Caroline Criado-Perez

A Pox on the Patriarchy

Women’s Aid Speech on Cyber-Harassment

Before I begin, I just want to warn you all, that I will be quoting some of the messages I have received. They include offensive language and references to sexual violence, which may be triggering for some.

WAstalking conf

So I’d like to start off by giving you a bit of background into what led up to the harassment I received for over two weeks in July and August, because I think it’s important to see how little it takes to provoke this kind of abuse – it’s important to face up to how much of a problem we still have with widespread misogyny against any woman who dares to use her voice in public.

So some of you may have heard of a campaign I ran from April to July this year, asking the Bank of England to review its decision to have an all-male line-up on banknotes. (note to media, I really didn’t campaign for Jane Austen’s face on a banknote, please stop saying I did, thank you!) The campaign received quite a lot of media attention, and I spent much of my time rehearsing arguments about the damage a public culture saturated with white male faces does to the aspirations and achievements of women and young girls.

As a result of this media attention, throughout the campaign I had been on the receiving end of your garden variety sexist communications. The sort that call you a bitch, a cunt, that tell you to get back to the kitchen. The sort that tell you to shut up, stop whining, stop moaning – to get a life. The sort that tell you to deal with the more important things because, after all, the Queen’s on all the notes anyway isn’t she. Only you probably wouldn’t realise that because you’re a woman and women are stupid.

These communications hurt and irritated in equal measure. They didn’t hurt because they were overtly abusive: they hurt because it was a reminder of how far women had to go before we were treated equally – but on the other hand, they were a reminder of how important the campaign was. I was fighting for the representation of women, because I firmly believed that the paucity of women in public life entrenched sexist attitudes towards us – and here was my proof.

But then I got a letter, sent to my mum’s house. And this was my first taste of how far some men will go to intimidate women they disapprove of. Women who stand up, speak out and say “No, this is wrong, and I’m not having it.” The letter was not in itself threatening, but it left me shaken – as it was intended to. The contents of the letter were immaterial in many ways – they were merely a conduit for a man to tell me, a woman he disliked, that he knew were I lived. That he’d gone to the trouble of seeking out my address online. That he could come round any time he wanted.

On the advice of some friends, I called the police. They said there was nothing they could do. So, I tried to forget the letter, and I hoped I wouldn’t hear from him again.

Not long after this, I was celebrating a campaign victory. Inundated with congratulatory messages, my phone didn’t stop buzzing all day, as the Bank of England announced that they accepted that an all-male line up on banknotes was a damaging message to be sending out, and that, as a result, they were bringing forward the introduction of the £10 note, which would have Jane Austen’s face on it. They also announced, and this was the best bit as far as I was concerned, that they would be instigating a review of how they selected historical figures on banknotes, with a view to making sure that the diversity of society was represented on them, and making sure that they were properly complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty. That was it. A victory, but in the grand scheme of discrimination against women, a minor one.

But, minor as it was, that was all it took for some men to decide I needed shutting up in the most aggressive way possible: with a deluge of threats of sexual violence. I’m going to read some of them out now, to give you a flavour. I divide them into two categories: the ones that saw it as a game, and the ones that were more serious.

I’ll start off with the ones that saw it as more of a game; these often came with hashtags like #rapecrew and #rapecrewforever appended to them:
• You need a good smashing up the arse
• Call the cops we’ll rape them too
• Everyone jump on the rape train —–à @Ccriadoperez is the conductor
• So looking forward to titty-fucking you later tonight – I’ve got an invitation to your anus
• Some of us, me, don’t need consent to know what a bitch needs
• Wouldn’t mind tying this bitch to my stove
• U wanna rape with me? – this was said to another man, including me in the tweet
• I always whisper “surprise” well not always, but it’s implied
• Carpet-munching cunt needs to get raped
• All that meat mmmmmm
• Can I rape you?
• Im gonna rape you, be very afraid – enjoying having the media at your doorstep? Better hope there isn’t a rapist disguised as a reporter
• Silence is golden, but ducktape is silver
• This joke is like a rapist. It’s going to score whether you like it or not
• RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE over and over again in capital letters
• Seemingly supportive message with #hopeyougetraped at the end
• Sent me pictures of sexual assaults, of domestic violence, of men’s faces twisted into deranged expressions, with words like “ain’t no brakes where we’re going” or “There ain’t no breaks on the rape train” superimposed over them.

And then there were the more overtly violent and graphic messages:
• @rapehernow disgusting bitch…should have been aborted with a hanger
• After strangulation, which organ in the female body remains warm after death? My cock
• Stop breathing
• I will find you – just think, it could be someone who knows you personally
• rape her nice arse
• Raped? I’d do a lot worse things than rape you!!
• I’ve just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you berried!! #tenfeetunder
• I will find you and you don’t want to know what I will do, you’re pathetic, kill yourself before I do #godie
• I’m going to pistol whip you over and over until you lose consciousness while your children(?) watch and then burn your flesh
• I hope you get raped and die soon after #bitch
• You’ll never get me…you’ll only feel my cock when it’s raping you slut
• Open that cunt wide bitch…you about to feel da pain
• I’ll paint your face white while you beg. [look up] To be released LOL
• I have a sniper rifle aimed directly at your head currently. Any last words you fugly piece of shit? Watch out bitch.
• And finally, from a man who repeatedly tweeted at me about how I was a witch: Best way to rape a witch, try and drown her first, then just as she is gagging for air, that is when you enter

And then of course there were the bomb threats, like:
A car bomb will go off outside your house at 11:40pm. I will be watching you to make sure it does
And even the joy of some racist abuse like: Perhaps if you keep your fucking spick bitch nose out of UK politics you wouldn’t get abuse

And then there was the taunting about how powerless I was:
Blocked me other account, many more lol
New account up and running lol
It’s great to be back after 30 seconds

There was the stalking me online, digging up details of my past, my family, my work history. Writing blogs, making videos, setting up account after account after account solely dedicated to either harassing me, or talking about me abusively and intimately.

