It’s time to live out loud!
It’s time to share my story – a story about when I realized how dark a place the internet can be. I am doing this so I can help others searching for a positive light online and realize they are not alone. It is time to have a voice.
I never really understood how powerful the internet is.
I have only ever had a small presence online: Posting about the beautiful and fun things I got to do on Facebook, so my friends and family knew what I was up to; creating a LinkedIn profile so I could network professionally; tweeting random thoughts to the world; and taking pictures of the beautiful world around me to put on Instagram – nothing prolific, just fun little things.
To others, the internet is an online game where they can play different personas, create profiles and, with a few clicks on the keyboard, they can have the life they always wanted. They can just as quickly take away yours.
Why would a stranger have so much hatred that they felt the need to destroy a hardworking Canadian woman?
For the last two years – starting in August 2014 – someone has run an online campaign to hurt me and the man who I was dating and who is now my husband, Chris Nickerson. The person or persons we believe targeted me to hurt both Chris and me. We still do not know who is responsible for these acts but have strong suspects. They have broadcasted their hatred, they have made demands and they have threatened my life.
It is criminal harassment and I am under attack every day. But they will not win.
Those responsible have worked tirelessly to take my life online and at home. They have posted false reports about me personally and professionally over numerous sites, from Twitter to Google+, created fake profiles of me on escort sites, harassed me on social media, threatened me over the phone and sent me a used condom with a note in the mail. As if that wasn’t enough, they took it a step further and started to attack my friends, family and my company, even posting bogus rip-off reports and reviews. They went after every part of my life.
This harassment campaign has tarnished my professional reputation – one I have built over 18 years in the oil and gas industry — a sector where women fight to achieve the same pay and respect as their male counterparts.
I have sacrificed relationships, friendship and family (even choosing not to have one of my own) all in the pursuit of my career. I was a dedicated professional and after many years deserved the titles of vice president that I earned at the companies I worked for.
With a few hateful strokes of a keyboard, everything I worked so hard for was ripped away. I was left alone, with the rest of the world doubting me before even meeting me.
This has left me feeling hopeless, helpless and powerless. It has left me feeling violated.
While the goal of the attacks was to ravage my relationship with my husband, Chris Nickerson, instead it forged us in fire. We were each broken down to our core but we found our true love. We were married in the middle of this merciless attack and now I have a teammate that is at my side until the end.
I’ve kept this in the dark for two years and it’s time to open up about what has happened to me. I want to talk about this openly and create the space for others to do the same. I have decided to embrace the saying, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” and shed light on the darkest corners of the internet. It’s a thing I have used but never really knew how to navigate.
I invite those who have experienced online stalking, shaming or victimization – or those who know people who have – to get in touch or to share what has happened to me with others so that together we can start “living out loud.”
The frightening and isolating truth is it’s so easy for anyone to do what was done to me. It could happen to you, your mother, father, sister, daughter, son, loved ones, a colleague or best friend. As I have learnt, even when I have felt that there is little to be done, there were individuals who showed me there was hope, offered me help and eventually my personal power started to come back.
This is my story in every devastating detail.
August 9, 2014
I am wrapped in the arms of one of the most handsome and kindest men in the world, Chris Nickerson, dozing in and out of sleep as the light gently comes in through the curtain. I just don’t want to open my eyes. This moment is perfect.
Then my phone buzzes.
A text message from the president of the company I work for appears on the screen; it says something has happened and I need to phone him right away. When I do, it is his troubled voice on the other end of the line.
“You’d better check the internet,” he says. “Someone is putting awful things out there about you.”
I sort of giggle in disbelief as I race to my computer. Surely, this is a mistake.
But there it is at the top of all the search results: Amanda Rebec, cheater and pathological liar.
My world shifts in that moment. I am left with one question: What the hell is going on?
In a jumble of thoughts and emotions, I try to piece together who could have done this, why this is happening and why would anyone do this to me. I am starting to panic and have no idea what to do.
Chris looks at the computer and pulls me into his arms.
“So what?” he says. “Someone is calling my girlfriend a jerk.”
I try to giggle but only tears come. He’s seen this many times before online and refers to it as trolling but this is new to me and I am wounded by the words on the screen. I almost get sick as my stomach and heart are pained.
We are in Vegas with my friends, so all of the people closest to me are a room or a hotel away. I call an emergency meeting with all of my best friends to discuss every person who could have done this and every possibility as to why it’s happening.
My friends are among the closest people to me and have been for more than a decade. Surely, one of them would be able to offer some clue about who this crazy person must be and we debated ideas. I had a very small and limited dating history so it was easy to discuss everyone who had ever been in my life.
I left them with no better idea of who would be attacking me online like this than when we had met up. My mind was filled with racing questions: Who is doing this? Why me?
It didn’t take long before the words followed me off the internet and onto the phone. Someone had left a voicemail on Chris’s cell a few days earlier threatening to kill me. Figuring it was just some jealous man I may have dated, Chris didn’t tell me about it. But when the websites saying awful things about me started to appear, he let me listen to it. I was horrified and disgusted. I was almost sick again.
I listened to it a hundred times and couldn’t recognize the voice or anyone who even sounded similar. Is this a hoax? Had I really hurt someone so bad they would do this?
I had to remind myself to breathe.
My head was spinning and every question repeated in my head. I had no answers.
When you are ill, you go to the doctor. When a loved one dies, you grieve. Nothing I had experienced prepared me for the flood of emotion I felt as I realized I was the victim of cyber-stalking, harassment and social shaming.
I didn’t sleep that first night. I couldn’t stop my brain from spinning.
The next morning, I get up, dress and put on my best face. I refused to admit how upset I was when I was going to be meeting for the first time all of Chris’s friends and colleagues who were also in Vegas for – ironically – a conference on cyber-security, DefCon.
I took a big breath and compartmentalized all the negativity surrounding me and put on a smile. I tried to forget about this new trauma for a while. And it worked.
I went to the conference and laughed and smiled and met a whole new group of beautiful, interesting and fascinating people. I got introduced to a whole new world of “cyberland” and the people who play and work in it.
As we made our way back to our hotel room, though, my new reality sank in. The fear and emotion flooded back. I tried to hide it from Chris because I have no idea how to process this. I need to lean on him and he is more than happy to be my support – even as he struggles with his biggest fear: that I am a woman who cheats on men.
Because there it is on the internet, a place where he works and makes his living: The woman he’s dating is being branded a cheater.