'It is time to speak up and take action over social media abuse' - West Yorkshire Deputy Lieutenant Nicky Chance-Thompson
She’s a Northern Power Woman, the Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire and a chief executive, but Nicky Chance-Thompson knows all too well about the impact of abuse on social media.
Today in support of the Call It Out campaign led by the Yorkshire Evening Post, she shares her story:
As I write this, anxiety is rising in me as I recall past events and how they made me feel. My hope is by supporting this important campaign - it will be cathartic and helpful to others.
I write this as both victim and survivor of online abuse from trolls. Some people may be surprised by this statement given I am a Northern Power Woman, Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Yorkshire Businesswoman of the Year and a Chief Executive.
Some say that during and after the events that happened – I lost some of my mojo and joie de vivre. Sadly, this is exactly how my abusers wanted me to feel.
People around me didn’t know how to respond or support me during that time. Unhelpfully, some said it went with the territory or that the issues were too complex to change. Others remained silent whilst I was abused.
I was victim shamed by some who should know better. The silence though was the worst of all. Because of that, I started to believe my abusers.
Sadly, I have learned though talking to others that I am not the only one and I have heard of many disturbing cases. The sad death of Caroline Flack earlier this year brought all of this home to me.
Abuse rides high on social media. Cowards hiding behind fake profiles can say anything they like about anyone, and there appears to be no consequences for them nor recourse for the victims. Law around this issue appears to be at sea.
Misogyny is unpalatably frequent. Many women in high profile or public positions cop it simply for doing their jobs or being successful. I have been publicly accused of all of kinds of things which are completely untrue.
Scratch the surface and the motivation for the accusations are driven by a dislike of a woman having any success or power.
I have been trolled for my religious and political beliefs by some folks that might surprise you. I have had my car scratched, tyres let down and received ominous threats including targeting me at my workplace and my home.
I have been relentlessly trolled by those who should know better with misogynistic posts. Unbelievable actions against someone who is just doing their job.
Advice to date has been to ignore the trolls. Unfortunately, the suicides and mental health issues we have seen tell us that this tactic doesn’t work.
I’ve lost count of the times the online platforms have stated that a person reported for a vile remark hasn’t violated any rules, even though their words have violated me or others.
Worryingly, silence from others is seen as tacit approval by the trolls.
Historically, in a pre-digital world, silence on abuse got us exactly nowhere. We’ve learned that abusers need to be called out, shamed and shunned. So why would we think that a silent approach would work in social media?
The #MeToo and #BLM movements are clear indicators that we need to speak up and out and never be silent. So what can we do?
We need to stop hoping this will just go away. This requires us to do what’s right – not what is easy. This means speaking up. We need to shame and shun the trolls.
We rightly demand freedom of speech, but we are not entitled to freely abuse.
Journalists and those in the public eye need to re-learn the art of debate and disagreement without resorting to witch hunts or personal abuse. But most of all, we must not stay silent.
It’s time to speak up and take action – the silence is killing people.
The Yorkshire Evening Post's Call It Out campaign is sharing real life experiences of abusive online behaviour and asking our readers to help play their part in reporting it to account admins, social media platforms and, where needed, the police.
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Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890. We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too.
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