There was the circumventing blocking on twitter by using – this involved my harassers asking questions of other people on, that included my twitter handle, which meant that when that person answered one of these questions, I got tweeted. The “questions” varied from rape threats to publishing what they thought was my home address. And the questions were asked hundreds and hundreds of times, so that they filled up my twitter mentions. And I can tell you that on the day this type of abuse was at its worst, I broke down completely, utterly overwhelmed, starting to think that it was never going to end. By this point, it had been going on for a week.

One of the saddest things about the abuse I suffered, was the fact that it wasn’t just from men. Some women joined in on the act too – although the majority of the malicious communications I got from women were of the victim-blaming variety. Stop attention-seeking, you’re a media whore, a fame hag, bet you’re crying your way to the bank over this. If you were really bothered you would just keep quiet. You’re not silenced – look at you all over the airwaves. Why should we care about you, you’re not perfect, you’re no mother Teresa. And at its worst and most blatant: “you’re no victim”.

In this society steeped in misogyny, celebrity and inequality, I was someone to be both envied and hated – even as the rape threats continued to come. And of course women turning on me led a man who was stalking me to crow: “Even some feminists are turning on Caroline Criado-Perez now, they can see her real motives. Could be a big backfire #assraped”. He was right though. It was feminists too.

The impact of all this on my life has been dramatic. When it was at its height I struggled to eat, to sleep, to work. I lost about half a stone in a matter of days. I was exhausted and weighed down by carrying these vivid images, this tidal wave of hate around with me wherever I went. And I kept being asked to relive the experience for endless media interviews – when I look back at that relentless attention, I can’t quite comprehend it. It didn’t feel real then, and it doesn’t feel real now. I still can’t quite believe this has happened to me.

The psychological fall-out is still unravelling. I feel like I’m walking around like a timer about to explode; I’m functioning at just under boiling point – and it takes so little to make me cry – or to make me scream.

And I’m still being told not to feed the trolls.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate that phrase. That phrase takes no account of the feelings of the victim – only of the feelings of a society that doesn’t care, that doesn’t want to hear it, that wants women to put up and shut up. It completely ignores the actions of the abuser, focusing only on the actions of the victim – because that’s what we do in this society. We police victims. We ask “why doesn’t she leave?” instead of asking “why doesn’t he stop?”

If there’s one thing I want to come out of what happened to me, it’s for the phrase “don’t feed the trolls” to be scrubbed from the annals of received wisdom. Not feeding the trolls doesn’t magically scrub out the image in your head of being told you’ll be gang-raped till you die. What are victims meant to do with that image, the rage and the horror that it conjures up? We’re meant to internalise it until it consumes us? Well I’m sorry, but I’m not having that.

Victims have to be allowed to stand up and shout back – they need to be allowed to ask for support, without being accused of attention-seeking. They need to be allowed to draw the attention of the world to what so many women go through on a daily basis, and make it front page news. Because, make no mistake. Not talking about this is not going to make abuse and misogyny go away. On the contrary, it will help it to thrive.

So many women got in touch with me when the story broke to thank me for speaking out about it, for making it front page news for so long. They had been through the same, they said. And the police had not helped them. The police had told them to lock their accounts, to stop tweeting controversial things – in one case, the controversial thing being tweeted about was racism. A black woman was being told she could not tweet about racism, because there was nothing the police could do about the ensuing rape threats.

Well, I’m not having that either.

There is something the police can do. They can do what they finally, after a lot of media coverage and behind the scenes pushing, did for me, which is to investigate what are, after all, crimes. Hate speech is a crime. Harassment is a crime. And if the police don’t have the resources to deal with these crimes, they need to be given them – and they need to use them to properly train their forces about how to handle these cases. Because I don’t want to live in a society that just throws up its hands when women are being routinely abused and say “it’s too hard. Just live with it.”

There is also something social media companies can do. They can make it clear that abuse is not acceptable, in order to help shape a context where abuse doesn’t thrive. They can make reporting easier – and invest in well-trained staff to deal with these reports. They can listen to their users when they tell them that certain features aren’t working – like the current blocking system on twitter that still enables harassers to stalk the timelines of their victims, and incite others to harass them too.

But ultimately, all these actions would be treating the symptoms and not the cause. Social media doesn’t cause misogyny; the police can’t cure it. What we really need to do is sit down as a society and take a long hard look at ourselves, in order to answer the question: “why are we producing so many people who just seem to hate women?” And the answer is going to be from within an education system that barely features women at all, and that doesn’t include statutory lessons on sex and relationships. It’s going to be from within a media where only one in four experts is a woman – and which deems the two women who die every week from domestic violence as too commonplace to be newsworthy. And so it remains hidden. And so it goes on.

As women, we need to stand up and say no to this defeatism. To this status quo that views us and our needs as expendable, the first thing to go when we need to save money. We need to start getting together, determining what the parts of our society are that foster a climate where women are seen, but not heard, abused, but not given redress, and fighting back. The internet is without doubt an enabler of misogyny – but it’s also an enabler of other voices. Women’s voices. Women are using the internet in ways that give them a platform like nothing has before. We start and we win more campaigns than men do. We support other people’s campaigns more than men do (these are actual stats, not my feminist propaganda). We need to start understanding how formidable we can be, when we stand up together, start fighting back, start making demands of our politicians, and not backing down.

