Thursday, February 7, 2008

Katamari and an egg crate.

My little puppy decided she wanted to anger her brother constantly, so we came up with a new toy on the spur of the moment.


Internet Harassment & Me.

This is a very personal account and pondering - a looking-back if you will -- on events that actually happened in my life some years ago. If you don't agree with any of it I can't stop your mind from running off the beaten path - but hey. I'm telling it just like it was, clearly as I can and without hiding any wrongdoing on my part (even if it was just standing up for myself while I was being attacked). It was a bad time for me when all of this happened, just so you all understand.

I'm bipolar. Very severely so: to the point of I have very real problems holding a job (I don't currently have one) and even leaving the house some days. I've been this way for as long as I remember and it's my way of life to battle every day as best I can without the mind-numbing drugs of my youth (my folks did "what they thought was best for me" back then). I don't say this to excuse anything, nor do I say it to evoke pity. Just to clear up some issues right at the start: ordinary things like someone saying "you suck" in an email can crash my day if I'm having a bad moment. Later on I might look back and laugh but when I'm in a severe down even the way I said goodbye to someone that morning may be an agonizing debate within my head all day as I try to sort out how I could have done it better.

The type of personality that usually gets hit the hardest from harassment like I suffered is the artistic person, a sensitive person. You have to realize that the person harassing you has no right to treat you that way at all. Don't try and look inward and reason with them and/or yourself. Don't think: "Did I really deserve this?" You didn't. No. They'll keep trying if they're as persistent as my attackers were and you can't afford the luxury of self-doubt.

What happened to me was simple. I had moved out of my folks' house and was living with a batch of people in a bad neighborhood. I was with someone that I later learned didn't love me at all and had no one to reach out to. I had no outlet except my artwork but no one to share it with.

And then I discovered the internet.

I found that I could vent all my frustrations by creating a pseudo-man that really did care for me and treated me as I wished and needed to be treated. Also I could have friends there: I didn't need to leave the house (and I couldn't, as my then-beau had 'stolen' my car). I focused on the current obsession of my life: Pocket Monsters, drawing small bits of fan art and creating a website with stories of myself as the fursona "L4J". This was my very first taste at any role-playing and story-writing for fun, although I had written professional erotica before and it seemed that that was where the fan fics were taking me.

Being starved sexually for months at a time from my "beau" - who liked to abuse me by doing things like that and who apparently never cared for me at all in any real way -- this was the only outlet I had. I wanted to be "faithful" to him, but if my needs weren't being met and I couldn't even get his attention by talking or throwing myself on him, what was I to do? Writing the stories helped but having others share them gave them meaning. As I was being abused at home, so the abuse crept into my stories: first the love interest of James (Kojiro) gave way to Butch (Kosaburo), who became violent to the point of physically hurting my character. But all in all, L4J was getting what Michelle wanted: notice. Not only notice and attraction by members of the fan community, who thought my concepts were interesting and liked my artwork, but by the characters within the stories and art themselves.

L4J gave way to "Elly" (notice the wordplay on the names there) and eventually I settled on a character that, for me, was the essence of what I desired. Calm, with a soothing voice and not a female-monger, I picked Tracey Sketchit (Kenji) as my ultimate "man" to write about. His very presence became one to hide behind, as things crashed down around my ears.

One of my most beloved pets died that I'd spent $1,000 trying to save
I started to faint from panic attacks again
My folks refused to take me back unless I got a job and held it for years
I had to quit several jobs before they fired me because of my illness
I didn't have a car to even get to a job if I got one (I'd had to rely on friends before)
The sexual abuse was worse and even when we did consummate, it was never for me, it was for him

...the list went on. Consequently, my attraction to (and obsession with) Tracey became stronger. I was quite arguably the largest fan on the internet, with thousands of screen shots of him on TV, quotes, merchandise I'd bought with eBay-sourced funding, and more. My rpg character married him on my ezBoard (bulletin board system, now moved to Yuku). That's when it started, I believe.

It began with emails. "Shut down your website".

Irrational idea #1: "I don't like it, so you need to stop."
Internet harassment usually stems from this plain and simple idea that someone has. They don't like what you're doing. They want you to quit doing it. There is no reason you should if you're not harming anyone else.

As if they had a right to tell me what to do on my own website. And truly, they believed it! That's the oddest part about this, and if you really want to understand the mind of a Troll or Flamer, that's where they're coming from. The ones that fight for a purpose really believe what they're saying and nothing can convince them otherwise. Don't think you can fight them, because I tried - not knowing that it's what they wanted. A game of sorts. Sitting at home in their cozy, comfy little mom-and-dad bought 2-story house, television with cable and everything they could desire, this is what they chose to do with their time. They harassed me. The emails got worse: they slandered my art, saying it was badly drawn and it really sucked, they read all my stories and said I also stunk at writing. They attacked as much of my art and writing as they could as hard as they could, feeling that surely, it would break me down into tears and I'd take it all down.

