Found: One Anti-Wiccan Cyber Attacker
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Curves.
I finally got confirmation of my cyber attacker’s identity. The biggest surprise, which legal documents con- firmed today, was that the attacks came from someone in my past rather than my present, and the very personal in- formation about my family that she spewed online wasn’t something I ever talked to her about. Ever.
Will I confront her? Unlikely. First, she believes she is absolutely right to attack me because of my religion and there is nothing I can say that would change her mind. Second, she’d just deny the anonymous attacks were from her, regardless of the IP address she left behind.
Still, it was a surprise to hear “from” her in this way… anonymous, devious, intending to do financial harm, in- tending to discredit me professionally and personally. Especially since I hadn’t seen her in years. We have a long- standing history, but during my divorce traumas, I’d lost track of her and had not been doing any volunteer work with her.
The last time I talked to her was well over a year be- fore her online attacks. I vaguely remember the conversation because I was bedridden and the sickest I’d ever
been in my life. I had a throat infection that I couldn’t beat, I’d completely lost my voice, and every 2 or 3 minutes, my throat would close and I could not breathe—and I was never sure if I would ever draw another breath. Yes, terrifying. Hardwood pollen allergy. It took about 3 months to get over it, but for most of a month, I could not get out of bed. I probably wouldn’t have eaten at all if it hadn’t been for my girls taking care of me and force- feeding me once a day. I was so sick that it took me a week before I could summon enough strength to drive to the doctor’s office 2 miles away, and he immediately put me on bed rest—like I wasn’t already on it!
The second week of my illness, when it was most violent and before the new meds kicked in, was when I heard from the woman who would later post such vicious personal attacks designed to drive away book-buying customers.
Over the last few years, any correspondence from her had become a bit of a joke in my house. “—- called,” someone would say, and the answer was always a smirky, “What does she need this time?” Truthfully, in our entire history, I heard from her only when she needed some- thing and she never offered to return any of the favors, not once in over a decade. So I’d already recognized her as a first-class taker and had limited my dealings with her.
She’d contacted me early last year about giving a workshop—free, of course—to her writer’s group and, just like always with her, I’d agreed. She hadn’t seen me in a few years and didn’t realize I was Wiccan. When she found out, after her invitation to attend her group meeting, she made it clear that she really didn’t want me associated with her group. She didn’t make it clear to me but she did to four or five group members who relayed her horrified rantings to me. She didn’t return my phone calls after that. She had someone else “deal” with me so she wouldn’t have to be in direct contact with a—ahem!—witch.
So by the time I was bedridden and frightened that my throat would close and I’d die while my kids were away at school (and no, I am not being overly dramatic), I’d already told her liaison that I was literally too ill to stand and had cancelled my workshop that I’d spent several days preparing, but apparently my anti-Wiccan “friend” never got the message and was expecting to see me there. At some point in my haze of medicine and illness, I answered the phone ringing by my bed and whispered a hello, thinking it was my doctor’s office calling about stronger meds. The woman demanded to know where I was and why I wasn’t there. I was able to croak out enough of a broken sentence to explain that I’d can- celled and why, and that I’d met my obligation to let them know. Not good enough. I needed to get my ass out of bed and get there in the next 20 minutes. Okay, my voice was so non-existent that she kept having to ask me to speak up, which I couldn’t, but she did get the message that I was extremely sick. But more importantly, I was causing her grief by being sick.
The last words she spoke to me was to tell me she didn’t care how sick I was and that I’d inconvenienced her. Then she slammed down the phone. Me? I was too weak to replace the handset in its cradle and that’s where the girls found the phone when they came home from school.
So I’ve steered clear of her in the past year. Not intentionally avoiding her, but just not available to do volunteer work for her groups and not doing anything to reach out to her or her groups. There are plenty of charities in the world, after all, and she really has not been on my mind at all. She’s heard about me, though. From close friends who casually mentioned some details of my life to her, details they probably never thought would be used in a public forum to cause me harm, details that they probably thought she genuinely wanted to know or would be sympathetic to.
I’m not sure what in particular triggered her online attacks a year after our last intersection. The staff of the webpages where she left her attacks have reviewed her comments and deleted them, agreeing that this was obviously confidential information, obviously a personal vendetta, and had nothing to do with the books being sold. One customer service rep told me she’d never seen anything online so vicious and that my religion had nothing to do with the books that she referenced (they didn’t— they were writing books written when I was Christian). They doubted she would repeat the attacks, especially with her IP being logged, and the potential for a lawsuit because her intent was quite clear and did cause financial harm.
I suspect that henceforth she’ll focus her venom on badmouthing me locally rather than online. I’m sure I won’t get any more invitations to give free workshops to her groups, and that’s okay with me, too. I’ve certainly done my share over the years, and there’s really nothing I get in return for doing them. They don’t build my market, they issue putdowns about my religion, and I no longer feel good about doing workshops for these groups. I never market my books to locals here in the Bible Belt anyway.
The irony in all these anonymous and fake pseudonym online attacks that this woman has committed is that I’ve posted online about her and for her, particularly in the late 1990’s. She complained to me once that it would be nice if her so-called friends would read her book and go post reviews online on her behalf because her book wasn’t selling. That was her backdoor way of telling me she expected me to do that for her and that I was a disappointing friend because I hadn’t.
Except that I had posted reviews online. A bunch of them. Good ones. Honest but very positive. Under my pseudonym.
Which she did not recognize.