One of the things that gets repeatedly thrown in my face, is the issue of free speech. I’ve been compared to China, to the Nazis, to the NSA, for fighting for the right for women to appear in public armed with opinions, and not face threats of sexual violence as a result. But the reality is, I love free speech. I am grateful for it every day. I love how the internet and feminism have given me the permission to use my voice, in a way I didn’t dare to in the past. But this free speech I’ve discovered, the free speech of women, is under attack. And it’s under attack as much from people who tell us not to feed the trolls, to stop attention-seeking, to keep quiet and not be controversial, as it is from men who send us rape threats every time we open our mouths, or those who call us Nazis for objecting to this.

Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. But in its current incarnation it serves the interests of the powerful, rather than the powerless. Like so many other liberal concepts, when it exists in a society where substantive equality, as opposed to formal or legal equality, has yet to be achieved, where we have equal pay acts, but no equal pay, it can be as oppressive as it is liberating. And if we don’t question this simplistic understanding we have of free speech as a society, we will continue to live in a society where it’s ok that women don’t have a voice – politically, publicly, and socially.

Remember that man I told you about near the beginning of this speech? The one who wrote to my mother’s house before all this started? The one the police said there was nothing they could do about? Well, he’s written again. Just last week. And there still seems to be nothing the police can do. Just like there’s nothing the police can do about the men who insist on finding new and imaginative ways to contact me – commenting on my blog, commenting about me on blogs they know I’ll read, joining in on conversations I’m having with other people on twitter, so I know they’re still there. Watching.

This is their freedom of speech. They have a right to contact me, a private person, not an MP, not a company, any time they want. They can email me, they can tweet me, they can write to me, they can be as abusive as they want, just so long as they don’t directly threaten me. And there’s nothing I can do. Well, I say no to that too.

We need our lawmakers and keepers of those laws to understand the myriad and complex ways in which women are menaced. We need them to understand that women don’t need men to come out and actually threaten to rape us for the threat of rape to be implied and understood. We need them to understand that this is a threat we live with every second of our lives, it’s a threat that we’re brought up to expect, it’s a threat that shapes how we dress, where we go – and what we say. And it’s a threat that I’m not prepared to live with anymore.

I want my freedom of speech back. And if we stand together and keep shouting back, I believe we’ll get it.

Thank you for listening.

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51 comments on “Women’s Aid Speech on Cyber-Harassment

  1. Eaglespiedish
    September 10, 2013

    Fantastic piece. Please keep up the good work. You are an inspiration. I have had enough of being told to ignore: nothing quite so ridiculous as “turn the other cheek” in the face of rape/death threats.
    All of us need to be protesting against this ongoing vitriol – it needn’t be as feminists, or as liberals, or as an belonging to any other group in particular, rather simply as a means of saying we need to be able to have free speech that is free of abuse.
    When I was telling a friend who had been in the middle of nowhere all summer about what had happened to you, I realised all over again just how INSANE this absuive bombardment has been. It needs to stop. No more excuses.

  2. John Paul
    September 9, 2013

    Great piece. And still truly shocking to read what you’ve had to put up with.

    It’s simple really. If you believe women should be free from harassment or intimidation; if you believe they should be paid the same as men and have the same opportunities as men; if you believe they should be represented equally; if you believe they should have control over their reproductive organs; then you’re a feminist. Simple.

    I’m an ordinary bloke. And none of the statements above diminishes me, holds me back in life, stops me having fun with my mates or flirting with girls.

    Just what are these people afraid of?

    • Derrington
      September 10, 2013

      Human equality

  3. Greg
    September 9, 2013

    You don’t need to be a feminist to be appalled and outraged at the abuse you received. I’m so sorry you went through that.

    I *am* a feminist and Patrick Stewart is one of my heroes.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of both my daughters.

  4. frsimon
    September 9, 2013

    I’m sorry you have had to face this kind of abuse, which is more than unacceptable. Not all men think like this. Please accept my apologies on behalf of humankind, and be encouraged and supported in your stand against this kind of behaviour.

  5. SpikedYum
    September 9, 2013

    I’m sorry, but I read up to the part where you try to pass it off as if only women get harassed or that women do not harass and death threat people, either.

    Want a simple example? One Direction fans. We have seen countless people get thousands of death threats off of these women simply for being one of their band’s partners, or because they said something they dislike about the band.

    Talk to any guy on the internet and they would easily express to you how they deal with just as much in one day.

    I have said this often, and I do not agree with the negativity on the internet, however we cannot limit speech without taking away freedom of speech: If you cannot handle the internet, then get off the internet.
    People go through this every day. Just now I got told I hope I get killed and raped with a cactus “BY A WOMAN” merely because I proved her wrong by showing her an article (irrelevant).

    There comes a time where you have to grow up. Ask any prominent character on the internet and you’ll see how much hatred, death threats, and rape threats they get, even as men, and which I say again, even simply being online not being a prominent figure is still going to result in the same thing, perhaps just not as much.

    However, what I dislike about this is that your obvious attempts to make this seem like men are constantly doing this, when I have no doubt that the majority of comments you gained from men were nowhere near the level of the examples you provided, as it tends to be something you people do when trying to scream misogyny, which Anita Sarkeesian done the exact same thing. Took all the threats and tried to make it seem like they were what was the “norm” when it wasn’t, most comments were actually nowhere near the same caliber.

