from behaving within the socially accepted norm, they are then enabled to equivalently commit virtual theft, assault, rape and murder without contemplation or remorse. In this vigilante or blood sport world they create, they derive an incredible amount of addictive pleasure from the pain and damage they inflict on their victim. The more they hurt, the more they want to hurt. The more they damage, the more they need to damage. This is what makes them so very dangerous and willing to go to any lengths to fulfill their purpose or feed their motivations. A dehumanized victim of cyber-abuse is in grave danger psychologically and physically because, to an abuser, their victim is an expendable life.  It is only a game piece with which to play and to feed the frenzy of their pathological need to destroy by causing as much pain as possible.

Similar to dehumanizing their victim, cyber-abusers separate themselves from their own identity through a process known as deindividuation. This is another tool used to deflect from personal responsibility and accountability for their inhuman online behavior. It is an anti-social and anti-normative function. In psychological terms, it is theorized that in the process of deindividuation, abusers experience a detachment from the inner compass that guides and dictates what is and is not acceptable behavior in society. Once detached, an abuser is then uninhibited and free in their vitriolic abuse without restraint. To justify this internally, abusers merely detach from the responsibility of their actions by subconsciously convincing themselves they are not responsible for them. As if they are having an out of body experience. This is also prevalent in mobbing mentality where we see abusers become part of a virtual vigilante or assault group. Deindividuation allows them to better fit in with the group and participate in collective behaviors. This contributes to their false sense of anonymity and a diffused responsibility in which they believe they cannot be singled out or blamed for their actions.

In daily life, we all hold our own sense of identity. That identity is confirmed and reinforced by those around us, such as family, friends, employers or colleagues. We are acutely aware of how we are relating to other people because the potential consequences to us if we behave badly keep us operating within the boundaries of the accepted set of standards enforced by the non-vocalized rules of social communication and interaction. This explains how cyber-abusers can be so barbaric and brutal online, even to the point of goading someone into fulfilling suicide, yet can be law abiding and seemingly decent people to interact with in the physical realm.

The effects of cyber-abuse are violent and they are real. They bridge the gap between the virtual world and the physical realm. Cyber-abusers exploit various social network services by using these online platforms as a virtual game board or battleground. Here, they lose their sense of reality. They dehumanize and deindividuize their victim. They do this to justify using the lives of others as game pieces in what is a twisted virtual video game of sorts, where the aim is to kill and points are collected in the deliberate demolition of their prey.

So you see…. it’s not you. It really is them.

But sadly, the ramifications to the victim of this virtual game manifest themselves in the real world. And it doesn't get more real than being so emotionally hurt and psychologically traumatized that fulfilling suicide becomes the only way to end the game.

Cyber-abuse kills. Game over.


  1. Very good evaluation.

  2. This was rather an interesting read. It's almost as if people who do this cyber abusing suffer from a form of mental illness like sociopathy or psychosis would you say then?