Guest Post By: Tasniya Sultana
Today, I broke down crying. I cried for a good half an hour to 45 minutes because I felt as though I could feel the pain and frustrations of everyone who has been bullied or cyberbullied inside of me. And it’s because I am one of those victims. One of those voiceless and powerless victims whom the law does not consider worthy of giving help or protection. I am frustrated, angry, and appalled by the lack of laws there are in this country to protect the victims of cyberbullying. It puts the brunt of the situation on the victim rather than the perpetrator. It gives no support, voice, or justice to the victims who go through these horrible experiences. And today, I would like to share my experience with you because that’s the only way I can feel a little empowered. Because like those who have gone or are still going through cyberbullying, I am also a powerless victim of this crime.
It all started last year. I have a personal blog where I share my mental health stories, my Islamic Montessori dream, as well as my vaginismus experience on it. I have considered several times taking my blog down because I have heard of stories where people, especially women, get harassed online. I never thought it could or would happen to me. After all, through my blog I am trying to help people and create a community where people will not feel alone with their struggles. But I guess I was wrong. There are some people out there who just harass people for no reason. This person by the name ‘David Blau’ started to post horrible comments on my blog posts. He called me horrible names like “ratpig” “foul smelling” “hideous brown vile”, and numerous other names which I can’t write out myself because they are just so mean. He even told me that I should be crucified, burned, and killed, which frightened me even more. I don’t even know this person so why is he saying all these horrible things to me?
I ignored him and deleted his comments from my blog. But he kept pestering me with his hurtful comments that I finally had to block him and take off the comment section from my blog. He then began to attack me on youtube. Somehow he found my youtube channel and started to post horrible comments. Once again, I deleted his comments and blocked him. Then, he took it a step further and messaged me from his personal facebook account. He kept calling me names, and I just became afraid of where this was going. I blocked and deleted his comments and I prayed that he would just leave me alone.
Alhamdullilah, for a while he did leave me alone and the comments stopped. But I got yet another comment from him again on a video that I posted on youtube recently. He insults my ethnicity, calling me a dirty brown person, and he even insults my religion, calling Allah SWT a ‘rat god’. What kind of freedom speech is this? How can a person get away with this type of behavior and how can there be no protection from the victim?
After this incident, I called the law enforcements immediately. But I had a feeling they wouldn’t take my case seriously. But I had to try. As I feared, the officer told me that unless he directly threatens me, the police aren’t able to do anything for me. He even put the blame on me by saying that since I made my stuff public, it was my problem that people were saying these things to me. What kind of answer is that? So now I am supposed to wait until he threatens me before I get any sort of answer from the police?
For someone like me who has a history of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, this is a BIG deal. A very big deal. Whenever I read comments like this, it reminds me of the days I was bullied in school. It takes a huge mental toll on me as it is right now. The thought that this bully is winning and controlling me kills me inside because I can’t do anything about it. I am fighting myself so that I don’t get depressed and I don’t succumb to the anxiety that is threatening to take over my body because of a pest in my life. It’s just not fair.
Why do I have to live life in so much fear? Why do I have to be afraid of posting things online or writing on my blog because there is no safety or protection for victims of cyberbullying like me? Why do I have to turn off my comment section from my blog and youtube account because of one person ruining it for me? Why do I have to be afraid of opening up my own online business one day because I am afraid of cyber bulliers tarnishing my reputation? Why do I feel like I have to carry the blame for a crime cyber bullies are committing? Why?
And lastly, why do I have to be afraid of hurting myself, going into depression, succumbing to anxiety because I feel as though there is no one here to help me?
For all my friends who have been bullied or cyberbullied, just remember that you are not alone. I urge you to hold on and keep fighting as best as you can even though it’s so hard. There are some resources online that may help you but sadly, there is not many resources yet. But have hope and keep fighting this battle. Remember that there are people in your life whose love is much more vast than the hatred these cyber bulliers spew at you. There are people in your life that love and care for you so no matter how hard that is, hold on to them during these times. And know that nothing is ever beyond Allah SWT so in times like this when you feel as though you are alone and powerless, call out to the one who is the Most Powerful. He listens and He cares. That’s all I can tell you now as I am still fighting the battle myself.
For my friends who use social media, please be considerate of what you say to people. Remember that while social media gives you an enormous power to be someone from no one, it does not give you the right to hurt, mock, slander, or gossip about anyone. You never know how the person on the other end of the line will perceive or take the comments so if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.
For all my troll friends who enjoy posting hurtful things, imagine if the wheels were turned and if somebody did this to you, your mother, your sister, your brother, your friend, or your loved one? How would you feel? Just think about that and consider what you are doing and refrain from it. Believe me, you might be saving a life if you do. There are countless stories of teenagers and young adults taking their lives because there is no justice or help for cyberbullying. Would you like to be held accountable for that in this life or the next? I hope not.
For all my friends who are lawyers or are in the field of law, I pray you read this and seriously take into consideration what can be done to help victims of cyberbullying. Just because a person is not seriously threatened does not mean he or she does not have feelings and it does not mean that it will not escalate. These feelings of unworthiness, shame, and guilt build up over time and can lead to serious cases of anxiety, depression, and God forbid, suicide. Victims of cyberbullying, including myself, feel immensely powerless, hopeless, and downright upset because we cannot live a life where we are not afraid of our reputation being tarnished online, or worse our feelings getting hurt because of things we post online. And words hurt a thousand times more than any physical pain. So please help us by fighting for laws that will protect us before more lives are lost and more perpetrators get away with this.
Lastly, for anyone who is reading this, please make du’a for me. It is not easy for me and it’s not easy for my loved ones to see me in so much pain. Please make du’a to Allah SWT that I can fight this battle and please make du’a for everyone who is going through this and worse. Thank you.
Tasniya Sultana completed her AMI Montessori training in May 2015 and is a certified lower and upper Montessori elementary teacher. She also graduated with her Masters in Education in September 2015. Tasniya will start working as an elementary Montessori teacher in the fall at an Islamic Montessori school. She recently opened up her first business on Etsy called Fountain of Barakah. (www.etsy.com/shop/fountainofbarakah where sells Quranic Arabic materials such as vocabulary 3 part Montessori cards, prophetic magnets, and timelines of the Prophet, to help both children and adults learn Quranic Arabic vocabulary.