    I have no idea who you are other from this article, and already I had enough and can see why you are faced with so much negativity, although inexcusable, it is still understandable. You clearly are only out here to brand all men as these perpetrators, and women the poor victims, and it is clear by how you made this: “We police victims. We ask “why doesn’t she leave?” instead of asking “why doesn’t he stop?””

    You have to make examples where you put the male as the perpetrator and the woman the victim, and honestly, I always see this crap from the lowest forms of intelligence in the groups I believe you belong in (feminism).

    “But this free speech I’ve discovered, the free speech of women, is under attack.”

    This is just ridiculous. It’s why the majority will not take you seriously, because the majority have seen for themselves that this is not exclusive to women. People like you seem to have this moronic idea that if women are involved as victims, then they must be the “Only” victims, and if they are victims, then none of them could ever possible be the perpetrators, and it’s just downright pathetic.

    “I love freedom of speech”.

    Oh, I have no doubt of that, believe me. I have no doubt that you love freedom of speech SO much, that you want to keep it all for yourself.

    The door is to your left. If you cannot comprehend these simple aspects of the issue I have brought to you, then you have no right to complain when people see “you” as a joke, because until you understand every aspect, you are a joke. No, you do not deserve threats, just like I don’t deserve threats that I have in my inbox now, but that’s what we take on when we sign on to the internet.

    “Women’s” freedom of speech aren’t being attacked, morons that can’t comprehend anything that goes outside of their bias, those are the people that everyone is telling to shut up.

    Jesus. Twenty years old and I have to explain this to a fully grown adult.

    • Week Woman
      September 9, 2013

      Dear SpikedYum,

      It’s incredibly sad that, at the young age of twenty, you are so cynical and defensive. And so defeatist. There is no reason you have to accept abuse. That is not a world anyone should have to live in.

      Nowhere in this post did I say that women can’t abuse – on the contrary, if you read it in its entirety, you will see I acknowledge women can be abusive too. I also acknowledge that not just women receive abuse. However, the type of abuse women receive is special, and all women receive it. They receive threats of sexual violence for writing about the new x-box – in incredible numbers. There is just no arguing about the special level of abuse received by women online. It is statistical fact. That is not to lessen the abuse received by other people, but it is important to acknowledge the reasons behind certain types of abuse, because that is the only way you will deal with it. Some abuse is racist, some abuse is personal, some abuse is homophobic. And some abuse is gendered. It’s not the only type of abuse there is, but it is a type of abuse.

      Finally, I return to your age. You are young. Twenty is young. As you grow older you will experience more, both bad and good. I thought I knew everything at twenty too. The older you get, the more you realise that you don’t know everything – it’s part of learning. Your free admission that you know nothing about me or this situation, but feel free to pronounce on it, says a lot about your attitude. It’s not a healthy one. Try to have a more positive outlook on life. It’s not easy, but it really does help.

      • SpikedYum
        September 9, 2013

        I see it as two things, lose freedom of speech or accept mindless chest puffing. I would rather the later. That is not defeatist of me, that is rationality.

        I did not read it entirely, however I went through some parts of it. If you are saying that the part where women shamed you by saying you are an attention whore, I still stand by what I said. There are far worse examples of female threats and attacks you could of used that are in the public eye that we all could relate to seeing, but you chose to use the smaller insults addressed to you, in which I am just as skeptical in believing you have not received threats from females aswell as I am skeptical that the majority of comments you receive are threats. As I explained, there is another person that done something similar, and all that does is get people more irritated at you, and I believe you would be smart enough to understand that, to use only certain types of feedback as the poster comments for all of your feedback so it conveys some sort of message of misogyny when such comments are the minority.

        “hey receive threats of sexual violence for writing about the new x-box – in incredible numbers. There is just no arguing about the special level of abuse received by women online. It is statistical fact.”

        No, it is not a “fact”, it is an opinion, an opinion that you want to be seen as fact. As I clearly indicated, I had a comment response from a woman saying they wanted to do something of an aggressive sexual nature to me simply for proving her wrong, thus proving this is not something “women” suffer from alone. As someone that spends way too much time on the internet and is exposed to all of this, I know first hand that this is not something “special”/”exclusive” to women, and merely saying it is a fact does not make it so. You’ve merely repeated what it was my comment was in response to, which doesn’t prove what my response stated, as I find myself repeating what my point was.

        Let’s make an example, one we can all take part in and see for ourselves. Go on, say, Facebook. Type in things such as “Men are idiots”, then do the same with women. “Women are amazing”, then with men, and so on, and so forth. You will find pages that condone negativity towards men far more than the reverse, and you will see more groups about women being positive things while not so much for men.
        A specific example would be the group: Bro busters”.

        You forgot other forms of abuse aswell: Mindless abuse, abuse to insult, and so on.
        When people insult on the internet, they tend to look for the primary differences between themselves and who they are insulting. If they are white insulting a black person, race will be involved. If a black person is insulting a white person, race will be involved. If they are an atheist against a religious person, insults to religion will happen, if you are religious insulting an atheist, you will be condemned, and just like those, if you are a woman that someone is trying to insult, and the insulter is male, then gender will be brought in to it, and the exact same happens in reverse.

        You think that comments on race or gender determines whether or not someone genuinely believes what they are saying about the “whole” group they are commenting on to someone, when most cases that is not the case, it is just a stepping stone to ways to offend and insult someone.

        So when someone, say a man, is saying “Shut up, you’re just a woman”, or whatever, that does not mean that they look down on women, it could well just be they realize that it is something that would insult, to imply women are less, and so they use it as an insult to that individual.

