Anyone who knows me knows that I’m “computer-challenged”: facebook frustrates me (I only want to see my friends’ pictures – I feel horrifically guilty that I can’t figure out how to “pillow-fight” or “poke” someone back) and I have NO interest, fascination or curiosity to learn about the latest advances in computer programs, smart phones, applications or what the internet can do. Unfortunately all of my deskwork in the work that I do is computer-dependent, if only for the Word program, which is about as fancy as I get (and I still need my daughter’s assistance in getting around that at times).
Am I stupid? Yup, dumb as a doornail when it comes to the computer and internet but does that make ALL of me stupid? When it comes to issues and situations that involve dysfunction (ie: relationships, abuse, violence, exploitation, corruption, trauma) though I certainly don’t know everything, I do know a little something about those things so can confidently say that I’m not stupid in those arenas (but then does that make everyone else who doesn’t know as much about abuse, exploitation, etc. stupid about it?)
I’d like to ask you to think about that for a moment: if you don’t know something, does that make you stupid or just uninformed? Does not knowing the truth – especially if the truth has been withheld from you or misrepresented – make YOU stupid? How does an abuser’s bad, poor or criminal behavior end up labeling the victim as stupid and conversely, why is someone who tricks, deceives, lies and cheats labeled as being smart or cunning?
If you take a step back, people in general want good things in their lives like good health, good food, good friends, a good job, a good spouse, a good child; no one wants bad health, bad food, bad friends, etc. right? Good is the side we want to be on; bad is the side we don’t want to be on. The truth is good, a lie is bad – so when something bad happens to someone good, why do we attack the victim and excuse the abuser?
Until 24 hours ago Laie native, Manti Te’o, was a source of pride and inspiration for not only those of us routing for him in Hawaii but for those across the United States. Recognized for his “shot to stardom” for the following achievements (not even gonna try to list them so click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manti_Teo to see for yourself) he endeared himself to thousands with his close family ties, spirituality, personality and striking good looks. Apparently an online hoax or prank has just erased all of that making him the brunt of people’s jokes and the target for condemnation, criticism and unwarranted venom. Just consider some of the headlines:
- Whatever Te'o truth, another icon falls
- The many myths of Notre Dame
- KUsports.com Message Boards: Manti Teo - lying scumbag?
So Manti has been identified as a VICTIM but look at the public reaction to his victimization! Shouldn’t he be met with understanding and surrounded by empathy, condolence, encouragement, support and compassion like we’re supposed to show victims? And where the heck is the “prankster”? How come Manti’s the one whose getting what the prankster deserves? Dontcha think this is just a little backwards?
Coincidentally, the treatment Manti’s getting in reaction to this hoax revelation is the same treatment that DV and abuse victim-survivors get every day when they reveal violence and abuse lodged against them. And you know what’s funny? Everyone’s all upset because they THINK Manti lied to them when the truth is that Manti was lied to (not to be confused with Lance Armstrong who owned up to being a long-time liar and was revealed to be a bully who intimidated and threatened his colleagues for YEARS, becoming rich and famous off it all who everyone’s inexplicably comparing Manti to).
Instead of focusing on the victim, why isn’t everyone focusing on the perpetrator? Why is everyone devoting their energy towards tearing down the victim (who already feels like crap I gotta tell ya) instead of using what’s happened as an opportunity to teach people – especially our children – about online predators?
The online world is ripe with lies, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and fraud; ever buy something online that when you get it is absolutely nothing like the description or picture? If so, consider yourself duped. Or how about those online dating services: ever get a photo of the person but when you meet, you realize the picture MUST’VE been taken 20 years ago because who you’re looking at is NOTHING like the photo? Tricked again! So if you are or have been duped, whose fault is that? Who’s done the wrong or bad thing in that arrangement? Who should be ashamed for the deception? You, for having faith and believing that the other party was honest and genuine OR the other party, who’s lied and misrepresented the truth?
Those who live in the spotlight often don’t have the same social opportunities as those who don’t and other circumstances like long or unusual work hours, travel, age, disability, poor health, etc. can lead to lives of isolation despite how many people they may be surrounded with; being in a crowd doesn’t mean you’re not alone so if you really think about it, falling in love online isn’t as unrealistic as it may sound. How “stupid” could you be for doing so? I dunno – ask any of the thousands of couples who have fallen in love online, met, married and now have families.
The internet has provided incredible abilities from reuniting friends and family members to launching successful businesses but at the same time, it’s a playground for the evil who are actively looking for innocents to trick and trap. Those who work against human trafficking, child pornography, online predators, sexual exploitation and internet fraud could all tell you how effective shame, humiliation and public embarrassment are in keeping a victim hostage in an exploitative relationship (click here http://cyberpaths.blogspot.com/2007/05/coercive-tactics-of-cyberpaths.html for more online predator tactics) and, by-the-way, adding to Manti’s shame, embarrassment and humiliation by attacking and making fun of him, etc. is only:
- Re-victimizing him and adding to his suffering
- Showing every abuser, perp and predator out there that hey, shame and embarrassment really DO work!
- Showing every victim everywhere that this too could be you/could happen to you if you don’t keep quiet (cause you don’t want your mother/entire family, boss, etc. to find out what you’ve been involved in, do you?)
- Diverting attention away from the real problem: online exploitation and victimization
Like domestic violence, the way we treat victims and abusers is backwards: blame, condemnation and shame are heaped upon the victimized which diverts attention away from the abusers; instead of picking the abuser apart as to how he/she could do something so horrible, the victim-survivor is picked apart for being “so stupid” that there MUST be something wrong and so wrong that it precludes and erases any bit of good you’ve ever done or will do. Manti didn’t break the public’s trust – the prankster did that – and in any exploitative situation, we need to support the victim-survivors and hold the abusers accountable for their actions.
What happens online may be virtual reality but the reality on the other side of the screen can’t be erased or done over by hitting the “delete” button. If you’ve been duped online, no shame – and spare someone else your experience by stepping forward and reporting like Manti did. If you’ve been victimized online, try the following places for help:
- The Hawaii Internet & Technology Crimes Unit http://hawaii.gov/ag/hitec/
- Internet & Computer Fraud http://www1.honolulu.gov/prosecuting/computer_fraud.htm
- FBI http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/cyber
- IC3 http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
- Office for Victims of Crime http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/