Show me a woman who uses her voice to speak for others, and I’ll show you a woman who gets attacked by misguided bullies and internet trolls.
When you decide to take a path in advocacy, you’ve got to have thick skin. You have to know who you are, and be sure in your purpose.
My purpose is to reach women who are experiencing or have survived domestic abuse, then offer an ear, peer education, and guidance to self-empowerment. My purpose is to speak the truth about patterns of abuse, be a relatable support person, and encourage healing.
Sometimes my public efforts — whether on social media or through other published platforms — garner criticism. Sometimes people blow way past criticism into uglier territory with insults, name calling, and personal attack, which is wild, because they seriously have zero idea who I am in all my parts.
But, to be an advocate, you also have to know what your purpose is not.
My purpose is not to engage in internet toxicity. It’s not to fuel the fire of anyone’s hostility. My purpose is NOT to teach the unteachable people of the world, nor allow myself to feel that kind of obligation.
Do you need context? Because I have some.
The majority of reactions and replies, and there are many, still growing in numbers, are caustic. They’re baseless and ignorant. But they’re caustic.
HOO BOY, imagine if my sense of self-worth was fed by mean people on Facebook.
[I’ve actually done a lot of work on my self-esteem and sense of worth. If you’re an abuse survivor who needs help in this area, please reach out. I’m here.]
But caustic doesn’t bother me any. Neither do the bullies, because I’ve got them figured out. They thrive by blowing around on social media, where they can say whatever they want, and leave an impression without real consequence. They pick a target, skew context and argue semantics to their benefit, and start some drama. It’s the drama they want. They want to hurt feelings and piss people off, because that makes them feel smart and powerful. The hollow validation they seek is lots of “likes,” lots of “laughs,” and lots of pats on the back from the other bullies.
And the other predators.
If you choose a path in advocacy, you’ve also got to watch for the predators, because they lurk in the shadows. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, or the intent of your message, they will find a way to tear it to shreds. They’ll also find their way to your inbox, because they’ve assumed you’re vulnerable even when your message supports that you’re not, and will try to draw you into a private conversation. For more drama.
There’s a giant parallel here. The online bullies and inbox predators, they use the same tactics as your average domestic abuser. Name calling. Yelling (on social media, this is done with cuss words and capitalization). Condescension. Criticism. Character assassination. Gaslighting. Circular talk. Invasion of privacy [as when they scour years of public profile images to screenshot one, so they can share it with a new, often contrived insult, and their attack becomes personal—this happened to me today]. All to disarm you, sow chaos, and “win” the fight they provoked.
The truth is, you cannot reason with these people—online troll or in-home abuser. You cannot get them to hear you. Your reactions and comments — no matter how smart, fact-based, and well thought-out — will never gain their validation. You’ll never put them in their place, or one-up them—even when you ARE smart and you ARE right. They will simply be further motivated by the fact that you’re willing to TRY talking to them, and twist further, manipulate harder, yell louder. They will do whatever it takes to get a rise out of you, and their endurance is seemingly never-ending.
Coincidentally, these people on the internet—and domestic abuse perpetrators—actually choose the intelligent, articulate people to chew up and spit out, because it caters to their ego to go up against someone of high quality. It’s sport for them.
So why even bother?
As a survivor and/or advocate, you must choose peace. Your own peace and clear separation from toxicity is more important to your survival — and your ability to thrive — than overextending yourself to talk to someone who isn’t worth it.
Just let them shout into the void.
That’s what gives you the power.
Image Credit to Kat Jayne from Pexels.