real life

Confessions of an abusive internet troll.

“My new years resolution is to give up trolling”

Trigger warning: This post could be distressing for those who have been in an abusive relationship

My new year’s resolution is to give up trolling.

I’d never thought of myself as a good candidate for turning into an online troll. But I guess I’d also never imagined I would be a victim of domestic violence.

On one level it’s quite pleasing to think that I can still surprise myself after 40 odd years of bumbling about in this otherwise familiar body and brain.

Being in an abusive relationship was hellish. But astonishingly, after I finally found the strength to ask him to leave, I found myself in a whole new kind of hell.

Central to this purgatory was shame. I was too ashamed to tell my family and friends what had happened. Telling the truth would be to admit that I had lied for years about the man he was. Telling the truth would require that I expose myself as the type of woman who knowingly remains in an abusive relationship.

And telling the truth meant admitting, to my own mortification, that I had chosen to stay in a relationship with a man who had physically harmed my children.

And so I spiralled downwards. When people asked what had happened I found myself unable to answer.

I justified the trolling, at first, as the pursuit of accountability. Now that some time has passed I can see it was actually fueled by rage and revenge.

It seemed to me that my former partner had the ability to present himself to the world as a good man. An honourable man. A man who supports all the right causes and knows all the right people. It infuriated me, not least because I had been completely fooled.

I spent a lot of time ruminating on all the warning signs back in the beginning of our relationship – wishing that I had paid attention to them and extricated myself before it was too late.

And it was too late now. For me, anyway. I decided that exposing him might serve as a warning to future partners. It might ward them off him, give them a motive to get out sooner than I had. And, in what seemed like a win-win it might just ruin his chances of future happiness. In my despair I honestly felt as though it might make me feel better.

My decision to start trolling was deliberate and calculated. We’re not talking about impulsive actions after a couple of glasses of wine. I write strategies for a living. This one had four key objectives:

1.To call him out on any hypocrisy;

2.To warn other women off him;

3.To undermine his persona as all around good guy; and

4.To create a permanent and negative online record that others would be able to see if they ever google his name.

Knowing that every good strategy requires clever tactics, I carefully compiled a list of principles that I would follow.

I would use my real name to establish credibility and to ensure that my actions looked courageous, not

“I never imagined I’d be a victim of domestic violence”

cowardly.

I would only ever tell the truth. I  not embellish anything, nor would I make any accusations that I could not provide evidence of in a court of law.

I would not say anything that might hurt or upset anyone other than him.

And the clincher, I would never reveal that he hurt my children because, quite simply, I didn’t want anyone to know.

In terms of risks, I understood that the exercise might make me look like a crazy person. I understood that it might damage my reputation. I had to consider the possibility that others might start defending him or attacking me.

I calculated that the risk of retaliation was quite small due to the fact that he would not want anyone to know about the physical violence either.

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And so, it began.

Trolling is a pretty exhausting and time-intensive business as it happens. I wasted countless hours waiting for him to say something enraging enough to respond to.

Further hours were spent composing nasty retorts… writing and re-writing them until they met all my criteria and fitted nicely within the 140 character limit. I’d press ‘send’ and then sit back, hands shaking, waiting to see what he’d do. To see what others would say. Waiting for the world to split open.

Disappointingly, my trolling didn’t seem to cause a ripple. He didn’t reply, nor did anyone else. He didn’t try to defend himself. My attempts to wound him didn’t even appear to leave a graze.

Instead of stopping, I did as he had done to me and stepped it up a notch. And another. Within weeks I’d thrown away the rule book and went hell for leather. I started texting and emailing him angry and bitter rants. My public tweets became increasingly vicious. I contacted mutual acquaintances and gave them a run-down of his key crimes against me. I no longer had to worry about looking crazy – I was there.

But still, even amidst the madness, I never revealed the secret shame that was the source of my anger. That I had failed in my duty as a parent by exposing my children to the man who they referred to as Dragon Voice.

I never raised his name in conversation but my kids did. On these occasions I followed the advice of a counsellor who said they needed to process the trauma in their own way. That I should let them talk. That I should listen, validate their feelings and reiterate that they were safe now.

“I had become the troll in the three billy goats gruff”

One night, close to Christmas, the kids were having fun playing with a website into which you enter a name to find out if that person is on Santa’s ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ list.

Puzzled as to why the results always said ‘nice’ my son came up with the idea of entering Dragon Voice’s name.

When, predictably, the result came back as ‘nice’ my son said: “Well, Santa must be talking about a different person with the same name because I know for sure that Dragon Voice is a naughty, mean troll.”

This comment, harking back to the fairytale about the three billy goats who wanted to cross the bridge, made me realise something.

Dragon Voice had been the troll in the past, but I was the troll now.

I don’t want to be the troll! I said inwardly. He is! And me and my kids are the three billy goats gruff and I’ll be damned if we can’t cross the bridge and get to the other side!

It turns out that, for all my strategising, I’d failed to ask myself a key question. Did I want to take on the role of the nasty, threatening troll? Or did I want to be a clever old goat?

Now that I know what it feels like to be a troll, I’ll take the goat any day. And that grass on the other side of the bridge is looking greener already.

(But as there’s still a couple of days left until 2014, you’ll have to excuse me while I go and pen some invectives.)

The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous.

If you have been the victim of family violence you can call 1800 RESPECT 24 hours a day if you need to speak to someone about your situation. If you are in immediate danger please call the police on 000.

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