        So there is a part you are missing out on the attacks, they could just be mindless insults, not made by their hate of the gender or race of the person they are insulting, but hatred for that individual for what they have done or said, not reflecting their actual views. Does that make it excusable? Not really, but it doesn’t mean it is what you claim it is.

        Do not attempt to gain superiority over this topic from me simply due to age, for this specific subject, age is not a matter unless you are of an age where you cannot view or see what is being said to happen all the time for yourself.

        Quite literally, the internet is new, and all of the things you say you are viewing, I have also viewed, me being younger than yourself does not mean my eyes cannot observe, or that my ears cannot hear.
        Twenty years old is old enough to understand reason and simple observational skills.

        I never claimed to know everything, this subject is but one that I do understand from being on it for so long. I have been exposed to the exact same things you have and view, and I have experienced it first hand. Targeting my age rather than my points does not derail my points at all, infact it is rather immature.

        I do not have to know everything about you to know your views on the subject. I am not comparing you to such a person, but it is just like watching a murderer kill someone, you know enough from that single action to know their views on the value of life. Just like I have known enough from what parts I have read to know your views on the subject.

        I do believe my attitude is a good one, as I have considered more aspects to the subject than yourself, and these are aspects that are not hard to consider or even understand, which either leads me to believe you are not a very rational person, or you are working from a bias. I would think the latter is more of the case.

        Yes, I am twenty years old. I have been on the internet since I was fifteen. I have debated and looked in to matters such as this for years, I have experienced the situations the subjects involve. Yes, I am a young adult, however twenty years old is enough to understand subjects once effort to understand and think about the matter is involved, and like I said, you trying to derail my points without even addressing them is rather immature.
        I wish I could say this does not happen often, however it does. I have realized quite a while back that when someone fails to acknowledge your points made and would rather try to discredit the person making the points, it gives you a certain understanding of the position your opposition is in. Too many people do what you have just done, and it is immature. Your comment aiming towards my being, rather than my points, indicate that you are trying to make my points seem wrong by default, without even addressing them, which gives me the impression you can’t address them, otherwise there would be no need to resort to such a tactic, and you could otherwise have proof as to an explanation proving what I said wrong. Regardless, by making my character the primary point of discussion as to why my points should not be taken seriously, you are trying to say that anything I do say, should not be taken seriously.
        That is not how a rational person debates, and I think it puts a point against the age aspect of this discussion.

        You cannot resort to reasons why someone should not have their points addressed due to personal aspects, in this case my age, then be seen as rational.
        People have done this, and it tends to be when they cannot actually prove the points forward, they know they can’t, so as a result they focus on the person making the point, because if they cannot prove the point wrong with rational arguments, you will target who the points come from, and if successful, you brand them as non-qualified to talk on the subject, which then results in the points made by said person wrong by default.

        Again, this is something I am not new to, and it is not something that will work. I may be twenty years old, however I work purely on reason/rationality. If you cannot prove something, then you have not proven it, if you cannot counter a point, then you cannot prove it wrong, thus I have no reason to see you as correct and myself wrong.

        Do not insult my intelligence, these games don’t work on me, and if you cannot prove the point, then you have not proven the point. It’s that simple.

      • Week Woman
        September 9, 2013

        I’ll be honest with you Marcus, your comment was too long for me to read. However I’ve approved it as it seems to be very important to you and I wouldn’t want to impinge on your freedom of speech. Maybe others will read it and agree or disagree with you.

      • Derrington
        September 9, 2013

        Spiked yum, what do you think domestic violence is and where it comes from? My daughter aged 6 has already had to change schools due to sexist abuse and violence … Something that 1 in 3 girls in the uk experience at school. You can walk through life, skimming over the racial or sexist bits that dont concur with your experience just like you skim through this article. I may not have experienced racial violence myself but that doesnt mean i wont acknowledge that it exists. If someone says im an idiot i can do something about that, read more books, frame a better argument, but if someone says i was born inferior because of my skin colour or gender, then that is an attack on human equality and takes you into the camp of nazis, the apartheid movement and countless other regimes for mass slaughter. I suggest you look up some history books to see what your arguing for and where it has traditionally led.

    • George
      September 10, 2013

      Spiked Yum, “lose freedom of speech or accept mindless chest puffing”? In what world do threats of death and extreme violence constitute freedom of speech? This is intimidation designed to suppress free speech, pure and simple. If this happened in the street, the police would (I hope) be quicker to act, presumably on the assumption that there was a greater risk of actual violence. But this misses the point. It’s the threatening language itself that is intimidating and the Internet (and the anonymity it allows) provides the means to orchestrate this on a far greater scale.

      It would be relatively easy to stamp out. All it takes is for social websites to provide a means to report abuse, investigate it and pass details to the police who should act on it. We’ve seen how effectively this can work in the case of organised rioting or terror threats.

      I understand the concerns around privacy vs police state style control (if that is where you are coming from) but it would be a ironic in the extreme if concerns over safeguarding freedom of speech should allow an environment to flourish in which it is so easy to suppress.

      If we want this to change, it takes a high profile campaign to raise public awareness and put pressure on the social networks and police to act and that us exactly what Caroline Criado-Perez is doing. If you value freedom of speech as much as you imply, surely she deserves your respect and support.

  6. Tom
    September 9, 2013

    ‘I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate that phrase. That phrase takes no account of the feelings of the victim – only of the feelings of a society that doesn’t care’

    Spot on. It can really get under your skin and worry that somebody might get hold of your details if they decide to raid your Facebook page for personal info or go looking for data. Don’t Feed the Trolls doesn’t always apply to someone who is bored, bitter and just wants to hurt people.

