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Who's behind the fake profile?


scout63
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My daughter, 16, is being harassed by someone who keeps creating new profiles on FB and Instagram for the purpose. The messages are sexually explicit and she finds it quite threatening to think that someone she probably knows from school is stalking her anonymously online. She's been bullied persistently at school over a period of time and has recently felt quite isolated there. We have reported the most recent episode to school and to the police and both say there is nothing they can do to uncover the identity of the person doing this. She can come off all social media completely but it doesn't help the anxiety caused by knowing that someone she probably sees every day is behaving in this way towards her. Thoughts on how to deal with this situation?

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  • Ditch the Label Staff

Hey Scout63,

Welcome to Ditch the Label. I can imagine that this must be a really stressful time for your daughter, particularly because she has no idea who it is adding and messaging her. There are a few issues that I've pulled out from your question, please correct me if I'm wrong?

 

- Dealing with abuse online

- Trying to figure out who the perpetrator is

- Building her self-esteem

- Reducing anxiety

 

If these are right, I'll give you advice on each issue separately, just let me know.

 

- Harper

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Hi Harper

 

Yes, you've summarised the issues pretty well. The context for this is that she's had a lot of bullying to deal with at school between Year 8 and Year 11. It started when she fell out with some friends in Year 8; they got their own back by starting and spreading really nasty rumours about her which spread through the school until either people were actively gossiping about her, or - much more common but no easier to deal with - simply keeping their distance because she was caught up in something that they didn't want to get involved with. She's courageous and determined and hasn't wanted to switch schools, but she finds it very hard to get past the social aggression that's been directed at her to make new friends.

 

Scout

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  • Ditch the Label Staff

Hey Scout,

I can understand and relate to how she's feeling. I think first and foremost, it's always really important to tell her that the reason she's experiencing the bullying is nothing to do with her. Our research shows that those who bully are often going through their own issues and aren't dealing with it properly. She may be interested to read this article here:

 

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/why-do-people-bully/

 

In terms of dealing with the abuse on Facebook, has she locked down her privacy? You can make it so that somebody needs to have a mutual friend in order to send you friend requests and messages. That would be the first step. Secondly, often people who troll anonymously want to feel powerful or to gain attention - so the best thing to do is literally to ignore or not even read the messages. If she responds, it could make it worse.

 

I'm sorry to hear that her school and the Police haven't taken it as seriously as they should. You could take your concerns further and file a complaint. If you'd like information on how to do this - let me know.

 

Building the self-esteem of your daughter is key. Just her knowing some of the issues and challenges that people who bully others face will help alleviate some of the blame she may be feeling. We have some really great guides on self-esteem and anxiety that may be good starting points. These are available here:

 

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/top-10-tips-of-overcoming-low-self-esteem/

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/7-tips-for-overcoming-social-anxiety/

 

It's great that she is so emotionally open about this with you, a clear testament to your positive relationship. Don't forget to help her take her mind off it sometimes. Make sure you do things together and that she stays active. We've also got a list of 101 things she/both of you could do together to chill out and take her mind off it:

 

https://www.ditchthelabel.org/101-ultimate-ways-chill-reduce-stress/

 

Realise there's quite a few links in this post - I don't want to overwhelm you with pages and pages of stuff so this should be a good starting point. What do you think?

 

Harper

 

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Wow. What I think is that I wish we'd known about Ditch the Label three years ago when this whole thing started. I'll go through everything you've sent when I can give it my full attention. At first glance it looks like it may be very useful. I will also encourage my daughter to look at if for herself and perhaps be in touch with you with her own issues on her own terms.

 

It's been a pretty stressful time for us - obviously for her in particular - and I'm aware that we haven't always known what to do for the best. It's also been clear that although her school has been concerned for her mental health, they haven't understood the part that bullying has played in it because they haven't sufficiently understood (my view at any rate) that relational aggression is every bit as toxic as direct bullying and a hell of a lot harder to see.

 

At the worst of it my daughter was out of school for six months with a stress breakdown. When she went back she - and we, at home and at school - thought it would have stopped. But it hadn't. The practical problem she is grappling with now is how to connect with the people she knows could be friends if they could see past her reputation, and your suggestions on how to cope with social anxiety might be really helpful there. The trick is persuading her that if she wants to stay at that school - and I do understand why she does - she will somehow have to figure out how to reach out to a potential new circle of friends and wriggle out from the reach of a circle who have made her life hell.

 

Scout

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  • Ditch the Label Staff

Hi Scout,

It's my pleasure. It can be difficult with some schools as it really is a mixed bag. Some really understand and have the capacity to really invest in students and the issue of bullying, whilst others prefer to push it under the rug and act like everything is okay, when in reality 1 in 2 of us statistically experience bullying at some point.

 

Please do encourage her to take a look through our website and to join the community if she'd like to talk to us and please do keep us up to date. You're doing the right thing and these things take time. Aim for gradual and incremental progress and shell get there.

 

- Harper

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