Internet Harassment And You – A Guide

I’ve written this guide before in various places, but it bore reposting here. It’s mostly WoW-specific, since most of us play WoW, but if people have specific questions regarding non-WoW harassment, you can contact me directly.

I am here to discuss with you why harassment is never right, what you can do to help yourself, and with some additional, new information on writing tickets to get max benefit from GMs in-game.

What Is Harassment?
I know it is hard to think of just someone random saying or doing something stupid to you as harassment, but if it makes you uncomfortable, it is absolutely harassment. Sometimes harassment is isolated; sometimes it is on-going and continuous. Sometimes it is someone you know. A lot of times it isn’t. Maybe it is a former guildmate, a PVP buddy or a random level 1. Someone from your current raid team. Recent/former significant other. It can be anyone, it isn’t just people you don’t know. A lot of times it is people you know, and maybe even trust.

Here is how Blizzard defines it: Blizzard’s Harassment Policy.
Notice how not all things that are defined as “harassment” are spoken – a lot of them have to do with spamming, zone disruption and things like that. Those absolutely should be reported as well, but I am going to focus on the more personally scary/harmful portions of harassment. These are things that focus on making you feel upset/uncomfortable – sexually explicit messages, vulgarity, calling you explicit names or making fun of some essential part of your real life character (race, religion, orientation, gender, etc.)

Besides just being harmful in speaking to you, harassment can also occur if someone is trying to impersonate you for the purposes of defaming you or tricking people into thinking it is you. (Like rolling an alt with the exact same spelling of your name and trolling Trade Chat.) Harassment also incurs a harsher penalty if it is done in a public channel such as Local Defense, General, Trade or Looking For Group.

What Do I Do About It?
This is the real crux of the process.

First off, always take it seriously.
If it isn’t clear to you what is going on, ask for clarification. But in most times, it is fairly clear that this is a serious attempt to make you upset and should be treated as such. I know we get a lot of confusing messages as women (and even as men) that we are supposed to take this “with a straight face” or that they are “just words on the internet” but I assure you that if they make you upset, you have the right to be upset and do something about it. So always take it seriously.

Tell the person(s) that this is unwanted, very clearly, and ignore them.
The only communication (which I’ll touch on in a bit) you should have with someone who does this or says something gross or rude is to tell them that this is unwanted, tell them NO! and to stop. And then put them on ignore. That is the only interaction you should have with them if they are harassing you. I know it is super-tempting to fight back, to troll them, show you’re not upset, but it is not helpful when it comes to eventually ticketing to GMs. Be short, clear and put them on ignore immediately. If they are someone you know – take them off your friends list, take them off RealID, and if it is someone in  your guild or raid, alert a trusted officer immediately that this is what you did and why if it will cause problems for having someone on ignore.

Examples for telling someone that this is unwanted:
That message was rude and I would like you to stop. Do not contact me again.
This conversation is inappropriate and is not to continue. Please do not contact me further.

— then ignore. —

Putting the person on ignore is pretty much what I’ve gotten boilerplate from any GM I’ve spoken to in-game, and it is very solid advice. Why is this? Because putting someone on ignore who goes around to circumvent it (escalating the abuse) on a level 1 or another alt only incurs a lot more punishment. It also shows that you made every good faith attempt to resolve the situation yourself (in a very neutral way) and it didn’t work. If harassment stops here, great! A lot of times it doesn’t, however.

Document, Document, Document!
Even if something is a one-off attempt to harass you, always document it. Document every single time harassment occurs to you. Enable chat timestamps in-game or use a chat mod (ChatterWIM are two popular ones, especially for tracking whispers) with time-stamps and the ability to read whispers or other channel messages clearly.

My personal favorite is that I create a chat window specifically for whispers – Go to your general chat tab, go to “Create New Window” and label it “Whispers” and then when it is created, go to the tab > Settings, and only check off “Whispers” and “RealID” whispers. This makes is easy to isolate whispers and realID messages.