When that didn't work, the emails got more ominous.

Irrational idea #2: "I can reason with them."
The harasser(s) will not listen to you, even if you have infallible evidence that the world isn't flat.

And I tried reasoning with them, you see. I know it doesn't work. Told them I was a 23 year old female that was an artist: I'd had things published and I knew my art wasn't that bad. I tried to tell them that if they didn't like what they saw, to please just leave and don't read or view anything else. Sent copies of internet "freedom" laws to them. Anything and everything within the ideals of human ingenuity I tried and tried and tried.

Don't try, if this ever happens to you. Just block their email after reporting it to their ISP - Internet Service Provider -- as harassment. Because when the emails got worse, they got incredibly bad. I was threatened to be reported to internet "safety sites" as a pedophile and even to the cops in my town at one point. They stuck very firm to the fact that I was a pedophile, you see. Just because of course I'd have to be, liking anime as I did. Because anime is for kids and Tracey was 11 years old.

Well. I saw (and still see him) as whatever age I wish him to be. And that would be legal, by the way. Nowadays I even draw him with a tiny bit of facial hair on his chin for further proof of his age. And even then he wasn't 11...not that it mattered because he's not real. That's another thing the attackers harped on: the fact that he's not "real", so I can't "have him". Not like it mattered on their fan pages, where they wrote copious amounts of self-insert fics. No, he was real to them, but just not for me because they were jealous.

This is something you have to also realize about abusers like this. They're jealous and want to hurt you. For the most part, this is true. In some way they are envious: whether it's because you draw or write well, or because you like the same character they like...whatever. Don't stoop to their level. Ignore them. I can't say it enough. IGNORE THEM. It works. It's the only thing that does.

I finally began to see the light and did just that: I ignored the emails. I ignored the guest book flames, the nasty comments on my ezBoard. I blocked all their email addresses I knew of and for a tiny while this seemed to stave off the harassment. Meanwhile, in real life, I'd managed to get a job and was struggling to earn enough to leave the apartment and move back in with my folks. The atmosphere was terrible: my "beau" and I had even invited a few people from my ezBoard over at one point and he'd ignored me and tried to hit on one of my friends! I didn't realize this was happening. In retrospect I do; he was a pervert and a true pedophile and I hope he's changed his ways. I lost that friend and a few others all because I was blind to what was happening, but I can only chalk it up to experience now.

Anyway, while I was at my parents, trying to convince them to let me back in and also getting a breather from that nasty hell hole I lived in, I turned on their computer to view my site.

I'd been hacked.

The front of it now showed a picture of Tracey giving "me" the middle finger, with a big holier-than-thou statement about how my site sucked and the smallest of them could draw better than me, so they took it over. They had hacked my email, which, at the time was my only email. I used that for my credit card, my eBay account, everything I needed. The little batch of 15 year olds had actually banded together to "get" me off the 'net. I was later told all of this by one person (the only male) in their group that actually had a twinge of guilt and gave me my password back.

Irrational idea #3: "It's become a crusade, and I have to fight to the 'win'."
Who's the bigger person - one that drops something for a little while, until it cools down and they can have fun again: or the one that sticks it out and has his or her blood pressure go through the roof every 5 seconds?

Sadly, I kept right on going. I should have just given up the internet and relaxed for a few weeks until it all blew over (or hopefully did). But this made me angry. Angrier than I'd ever been. Crying at night over little things was normal for me but now everything was a "big thing". I'd been pregnant when the hacking had occurred and my then-beau hadn't let me tell me mother. I was suffering horribly because I despise babies and never wanted one and I was in mortal dread of actually having an abortion because I hate surgery. I had no one to turn to. No one...except Tracey. And these little brats were trying to take my one mental refuge away simply because they "didn't like" what they saw. Because they didn't want me to have him...even though they could just walk away and not view any of my pages again! They didn't have issues like I did. They could maybe have problems, but they were at least safe at home with their folks. They didn't have to worry about the kind of things I did all the time. So I fought back. I drew and wrote hentai - very explicit stories. I slammed the fact home that no one was going to stop me.

What happened next? Nothing exciting really. I eventually stopped bothering with it all. Lost interest, one might say. I let Elly Sketchit die because of the bad memories associated with her. I decided that I needed a new handle and lease on life, and you know what? When I did that I actually started getting better. I found a man that actually cared for me. We got married and I have accomplished a lot on my own and with him as well. I learned a lot from all the crap I went through. Sometimes "fighting back" isn't a good way to get what you want done. It makes things worse.

Besides, Elly's back. She never went all the way away, nor can anyone take her from me. She's a part of who I am.