Enough with living in the darkness! Bring this shit into the light. Online sexual harassment and abuse in all its forms is a disease. It breeds in the dark. It grows and festers. For years I would delete and block and delete and block, but for the most part I never said a word. To anyone. I would suffer in silence. All that did was make me feel isolated and completely alone. But I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

Most of us have experienced online abuse, in all its many forms; the unsolicited advances, the lewd messages, the dreaded dick pic, the enraged followup for being “ignored,” the countless names you’ve been called for politely saying “no thank you” or even daring to have a difference of opinion. No woman should dread opening her inbox, and no woman should have to fear what may happen to her online. I would like one place where we can feel safe when so much of the world puts us in harms way by default.

Then there’s the deflection, the minimization, and even those who defend the abuse. I once had a guy tell me that I should feel “a modicum of sympathy” for the dick pic senders because they are “just desperate and lonely.” That’s not my problem. It’s not your problem either. It’s their issue. But still, I play Russian Roulette with my inbox every day. Will I be overtly propositioned? Possibly. Will I be called a bitch, a cunt, a whore, you name it? Maybe. Eh… Probably. Will I open a message only to find a picture of some stranger’s dick just inches away from my face? Who knows? But I should put aside my disgust and the fact that I feel violated so I can feel pity instead because some poor lonely bastard, who I likely don’t even know, took it upon himself to flash me? Hell no.

Unsolicited dick pics are the online equivalent to the old “flasher in the park” routine, which I was first exposed to at the tender age of 14. At least those degenerates had the decency to do it in broad daylight and not hide behind their computer. Jesus. I just said “at least those degenerates had the decency.” That is how low the bar has been set. It’s so low, we as women trip over it every damn day.

This is a place for me to vent and to share my experience, and I welcome and encourage you to share yours as well because we all have to navigate this minefield in our daily lives, online and off. We need a place, I need a place, where we can feel safe, and we can draw on each other’s strength, support, inspiration, and advice from those who’ve been there. I’ll be honest, I do have a bit of an ulterior motive. I’m also here to fight back. I believe together we have a better chance of fighting this pervasive pattern of abuse that is now the norm, and I will not accept that.