  7. Real Nido Roll Call
    September 9, 2013

    If you really think online harassment is a women’s issue then I think you need to look up a man called Phil Fish.

    • Week Woman
      September 9, 2013

      It is a women’s issue. That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for other groups too. Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to make this mistake, and sadly for me, I very much doubt you’ll be the last.

      • Mike
        September 9, 2013

        I do hope you’re feeling better and that it has stopped, what happened to you is disgusting. It is a woman’s issue, and other groups as well. What derails the purpose, your cause, with the other groups is your choice of language. In a paragraph you mention feminists were abusing you, and shortly after used gender identifiers in relation to perpetrator (he), and victim (she). In your response to Real Nido, “you’re not the first person to make this mistake”, you’ve assigned blame. Your dialog with SpikeYum, I was left shaking my head reading your interaction. You came off as passive-aggressive. It is the confrontational tone of your writing that makes you look like an extremist, or that you’ve become an abuser yourself. Job well done regarding the notes, honestly quite amazing.

      • Week Woman
        September 9, 2013

        Oh look at you Mike. Quite the superior one aren’t you? If you hope I feel better, how about you take your patronising comments off my blog? If you’re that disgusted by what I’ve been through how about leaving me alone to get the fuck over it hmmm? Less of the pearl-clutching over language, and don’t expect me to be grateful that you liked the banknotes work. I am not grateful to anyone who waltzes on in, complains about the fact that the majority of my abusers have been men and that I am a woman, and presumes to know what I’ve been through and how I should be handling it. You don’t know Mike. You can’t. So please do me a favour and keep your no doubt well-meaning opinions out of my space. I don’t want them, I don’t need them. Please respect that and don’t come back here.

      • Derrington
        September 9, 2013

        I wonder why you spend the majority of your post mike analysing the victim of violence’s response to violence (verbal or physical) rather than the perpetrators wish to use violence? As a trained coucellor i would ask whether you are projecting your interpretation of the situation onto another and rushing to a false diagnosis in an effort to silence the victim from defending herself and trying to impose your own cultural expectations of female submission on to her? Everyone, male or female has the right to use proportionate force in defending themselves from attack, and that includes verbal as well as physical attack. They also have the right to identify their attacker by name, appearance and gender.

  8. Indigo Roth
    September 9, 2013

    Stand proud. The internet has enabled weak cowards to feel brave sitting behind their keyboards in anonymity. In person, I doubt they’d even be able to look you in the eye. You’re braver and stronger than them all together.

  9. Tony
    September 9, 2013

    Keep shouting and a chorus will join in. Well done.

  10. Noel
    September 9, 2013

    I share your thoughts and your rage. Keep on shouting. The vast majority of us men hate the way you have been targeted and abused, and feel shame for the vile and misogynistic comments you have had to endure. The law should protect us from this stuff, and I imagine it would if a policeman or MP was abused in this way. Please believe you have the moral support of 99.9% of the population, although I am sure this must be hard to fathom right now.

  11. Pingback: Women’s Aid Conference: Digital Stalking and Online Harassment | flyingontherainbow

  12. Zein
    September 9, 2013

    Please never forget that for every message of hate in that deluge that you received, there were and will continue to be hundreds of non-verbalised thoughts of gratitude towards you for the change that you have made. I think I might start a campaign to put your face on the next ten pound note.

  13. Hanna
    September 9, 2013

    Great piece, but I think ‘troll’ doesn’t mean what it did when ‘don’t feed the trolls’ was coined. What Liz Jones or Samantha Brick do is trolling (‘check out my challenging opinions and watch them de-rail the conversation!’) and I still think that not responding is often the best course of action.
    This stuff is threats and harrassment and needs addressing as such.

  14. DJ
    September 9, 2013

    I don’t know how you kept going for so long. You’re a hero to many, many people xx

  15. George
    September 9, 2013

    I am shocked and astounded reading this, not least because I had no idea that your campaign was in any way controversial. It made perfect sense to me and I thought it would result (as it has) in some red faces at the Bank of England, a hasty re-think and some apologetic promises to not be so remiss in future.

    I can’t believe the level of misogyny it has unleashed. The nature of the threats is indefensible not to mention criminal and I hope the perpetrators are prosecuted. I wonder if the guy bragging about doing time knows what happens to rapists in prison.

    Empty and impotent as these threats may be, I can’t imagine how traumatic it must be to be on the receiving end and my heart really does go out to you as does my admiration for the continuing stance you are taking against them.

    I hope I speak for many men when I say please be assured they are not representative of how we think. We may have been guilty of silence partly because it seems utterly absurd that such attitudes still exist, but you have opened my eyes at least.

    Please continue to stand up and do what you are doing. Men need strong female role models every bit as much as women do.

  16. Lin Daniel
    September 9, 2013

    Trolls attempt to take the conversation and make it about the troll. Don’t feed them. There’s a few “troll bingo” lists out there that help identify trolls.

    Violent language isn’t trolling. Threats aren’t trolling. Hate mongering isn’t trolling. It’s harassment, and should be treated as such. And spoken about. Shouted from the rooftops.

    You go, girl! You’ve got my support.

  17. Pingback: #DearCJSprofessionals We seem to have a very serious problem | pawprintsofthesoul

  18. G
    September 8, 2013

    I think you’re an extremely brave and impressive person.

  19. Pingback: A Public Policy of Inaction | Ending Victimisation & Abuse

  20. MemoryLoss
    September 7, 2013

    Thank you for writing about this. Like many other men I have been horrified by your treatment by some men, and for the sake of my daughters I hope things can change.
    I simply can’t understand how someone can be prosecuted for a stupid tweet about blowing up an airport, yet the police seem incapable of dealing with your situation.

