Right To Be

We have worked to translate some of our resources and make them more accessible. Read this guide in Arabic, Burmese, French, Spanish and Indonesian.*

Experiencing online harassment can be overwhelming. You may feel scared, angry, embarrassed – to list just a few among a whole host of (totally valid) emotions. You could even be experiencing physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. You might simply feel numb. (Learn more about the impacts of online harassment here)

In these situations, it’s key to take time out to take care of yourself. The first thing that would be good to remember is that online harassment is never your fault and it’s not your responsibility to “fix it.” It is normal to feel scared, but please remember that there is never a perfect response, that being abused online is not your fault, and that you are not alone.

Having that said, it is very important to take the time to recover and employ strategies for taking care of yourself. Keep in mind that there is strength in recognizing harassment and taking steps to develop resilience.

We’ve all heard the self-care buzzwords: eat healthy! Meditate! Take a relaxing bath! Whilst these activities can help some people to relax and re-center, they’re not always accessible – or useful – for everyone, and they don’t often magically undo a day’s worth of stress or anxiety. Here, we’ve compiled an online harassment survival guide; a list of useful advice and resources that we hope will help to support you through this difficult time. According to Katherine Porterfield, trauma specialist and clinical psychologist at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, “there are many methods for focusing on your mental and physical state and bringing yourself to a place of calm and wellbeing. Try different methods and see what works for you. They take practice, so keep trying and notice which methods are most effective for you.”

Each of us has our own unique experiences, needs, and expectations but hopefully, you’ll find something on this list that will help you to take a breath, refuel, and start to feel better.

You are not to blame

First and foremost, it is important for you to understand that online harassment is never your fault. All of us have the right to live a life free from harassment or the threat of harassment. If you are experiencing online abuse, the fault always lies with the harasser.

Ask for help

If you feel up to it, talk to people who care about you – whether that be family, a friend, a therapist, or an advocate. If you’re worried about how to explain online harassment to the less tech-savvy people in your life, have a look at the Crash Override Network’s Guide to Talking to Family for some useful tips. You can also share our Bystander Intervention online guide.

Know that it’s ok to feel vulnerable, and to want and need support from people who are important to you. Sometimes talking it through with someone who supports and believes you can make all the difference.

One great way of setting up a strong support network is to reach out to a friend and ask them to be your ‘self-care sponsor’. Talk to them about warning signs that you see when you’re not taking care of yourself, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out and touching base when they see that you’re having a tough time. Ask if you can do the same for them – try to surround yourself with people who have each other’s backs!

Finding mental health support from someone who understands online harassment or who has experienced can also be really helpful. Consider contacting a crisis hotline, or chat service or attending one of Right To Be’s free resilience trainings.

Think longer term

Set aside five minutes to undertake an ‘energy audit’ to help you to think about the positive and negative influences in your life moving forwards. Think about all the things that give you energy, and that make you excited (whether it be online, at work, in the relationships you have with others). Then think about all the things that take energy away from you. Be honest with yourself about what is draining you – and try to think about whether there are any solutions to these negative or exhausting experiences. It might be that you can make changes to avoid the things that drain you or, if that’s not possible, boost your positive energy when you know you will encounter those things. Repeating positive affirmations such as ‘I am safe and sound. All is well,’ or ‘I trust myself’ when you’re feeling frazzled might boost your positive energy levels and help you to navigate a tricky or upsetting situation, for example. Take the time out to really meditate on how you’re feeling, and develop a strategy to deal with the things that sap your energy.

Enjoy the "offline" world

Remind yourself there is a world outside the internet. Go for a walk, feel your feet on the ground and the sun in your face. Porterfield recommends practicing grounding techniques that could help pull the trauma away and focusing on your present. This article includes some useful suggestions like picking up or touching items near you, holding a piece of ice, and listening to your surroundings. Learn more about grounding techniques here. The expert also recommends adding breathing exercises to your list.

You can also work it out physically, if necessary and if that helps. Consider finding ways to express yourself, like creating art, dancing it out, listening to your favorite artist, or a good podcast. Take detox from social media if necessary and ask friends or family to monitor and handle your accounts. Check out our Basic Protocol on How to Respond to Online Harassment.

Speak out

Right To Be’s Storytelling platform also provides a safe space for you to speak out, report your harassment, and maintain control over your story. You’ll be able to choose how you want other bystanders to support you, take action, or intervene. Our community can help you to report or document abusive behavior. They can also have your back with safe and supportive messages. (Learn more about how our Storytelling platform works here) This could be a great and empowering way for you to talk publicly about your experiences within a community of bystanders. Also, read people’s stories and support others could be another way to practice resilience, so consider becoming an active bystander and registering as a member. You can also take time to learn more about online harassment or raise awareness about this problem by sharing articles or information on your social media.

*We have partnered with Facebook to make possible the translation of some of our resources and materials.