It is very, very important when it comes to reporting harassment that you have documentation for every single time it happens if only because knowing who said what, when and where can be crucial in creating a case for someone. Take screenshots for your own records if you have trouble remembering things or if you do not have time to sit down and write a ticket immediately. While GMs do not usually accept screen-shots, it is good to keep it in case this goes outside of WoW as well.
Chat mods are also really helpful in that they allow you to copy-paste any chat text (even channels like Trade) into a ticket.

Reporting and Ticketing a GM
This is where it gets a little confusing and scary! Ticketing a GM is hard sometimes because it feels very serious and what if nothing happens? Trust me, things will happen. But making a GMs job easier will make the process even smoother. Some key things to remember here in terms of what to actually SAY will be easier if you remembered to document.

Ticket harassment every single time it occursEvery single timeAs soon as you possibly can. Lumping up a bunch of incidents or waiting may seem like a good idea to “prove” that someone has been a big deal but GMs have their own way of tracking this. So making tickets clear and precise about every single incident makes their job easier. Reporting it often and early makes it easier to track.

ALWAYS INCLUDE: Character name, time and date. If you can’t ticket when the harassment immediately occurs (which makes finding what was said easier for GMs) including these things makes it easier to track and find. These are the most essential pieces of information for a GM ticket and almost everything else is not important. Only other pieces of information that you should possibly include other GMs you have spoke to (if this is continuous), if this message was spoken in whispers or a channel/guild, and that you put the person on ignore. If this is on-going, clearly state that this is on-going harassment.

That’s it. Don’t include what you were doing, or any extraneous information. This just makes it harder to figure out what was going on.

Example tickets:
I received a harassing whisper from Bloobloo (Cenarius-PVE) at 4:50 AM, on 7/26/2011. This person has contacted me before. I have put them on ignore but they rolled a level 1 alt. I spoke to GM Stradavarius prior about this. This is on-going harassment.

Dumbdumb (Saurfang-PVP) was trying to impersonate me in Trade Chat, using sexually explicit language at 3:45 PM, on July 27th, 2011. I have put them on ignore.

Since the last time I wrote a harassment guide, now has the feature to include any and all tickets you file under your account (which is why is a good idea to report harassment from the same account if you happen to have more than one) so that you can see what you said, when you said it, who answered it and what they said. It also means you can screenshot your page in case you need to take this outside of WoW.

It looks like this:
Notice that there is a spot for images, so if you would like to attach a screenshot, I suppose that is where you would do it.

To find your tickets on your page – log into your account, go to the Support Tab, and then Tickets. It has all of them listed there.

After you have reported (and every time you have reported something), you will have that ticket show up there as well as receive an e-mail saying the same thing.

What happens if you get a boilerplate auto-message from a GM regarding harassment or a auto-response that doesn’t seem to apply? It could be that your ticket wasn’t clear on it being harassment. Re-ticket. Keep ticketing until you talk to a GM. This is important. You are important. However, writing clear tickets is a good way to get a good, fast GM reponse.

What happens now?
Well, hopefully it stops. GMs can’t tell you what happens, obviously, but know that you reporting makes it more likely that these dumbheads get caught or punished. It is likely that you are not the only person they feel like targeting if they are repeat offenders and it will catch up to them. But continue putting people on ignore, ticketing and remaining calm.

If this moves into non-WoW related harassment, knowing the statutes regarding harassment in your state or the states involved is good. Getting in touch with the police to report the harassment and reminding them of these statutes, also good. But be aware that a lot of people still don’t understand how internet harassment affects you. It was my own personal experience that the police sometimes don’t take you seriously unless the person is up on your doorstep with a knife. However, reminding them that you use the computer every day means that this person IS on your figurative “doorstep” when they actively comment on the things you do. Keep trying and don’t give up. Getting a police report down is a really good step if you have to move forward into legal action or restraining orders. If the person goes on to post your full legal name, your address, your Social Security number or other legally identifying information about you, as well as concretely stating they are going to do something to you, this is a THREAT and needs to be reported immediately to the police. 