    With love.

  21. Kelly
    September 7, 2013

    Your story appalled me. In what universe is “I’m going to cut your genitals off / rape you / plant a bomb in your car” okay?? Why on EARTH did no one seem to care or want to do anything about it when it happened? I really don’t understand.

    Is it so different if people are not saying these things to your face, but instead through mail, email, telephone or social media? It shouldn’t be!!

  22. Claudia Leduc
    September 7, 2013

    Caroline, I am not a “feminist” I am just the mom of 3 lovely children (2 girls and a boy) and have 3 beautiful grandchildren(2 girls and a boy) and for their sakes I just want to convey my most sincere respect and appreciation for you as a person and a voice. Thank you!!

  23. Stephanie
    September 6, 2013

    Thank you, Caroline. Thank you for taking this abuse, thank you for not backing down, thank you for not allowing these sad people to take away your power. I thank you. My daughter thanks you. The future thanks you. Thank you.

  24. Brian S
    September 6, 2013

    I think what you’re encountering isn’t sexism as such, more a kind of social nihilism where pathetic cretins hide behind a keyboard and take pleasure in randomly upsetting people by means of whatever insult causes most distress. It’s of a piece with posting “LOL you died” on Facebook tribute pages or hounding some poor teenage girl to suicide on And it needs to be taken seriously.

    Early on in your campaign someone called it “a Rosa Parks moment”. It’s easy to scoff that the violence in the southern states was real rather than virtual, but the analogy holds in that it was time for someone to stand up and say “why the fuck should we take this?”

    Caroline, I back you on this to the hilt and have tweeted to say so, I’m not going to say “don’t feed the trolls” and a bit of industrial-strength swearing is just what they deserve, but please be careful about spending your energy on people who don’t deserve it and possibly even affecting your health. Maybe give them one volley back and leave it at that, and focus on getting awareness and action. Don’t get mad, get even.

    And dare I say you look pretty damn good in that t-shirt?

    • Derrington
      September 9, 2013

      Brian, it is sexism, violent and blood thirsty. Every year 150 women die at the hands of sexists like these men that have been hounding Caroline, I know, I was very nearly one of them. What you are seeing on line is Domestic Violence, which would be more accurate if it was called sexist violence. Whether you are married to the victim, or simply connected via a telephone line, the hatred of equality and the annihilation of the person standing up for their equality and rights is the same. Imagine what these men would do if they were face to face with Caroline or any other woman they go after on line. Its about time good men and women stopped ignoring this kind of male media driven hatred and started asking why the most popular male media that features women and children is porn and why it calls us whores, bitches and sluts. Sorry for the lecture but I am most heartily sick to the back teeth of the indifference to sexist violence in today’s Britain.

  25. John
    September 6, 2013

    “We need our lawmakers and keepers of those laws to understand the myriad and complex ways in which women are menaced. We need them to understand that women don’t need men to come out and actually threaten to rape us for the threat of rape to be implied and understood.”

    I suggest you start here:

  26. coreycamino
    September 5, 2013

    Sending you much love. Thank you for being brave and for speaking your mind. I am so sorry for the hatred you have had come your way.

  27. Shan
    September 5, 2013

    A fantastic and brave comment piece. It’s horrible beyond belief that you’ve been abused in this way for something so clearly laudable, but as you conclude, that really points the way to a bigger story: why does our society produce such vitriolic sexism?

  28. babs
    September 4, 2013

    I think we will always experience these problems while our society insists on viewing ‘women’ as one homogenised lump of humanity. We should apparently all behave the same and have the same needs and ambitions; this makes people think that they have the right to insult anyone outside their idea of how all women ‘should’ be. If their idea is ‘submissive’ they will try to redress the balance when they come across a strong woman. I’m sorry you experienced bullying like this, your campaign was great and no-one deserves what you went through.

  29. DelorisPurdy
    September 4, 2013

    Too right, Caroline. There are so many techniques that people use to silence women in this way. It’s not just the horrifying threats of rape and violence, it’s the lower key stuff too – the eye rolling, the huffing, the ‘oh I bet you’re a feminist aren’t you?’. We have to show that we won’t be bullied in to submission. Well done for standing up to it!

  30. Lynne
    September 4, 2013

    Bravo Caroline. For every troll and nasty piece of work there are a thousand decent people of both genders and all ages on your side. We are all behind you. Thank you for everything you are doing; believe me you are a very important person in the history of feminism.

  31. David
    September 4, 2013

    You’re an inspiration to women young and old, the world over. Keep up the great work and please understand that there are men supporting you as well! Together we (women and men) can break these pathetic, mysoginist imbeciles (of both sexes) from dictating the media agenda.

  32. David
    September 4, 2013

    young and old, the world over. Keep up the great work and please understand that there are men supporting you as well! Together we (women and men) can break these pathetic, mysoginist imbeciles (of both sexes) from dictating the media agenda.

