As everything starts to unfold, I find it dumbfounding and heartbreaking. They have enough facts about me to make their posts believable, but not to make it true, if you knew me offline. I did manage to find one positive thing: they kept saying I was younger than I am. And I was looking for any positive thing I could. It made my heart hurt a little less.
Still, what I really wanted to do was find this person and just make them stop. Stop the lies. Stop the harassment. I couldn’t find any reason for it. Was this because of my work? Because of my personal life? Who would do this? And, more puzzling, why?
I understood someone was trying to hurt me; I just didn’t know why.
After Las Vegas, I am forced to face a new reality. It hurts me to my core.
I have everyone I know listen to the death-threat voicemail Chris received that first day. It sounds so scripted to me. But no one recognizes the voice on the phone.
And as I struggle with the questions of who would do this and why, things begin to intensify.
Suddenly, there are two new voice recordings that are posted online – this time from two completely different male voices, both with American accents. They say I cheated on them and that they have all talked with each other.
I feel sick to my stomach. Chris is the only American I have ever dated. Who are these people making up these stories?
These voice recordings get posted online under fake personas designed to back up their stories. At the same time, more profiles of me appear on cheater websites, Twitter accounts using my name and I even start to get texts to my cellphone.
Whoever is doing this is widening the spread of their attacks.
I try to find things to occupy myself, so I throw myself into work to turn the worries off in my head. But at the back of my mind, I can’t stop dissecting everything I know about every person in my life in an attempt to put a face to this harassment. I can’t stop myself from looking at the people closest to me. Nothing makes sense.
I am sad. I am scared. I am hopeless.
And I’m petrified because I can’t control what is happening or what will come next.
I just want to put a face to this troll.
A couple of friends get so angry they post back on these sites to make fun of the person behind the harassment, but there is no response. The person will not engage anyone who is not in support of this trolling and stalking.
Chris has to hear me cry every night on the phone while he’s away working.
Questions are on endless loops: Am I being targeted for my job? Is this someone I dated? Are they trying to break me and Chris up?
I am in a new relationship and I have a disease.
Chris and I are so new into our relationship that I feel like I have to figure all this out by myself. I resist asking for help even though I have no idea what to do. I begin to realize I don’t have the skills to handle this. Where can I turn? I am to ashamed to admit how little I know about my infection.
At the bottom of the pages on these sites are ads for companies you can hire to remove the posts. So, this is where I start. I go to “repair your online reputation” and pay a lot of money for their so-called help. I soon realize, though, they’re just there to extort people like me. They can’t “repair” my reputation because the reality is that the internet never forgets. Ever.
Chris finds out about what I did and starts to teach me about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how it works. All of this is new to me. After a week of playing with the tools he’s given me, I ask for my money back from those companies; I now understand I’ve been ripped off. So do they; they refund what I’d paid them.
These SEO tools were actually simple because what I needed to do was increase my exposure online. That meant I had to start building my name across many sites: Google+, WordPress, Tumblr and Twitter. Places that I could post or repost articles of interest to get online exposure.
I also learned you can win arbitration against the cheater sites and force them to take posts down by going through a process that costs about $200US per post, which is a lot less than what I paid to that so-called reputation repair company. I start filing against Cheaterville and all the other sites where fake profiles about me have gone up using the arbitration site, The Truth in Posting.
I win every filing; the internet troll can’t prove they know me. They had stolen pictures from my Instagram for the profiles and didn’t even have my correct age. After all, if I was going to lie about how old I am, I would say I was 27.
Finally, the some of posts were coming down.
But for every one I paid to come down, new ones would pop up.
Post after post appeared on the different cheater websites. I finally had to stop paying because I wasn’t making any progress. It became clear these sites were simply making money off keeping these pages posted online.
Their business model is extortion. They profit when new content is posted, the traffic is increased and the advertisers happily pay. They get paid again when a victim, like me, wants those profiles removed. But each payment is only for a specific page or post. More can be posted and you’re paying over and over again. Their goal isn’t to help you; it’s only to make money.
(These cheater sites are so money hungry that I’ve discovered the owners of Cheaterville have now turned the site into Bullyville – which made me sick. They have created another place to exploit people and pad their pockets, capitalizing on the fact bullying is the new trend.)
As soon as the notification was up that one of my fake profiles was going to be removed, I honestly thought this would be over. I was mistaken.
I soon realized this was going to go much deeper.
Chris reaches a breaking point and calls this person out online . The person responds to reinforce their story. My heart, mind and soul are destroyed by their story since the facts just weren’t true. I am in a new relationship and Chris is trying to believe I am not that cheating, whore of a women. His soul hurts too.
The person trolling me is posting under “Neveragain1976,” which is a very creepy Elvis Presley song released that year. They opened up more cheater sites.
I realized this was going beyond harassment. I was being stalked. And they just wouldn’t stop.
I worked for many years before I met Chris in the Sudan, Somalia, Republic of Chad and Mauritania. A place a women should never be conducting business and would scare most people due to the poverty and corruption. I was never fearful and loved embracing the human experience that I got to witness and work in.
With strokes on a keyboard they taken my identity and shifted it to a realm of unfamiliar and uncharted territory full of lies.
I now know what fear is.