Monday, December 8, 2014

Anna Kavanaugh - Syndicated Columnist. Announcement

By David Simms, Senior Content Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

Announcement regarding Anna Kavanaugh's syndicated column, "Cyber Abuse: The Virtual Violent Crime." Please note that Ms. Kavanaugh is on holiday for the remainder of December and will be so until after the turn of the new year. We will resume publication of Anna's excellent column upon her return from the festive period. 

Happy Holidays. - David Simms

Monday, December 1, 2014

(Series Piece 8) 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

“Just get over it,” they say.

“Grow some thicker skin, you big baby” they taunt.

“Enough with your drama,” they sneer.

These are just a few of the dismissive remarks used by cyber-abusers to further degrade their victims. They use childish statements such as these as tools of manipulation in their mental warfare, to make a victim feel trivialized and ultimately silenced. Victims who try to resist or speak out against the abuse inflicted upon them can commonly expect to hear these juvenile barbs in response. This is only a predictable posturing measure dually deployed for both deflection and minimization. However, in the mind of a cyber-abuser, there is a pathological justification trigger that gives creed to the words they say. They cannot comprehend the severe ramifications of their brutal abuse or the repugnance of the defamation campaigns and false realities they create to deliberately destroy their target prey. Nor do they understand the calamitous aftermath their victims are left debilitated by in the physical realm. Only if a cyber-abuser were to experience the trauma, injustice, damage, and personal violation of a public assassination campaign, would they understand that “letting it go,” does not apply. A victim cannot simply “move on,” from a cyber-abuse campaign. This is because, in the public domain, a smear campaign can propagate indefinitely, making the resulting damages to a victim’s life a perpetual crisis from which they feel there is no escape and no recovery. And that is precisely why we see so many of them turn to suicide seeking desperate relief from the ongoing trauma they sustain.

Cyber-abusers are essentially a virus, or perhaps an even more accurate way to describe them would be to compare them to weeds. A weed is an aggressive, invasive, and valueless presence in the garden that bullies itself into position, steals vital nutrients from other selected plants they aim to weaken, and oppresses them through gradual suffocation in the grasp of its proliferative tentacles. This is not unlike the pathology and patterns of behavior we see exhibited in cyber-abusers time and time again. Much like a weed, they assert their inflated sense of supremacy over others though they are no more entitled, endowed, or enlightened to do so. They are not special. They are not omnipotent. They do not possess higher wisdom, nor are they somehow ordained with a stamp of righteousness and superior judgment. They are just another plant. One that desires to be acclaimed for being better than others. One that wants to be more than they know they are and can ever be. And one that is willing to slaughter another without remorse to secure the self-image and approval they have defined for themselves. Put simply, and it is really nothing new, the more they devalue another the more value they see in themselves. That is not only a pathetic existence those prone to commit cyber-abuse must live with inside themselves, it is also very sad. The more they dehumanize and destroy others, the more unattainable what they hope to achieve becomes. Unfortunately, this fact does little to help a victim caught in the wicked snare of a cyber-abuse campaign. There are no pesticides to eradicate a cyber-abuser or prevent the deliberate demolition of their victim’s life. As of now, there is no caring and concerned cyber-gardener whose mission is to protect their tender crop, though that certainly is the role social networks and site operators should recognize as being a responsibility that in large part falls to them.

If you are a victim of cyber-abuse, there are no easy answers… no easy avenues for finding relief. This I know all too well. I have been where you are, and in some ways I still am. I want to impress upon you how important it is to accept and trust the loving support of your friends and family, even if it feels they cannot fully understand what you are going through or the profound depth of your pain. I urge you to arm yourself with information, to understand the pathology of who your abuser is, and to reach out to others who are enduring or have endured and survived the soul-destroying agony of a cyber-abuse campaign. You are not alone... though I know it feels like it.

No one has the right to abuse the internet to abuse you. No one has the right to rewrite who you are. I want you to remember that you matter... although they want you to believe you do not. Know that you are not what they say or try to make others believe you are, and that your life belongs to you, not to them. If you find yourself at the end of that dark alleyway looking suicide square in the face, stop and contemplate the reality of what you feel driven to do. If you fulfill suicide, they defeat you. You surrender your God-given life and your right to live it, to them. They do not deserve to be rewarded for the barbaric abuse they have so relentlessly and criminally assaulted you with. Your death will not be a punishment to them, only a win in the sick and twisted game they devised to harm you. It will not be a grand statement that they will feel guilt-stricken over for the rest of their lives. They do not possess the capability or basic human decency to feel that kind of empathy, and they will only deflect any responsibility for the permanent decision you make.

As victims of cyber-abuse, we can learn from the silent wisdom of the plants in the garden. We must stand our ground, dig the roots of who we are firmly into the soil, go about our own business, and recognize the weeds for the petty thugs they are. And we must always reach for the sun. There will be a gardener who will accept the challenge and take on the responsibility they should. It may be Twitter. It may be Facebook. It may be due to legislative regulation imposed upon them. But one day, help will come and the weeds will be plucked at the root from the gardens they invade and tossed aside where they belong. It is only a matter of time. We just have to hold on until then. And as long as we do… then there is always tomorrow. There is always hope. Even when it feels like there isn't.

And next time, when your cyber-abuser mocks your suffering or demeans your pain and trauma with trivializing statements such as, “Move on,” or “Let it go,” just remember that is exactly what they want you to do. They want you to quietly accept the false reality they have created and sink into its despair. Never let go of who you are. Never let go of your life. Stand for the life that is yours, and do not ever allow them to rob you of it.

How do I know the builders and architects of our virtual world will eventually step up and take responsibility for the damage they are allowing their users to inflict on others? How do I know the social media networks will take effective measures to prevent cyber-abusers from continuing to exploit these platforms by using them as weapons to kill? How do I know that effective legislation will come to pass, enabling law enforcement to provide more immediate relief and recourse to online victims?

Because they have to: because too many men, women, and children have died in the fulfilling of victim suicide as a result of the virtual violent crime of cyber-abuse. Because too many will continue to die until we arrive at change.

And because what good is a garden if it only grows weeds?