I had Death Threats in High School

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Okay, so the blogosphere is going apeshit today over Kathy Sierra’s situation – which has to do with anonymous hate and abuse:

I’ve been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that’s not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs… blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers.

This isn’t new, folks – far from it. Kathy is just one out of (certainly) millions of people who suffer at the minds of psychotics. And without trying to minimize this particular situation, I’ve gotta tell you – this sounds like high school to me. Literally. Granted, I’ve had just as many death threats ONLINE – but they didn’t just start last week.

I received death threats in high school all the time – ALL THE TIME. Only, I didn’t have to deal with anonymous Internet cowards [back then] – I had to deal with real-world bullies who weren’t happy unless they struck fear into me. Death threats are just as serious in high school as they are in the world beyond.

There was this one guy at Southeast Polk (let’s call him “Charlie”) who decided that he didn’t like me – he didn’t like me for whatever reason. I looked like an easy target? I was too short? I looked like a nerd? I couldn’t dress properly? I acted like a moron? Who the hell knows. I swear, it was his mission in life to make my life a living hell in high school. I did my best to avoid conflict, which only seemed to fan the flames for him.

I didn’t want to leave my house, either. I didn’t want to go back to school, ever. I didn’t want to see this guy in the hallways, and I certainly didn’t want to be in the same classes as him. Did I bother to mention that he was much taller than me, likely MUCH stronger? Did I bother to mention that if he really wanted to, he could have beat me within an inch of my life? Did I bother to mention that?

Did I bother to mention all the other fucking torment I went through in fucking high school just because I wasn’t [insert anything here]? Did I bother to mention that it didn’t start or stop with “Charlie?!” Now, I’m not trying to minimize Kathy’s situation (which I appreciate, wholly) – but I am rather surprised that everybody’s up in arms about it all of a sudden, as if this was an isolated incident that was limited to the blogosphere or to women in general?

No, unless you’ve ever stared straight into a real bully’s eyes – you have no fucking idea. I’m not talking about teasing (which is another matter, entirely) – I’m talking about “I’m going to fucking kill you” bullies. Unless you’ve received death threats (online or off), you have no fucking idea how this can make you feel. These situations used to be limited to locality, but now they’re all over the place – all over the Internet.

This isn’t new, my friends and enemies – and this will never, EVER stop happening.

It really doesn’t make much difference whether the person intends to act on the threat… it’s the threat itself that inflicts the damage. It’s the threat that makes you question whether that “anonymous” person is as disturbed as their comments and pictures suggest.

It’s worse when you know who that person is – or if they’re not all that anonymous in the first place. I’ve dealt with my fair share of bullies (both before and after high school) – and in a few cases, was able to weather the situations long enough to seek some sort of resolution with the other parties.

I’m still not quite sure what pulled me through – especially the day I finally confronted “Charlie.” He shoved me from behind, and instead of walking away – I pushed him back. My life could’ve ended at that moment, were the rumors true. I would’ve been severely injured based on the fact that this guy didn’t like me.

Freedom of speech–however distasteful and rude the speech may be, is crucial. But when those words contain threats of harm or death, they can destroy a life.

I’m not a woman, and I’m not going to pretend I fully understand Kathy’s situation, but she’s absolutely right about this potentially destroying a life. It’s not just the anonymous blogosphere – it’s a microcosm of what’s happening in meatspace.

The outpouring of support for Kathy has been substantial – but a lot of it seems to be knee-jerk / reactionary. Kathy is *NOT* overreacting to her situation in the slightest, but I do believe that the rest of us simply aren’t putting it into perspective.

The problem isn’t with the blogosphere – it’s with the human race.