This is a guest blog by my friend- Priyashmita Guha. Priyashmita is an active contributor to the startup ecosystem, opinionated, influential & voval about her stand on different issues. It’s her story of courage when faced with cyber abuse. Kudos to her grit & hope it inspires anyone else who is going through anything similar.
Don’t ever let the fear of shame stop you from speaking up. Read her story, in her own words.
I started my journey on social media quite some time back. Being a very vocal person, I found myself easily adapting to it. The initial period was fine. Facebook circle was friends, so did not experience any trolling. Twitter took some time. There was some trolling here & there but nothing major that could not be handled by someone as strong-minded as me.
And then I experienced the first serious trolling abuse. I had tweeted about Hindu- Muslim unity during Durga Puja & how all were welcome. The next 3 days I was severely trolled.
This is the link to that tweet- HERE
From rape threats, to abuses to calling my mom a slut and me a disgrace to my family/religion/nation, there was nothing that was not said.
I recall the first night I could not sleep. The attacks were non- stop and I did not know what to do. I responded to many, blocked a few others but then it did have an impact on me. For the first time I questioned myself, am I ready for this? The easy answer was of course to remove the tweet or leave twitter. But then I have rarely taken an easy route out for anything.
I decided to stay on and take on these guys.
Above anything else, it was about my principle.
Luckily a lot of journalists supported me. What transpired next was that a group of about 10 people (8 bengalis and 2 non bengalis) got together to respond to these trolls by doing exactly what they hated. We started a campaign #DurgaPuja4All whereby we spoke of how Durga Puja was a social festival encompassing all and invited every community to join us. The campaign became a hit and was covered by DNA.
The trolls were shocked. Some still continued their abuse but most were silenced. Cause they realised they had nothing to hit me with. I took them head on and they realised I was not alone. Moreover, I was not afraid. The campaign is entering its 3rd year this September and every year we have had more success than before. If there is one thing this taught me is that trolls will bully you till you stand up. Once you do, most will stop.
Since then my trolling had reduced, until the time I again took on a hatemonger on Twitter who was spreading hate against Muslims. The next attack was more severe.
They uploaded my picture on a porn site as revenge.
Moment I found out, I decided to contact the police. Again I had an option to leave Twitter but then I refused to cower down in front of bullies. It was not about me. It was about not giving them the power to do it to one more girl, cause every new victim who caves in, gives them more power.
I called up the Bangalore police. Luckily the ex Commissioner Mr Reddy who is now the DGP, was very helpful. Within 48 hours of submitting the complaint letter, the site was brought down. The police was not just helpful but also counseled me as to how this should not impact me. Honestly it did not.
My prestige doesn’t lie in some pictures doing the rounds. Even if they were morphed or nude, it would not impact me (it was not). My family did not think that I became any less a human being cause someone else played mischief with me. I did not think, my image got sullied cause someone else was a pervert. If anything, the blame and the shame lay with the pervert who had done it.
Not only did I refuse to leave twitter, I ensured that i tweeted on this topic to tell them I don’t care. They had no control on me after that. Their every weapon was failing. Most gave up. Many trolls ended up blocking me instead of the other way round. They knew they had no power on me and trolls survive on the power trip.
There were also other incidents in between. Once a troll told me that my mother was Hafeez Sayeed’s GF. I immediately tagged the IB and told them this guy seems to be Hafeez Sayeed’s close friend cause he knows who his GF is. Within 2 minutes this guy’s handle had disappeared. At every instance I realised the same thing. Trolls have power only when you give them that right. When you stand upto them, most will run away.
Today there are lots of laws supporting victims of trolling. The police is helpful and programs that Akancha does helps bring about lots of awareness that you can fight.
Before I go, I will tell you to remember two things – One, you are not alone and two, fight cause the shame is not yours. The shame if any is of the bully.
You can follow Priyashmita on @priyashmita on Twitter