  33. polyglotte55
    September 4, 2013

    May you continue to grow from strength to strength. You write brilliantly. Powerfully. You not only survived the most horrendous threats and verbal abuse but are growing stronger and more determined. With more moral support than before your campaign. Every nasty tweet has created at least a dozen new feminists. Hear the misogynist loosers kicking and screaming like unruly kids in an infant school. Emotionally, they are five-year olds. They can’t argue rationally, so they resort to thug-mentality. Think of them also as the christian Taliban, terrified of a girl with a book or one banknote with a woman’s face on it. They don’t understand that the Queen’s social class trumps her gender. When people bow, they bow to the Crown, not to her.
    Many of them probably have much younger sister who is bright and quick on the uptake. Top of the class, they, the class dunces. They seemingly abhor women. Intelligent, educated, well-read, articulate women. That deep level of hatred is really an externalisation of their own self-hate. Confident, self-respecting men are not threatened by intelligent women. Misogynists also hate the men who get on well with women. They are jealous of that rapport between egalitarian people. Misogynists fear egalitarianism because they CANNOT get sexually aroused if they don’t feel “superior” to a woman. Remember that. Besides being intelligent, you are a beautiful woman, which is further threatening to them. Many of them would run a mile if they saw you in person. Scared flaccid.
    When a man flashed at a 15-year old school friend, she looked contemptuously at his dick and sneered: “What a little one you’ve got! Put it away! I am not impressed, I’ve seen longer and thicker cigarettes than your dick”. Before she finished the sentence, he ran away. All the girls had a good laugh.
    The most powerful weapons are our brains, tongues or pens. Mindless men compensate for that lack by imagining their dicks as weapons. Picture those dicks as chipolatas and their threats as imaginary dick-speak. Do you know what men fear the most? Being laughed at, by women. (Margaret Attwood)
    Arm yourself with some brilliant put-downs, e.g.: “with a low mind like yours, do you wear socks to bed to keep your neck warm?”
    “If your mother knew about this, even she couldn’t love you!”. Poor unlovable boy.
    “Clearly, you are scared-flaccid of intelligent women”. You get a brewer’s droop even without drinking.
    “Even when he has a headache, the male [like you] is proud of it”. B. Russell
    There are plenty more. Internet has a positive side. Misogynists don’t.

  34. Sharon
    September 3, 2013

    For the sake of our daughters and our daughters daughters don’t ever ‘shut up’ !
    Your speech moved me , made me angry, determined, shocked,sad, committed , frustrated and reinforced my perception of VAWG and perpetrators, all at once.This world needs inspirational people like you to stand up for those less able to articulate their experiences and spur others on to ensure that women are protected and abusers challenged so there is no place in society for women to be seen as less than equal or to allow this culture of violence against women to be acceptable.

  35. Erica
    September 3, 2013

    Outstanding and inspiring. Thank you so much for writing this.

  36. Pingback: Women’s Aid Speech on Cyber-Harassment | Translation Scrapbook

  37. aformersexworker
    September 3, 2013

    I am going to tell you not to feed the trolls too…but not as a judgement, for your own good…because I learned, in the hardest ways you can imagine, that IT WORKS.

    I see a lot of my younger colleagues as sex worker activists, people I would regard as strong, intelligent women reduced to tatters by, not only the kind of comments you cite above but for “the names and a few other changes” but also the subtler spite and sadism of women…which is just as bad.

    NOBODY even tries it with me…but that is not because I am a “superior being” or because special powers get delivered on every woman’s 50th birthday (they don’t) it’s just because I served my time being stalked online by absolute experts to a point where NOTHING any of these nuts say can draw blood any more.

    You picked a good campaign and you fought well and achieved significant progress. It upsets me that this bullying should be the most vivid impact that had had on you. You deserve to feel warm, fuzzy, and a little bit omnipotent about what you have achieved…not to be ploughed under by this kindergarten stuff that would magically STOP if you stopped letting them see that it hurts you…because *THAT* is what they get out of this…a sense of power of another person, by remote, without risk or consequences.

    The world will, sadly, ALWAYS be full of people who need to do that, so all you can really do is make sure they do not get any return on doing it to you.

    Block/delete immediately, without comment anyone who makes comments like that…NEVER let yourself be seen to show distress in public (bawl your eyes out, shout, scream and rave in private, I often do)…and sometimes, pick out a cyberbully and use your wit and intelligence to make him look and feel a complete idiot, as publicly as possible.

    “You need a good smashing up the arse”

    Ans: You have been misinformed. What I need is someone to wash and polish my car.

    “Call the cops we’ll rape them too”

    Ans: I really think you need to check out my local cops before you commit to that

    Be like Teflon…and this cr*p will cease…I promise.

    • Debra From The South
      September 7, 2013

      The thing is, it isn’t about hating women. It is about hate. Go on any youtube video and read the hate. Go to news articles and read the hate comments. As long as media sources do not remove, block and actively stand against such things, cowards without faces continue to spew hate. The person sending hate/vile comments isn’t just doing it to you. In fact they are probably doing it to many, not just women. I’d like to see her open her views to include all hate/violence/stalking/harassing.
      I think she also doesn’t comprehend the value of “don’t feed the trolls.” It isn’t about accepting, it is about not giving that individual validation by acknowledging that individual. It doesn’t mean, AT ALL, not to take action to stop it in general. Don’t feed the trolls, but absolutely empower those who are targeted.

    • Kelly
      September 7, 2013

      You seem to be missing the point, as good as your intentions are. If someone comes up to you in the street and calls you ugly, if you’re a strong enough person you should reply sarcastically, smile, shrug it off. If someone threatens to RAPE you in the street, you run like hell. And if the police catch them, they get arrested.

  38. circlesunderstreetlights
    September 3, 2013

    You’re amazing, Caroline. And I know you wish you didn’t have to be – that you could fight for something as simple as a woman’s face on a bank-note without having to face down this torrent of hate and abuse – but you have had to be and you’ve not shied away from that.

    You’ve stepped up to the plate, and shown courage, determination and dignity – I will admire you for that for a very long time to come.

    Sending love and solidarity. x

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