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, Battle.net now has the feature to include any and all tickets you file under your Battle.net account (which is why is a good idea to report harassment from the same battle.net 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: http://i.imgur.com/EYcyW.jpg
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 Battle.net page – log into your B.net 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

 

WoW Celebrity, Twitter, and the Problem of Victim-Blaming

Paris Hilton wearing a bra and garter belt at a party.

This was linked on Crendor's Twitter last night. It is the first image you get when you GIS "Paris Hilton whore".

If anyone was paying attention to Twitter last night, it was a blood bath.  A fairly well-known WoW machinima creator by the name of Crendor (aka WoWCrendor) decided last night to use Twitter as his personal platform to berate women who dress like “whores.”  What surprised me the most was not that his fans jumped up to support him but the sheer number of people who Tweeted or re-Tweeted things that myself and others were saying about how sexist and victim-blaming he was. Instead of initially apologizing for the whole thing, he got wildly indignant and decided to dig the hole deeper, including tying a woman’s dress to the amount of times she gets creeped, abused or cheated on. Sound suspiciously familiar?

WoWCrendor finally pushed out an apology later, with little to no self-awareness of what he actually did wrong or why that train of thought was so damaging and promptly deleted most of the tweets. I have them all saved here if people wish to see them in the unvarnished light of day. I’m really disappointed by this as he was one of my favorite movie creators by far. I felt like he wasn’t one of the douchebags that randomly populate every aspect of gaming culture.

Now, I’m not writing this article just to point fingers at Crendor. Goodness knows I did enough of that last night on Twitter. I think we all need to sit down as a community and think about what he said, why he said it and confront some really thorny issues.  Because Crendor isn’t just a bad dude who said this. A lot of dudes say this. A lot of gals do too. This right here, this train of thought is what directly contributes to rape, abuse and other forms of harassment being so hard to punish for, because societally, we feel the real instigator of all of these things is not the person who committed the act, but the person who was victimized. They wore the wrong thing, they said the wrong thing, they dared to be in an alley or a bar, I could go on. We’ve grown so used to believing that the woman in this scenario brought it on herself that there’s little to no mention about the person who is culpable – morally, ethically and legally.

What is this called? The actual term that gets used in most feminist circles is “victim blaming.”

Victim blaming occurs when the victim(s) of a crime, an accident, or any type of abusive maltreatment are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them. Blaming the victim has traditionally emerged especially inracist and sexist forms.[1] However, this attitude may exist independently from these radical views and even be at least half-official in some countries.[2]

People familiar with victimology are much less likely to see the victim as responsible.[3] Knowledge about prior relationship between victim and perpetrator increases perceptions of victim blame for rape, but not for robbery.[4]

World of Warcraft is obviously a fictional world and a video game and we don’t all physically interact with eachother. So it might feel like a lot of what was said last night doesn’t really apply to my little blog, but it does. It’s very apparent if you read my blog that the feelings and mores that we have about the real world very often carry themselves into our virtual spaces. Not only do people we deem “celebrities” in our nerdy little niche of the Internet say terrible things about 50 percent of their possible fan-base, but we have to deal with victim-blaming inside the game, even. Victim-blaming is such a pervasive thought that at it’s weakest concentration, it is even a defense for bullying and trolling. Have you ever thought, “well, they were just asking for it” and then done something mean or rude? Yeah. It’s that too.

But let’s bring it back a little. I was stalked and harassed via World of Warcraft by someone in my friend circle. You might even say that we had a slightly friendlier-than-friends relationship. I dance around this because even though I have a restraining order against this person now, since he’s been harassing me via blogs, Twitter, and WoW for well over 3 years, I still know that there’s many people who will read this and say, “Well, didn’t you do XYZ with him? That’s why he’s doing this to you.” See? Why is the person who is sending me rape threats on a daily basis less culpable of harassment than me, the person who gets to put up with this abuse daily? See how illogical it is? Or did it not even occur prior to someone you know saying something like this for you to see that?

This is why I’m exceptionally annoyed with someone like Crendor using a platform that is public and open to his entire fanbase to directly spout victim-blaming and other sexist malarky. Because all it does is serve to reinforce some really scary ideas that, out in the wild, have managed to make it hard to report any sort of abuse or rape or harassment by the victim because of what the backlash will be. It’s even become so normalized that women should expect and understand that they will be hit on because they were dressing sexy. And that they should just deal with that. Why is it that when the crime becomes involved with sex or abuse that suddenly we don’t find the person who did those things responsible? We don’t say that the bank was “just asking” to be robbed by having all that money inside of its vaults.

I want WoW celebrities to rise out of the primordial ooze, much like everyone else in our culture, and stop putting the fault of a crime on the person who had the crime committed against them. I want people to stop using their status and their public forums to spreading the same garbage we hear every day. I want there to be repercussions and consequences for thinking this is an okay idea to espouse professionally. I want people to think about this in all areas of their life, from bullying to abuse, to rape and even stuff like just creeping on someone at a bar. Unhook your brain from its track of “they were asking for it” and think about “what can I do to stop this from happening to more people?” We can even try all we like to make people “less of the victims” as we have been for years, but we really need to focus our efforts on not creating new criminals and bullies.

Clothes are just clothes, Crendor. They are swatches of material we use to express ourselves. They do not, however, force a person to do something to them. They do not ask for things. They are garments we wear for various reasons. A woman should be allowed to wear what she wants and not be at fault when lots of dudes feel compelled to hit on her in a creepy way. Dudes should stop hitting on people in creepy ways and if you think that clothes have anything to do with it, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

(Note, the bridge is wearing pasties and a thong. Hope that helps.)