Some Helpful Things to Remember:

1.) Always take it seriously. 
Like I said before, I know it’s our “assumed” place as women to just brush things off, to not get emotional about it. It’s your life and you don’t deserve it. You are an important, worthwhile person. Whether it’s whispers or trade chat or things people say in cross-server PUGs, always take it seriously. People who try to hurt you with words are in the wrong.

2.) It’s not your fault.
Harassment/abuse is not your fault. I know it is easy to blame yourself, that maybe if you had done things differently, you wouldn’t be in this situation. But it is not your fault someone responded to whatever happened in an inappropriate, gross way. Ever. No matter what you said, or did, or thought you did. A lot of times people will harass you for no other reason than being there at the wrong time, or the wrong sort of person to them. There’s nothing you can do to make yourself less or more of a victim, and don’t listen to people who say that you can. Being a victim is because someone wants to hurt you and that’s wrong. It is always their fault for harassing you. It isn’t just words, it isn’t just “lol internet” and if it affects you, then that’s all that matters. And you can always DO something about it, but don’t feel guilty if you’re scared or terrified. They intend to scare you. That’s what they want. It is very brave to report them, and that’s awesome. *hugs*

3.) Support Structure
Telling other people might seem antithetical but I have to personally say having a strong friendship network is a way to escape the misery from someone invading your life, especially if this is someone you are close to or personally know. A lot of times, people try to shame you into being quiet, hurt, and having friends have your back can do wonders. Having someone to just listen to you vent can make the process easier. And always know that a lot of us in the WoW community are open to listening and supporting you too. You’re never alone. There’s always trusted officers in your guild, GMs, your friends, your family, your pets and the police. Have faith. This won’t go on forever. Trust me.

If anyone ever, ever wants to contact me privately regarding this post or about WoW harassment, I can be contacted.

What if someone I know is being harassed?

Let them know that you are there for them. Be a supportive friend – whether that means listening to them be upset or leaving them alone, as the case may be. Gently remind them that reporting is useful, but don’t be forceful about it. Taking the step to report something is on the shoulders of the person being harassed and can be really scary/upsetting. Feeling pressured from friends can feel stressful.  However, if this is something you see publicly in guild chat or a public channel, absolutely ticket! A lot of things go on publically

Harassment and Victim Blaming:

It is unfortunate that we have to write these sorts of posts. It is unfortunate that people have to go through this. It is doubly unfortunate, as evidenced by comments I’ve seen at WoW Insider, wow_ladies, that people still like blaming a harassment victim. No one deserves this abuse from people. Blaming a harassment victim is disgusting and wrong. There’s often a lot more at play than just “putting someone on ignore” or “stop letting someone’s words affect you” or that “it’s just a game.” It isn’t just a game. It is people saying very real, hurtful things to another person. It is using someone’s emotions and experiences against them, and over what? Something they said in-game? A real or imagined slight? A fight? Just because they are gay/woman/person with disabilities/a certain race? It’s NEVER okay. Never, ever, ever!

If you think that harassing someone in-game is a good way of “getting back at them” – just stop. It’s not. Grow up and find a productive outlet for your anger. And it can often have very real legal consequences if you take it too far.

If someone tells you to stop talking to them, respect them.

Harassment will not end until the end of human malice, unfortunately. What we can do is educate ourselves, support our fellow peers and practice safe and respectful Internet behavior – respecting people’s privacy and autonomy, assisting our friends and supporting them, and knowing that there’s help if we need it.

Thanks and have a great day in World of Warcraft, ladies (and lurking gents.)

Helpful Links:

WoW Insider – (Lawbringer) Internet Harassment and You

How to Report Cybercrime

Cyberstalking and Online Harassment

Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying and Cyberharassment Laws in Every State