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 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.