A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Tips for staying safe while you make comments on this blog

Duty of care for our readers is important to us at ACFJ.  We try to keep the blog a safe place for survivors of domestic abuse. A place where they won’t be bombarded with comments from abusers or abusers’ allies. And a place where survivors can share without putting themselves at increased risk from their abusers. That is why we moderate every comment before it goes public.

We know that anonymity is important for many of our readers, especially when they are under continuing abuse from their abuser and his allies. As moderators of the blog, we will sometimes edit a comment that we think could pose a safety issue for the commenter. When we edit comments for safety reasons, we remove details that could identify the survivor to her family, friends, church network, etc. We call this ‘disidentifying’ the comment.

We want to share some thoughts and tips about how to remain anonymous and protect your safety when you are submitting comments at ACFJ or at other internet sites. For convenience’s sake, we shall refer to the commenter as female in this post.

Fields in the comment box

This is what the comment box looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 4.28.59 PM

Email address

You must fill out the first field (Email) under the comment box, but your email address will not be visible on the front of the blog when your comment is published. It is only visible to the members of the ACFJ team who can moderate comments.

Screen name

The second field (Name) — whatever you write in this field will become the screen name that will show at the top of your comment when it gets published. If you are concerned about protecting your privacy, it is essential to choose a screen name that will not identify you. Sometimes a reader, especially when she first finds our blog, is inexperienced in blogging and cyberspace and because of this she might give a screen name that could give her true identity away.

If you wish to use a screen name that does not identify you:

  • Do not use your real name or initials (first, middle, or last).
  • Do not use part or all of your email address.
  • Your screen name doesn’t have to be a real name. It can be any word, or a combination of letters, numbers, or symbols.
  • In most circumstances we encourage readers to use the same screen name for all their comments, so that other commenters “know” who they are talking with. However, there’s nothing wrong with using multiple screen names (and multiple WordPress accounts) if you think your abuser is reading the blog. Multiple screen names may make it more difficult for your abuser to identify you if he is following the blog.

Website

The third field (Website) does not have to be filled out. If you do put a website address in this field and we decide to allow it, when other readers click on your gravatar at that comment they will be taken over to your own website. This may be risky for some of our commenters. When a gravatar is linked to the commenter’s own website, this tends to drive traffic to that person’s website. We decide whether to allow or remove the link to the commenter’s own website on a case by case basis, taking into account the commmenter’s safety risks as we can best guesstimate them, and whether or not we feel okay about giving publicity to the other website.

Gravatar

The gravatar in the screen shot above is the little square box with a green design in it. Every WordPress account is given a different gravatar. On A Cry For Justice we have set the default so that gravatars have coloured symetrical patterns. The patterns are generated automatically by WordPress, we have no say in that.

Occasionally one of our commenters has chosen to use their own photo (e.g. Barbara Roberts) or a photo of something other than their own face (e.g. Ida Mae) as their gravatar image. But if you haven’t specifically set your WordPress account so it diplays your chosen image, your comments on this blog will show whatever symetrical coloured pattern that WordPress assigns to you. This gravatar will appear each time a comment of yours is published on this blog. If you use multiple WordPress accounts, each account will have its own gravatar.

We cannot change your gravatar. If you believe your gravatar is putting you at risk, you will need to create a new WordPress account (or multiple accounts) for any future comments you make on the blog.  If you desire, we can remove those comments made under your old gravatar and send you the text of them in an email (assuming you are confident your abuser does not have access to your email account), so that you can re-submit those comments, or paraphrases of them, using your new gravatar. But this might be risky if your abuser is a canny and attentive cyberstalker. If you want us to remove published comments of yours, email ‘the woman behind the curtain’ (twbtc) at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com.  The same applies if you want to change the screen name of your published comments. We can easily change screen names at the back of the blog.

The text of your comment

Yourself and your plans

In your comments, avoid mentioning details about yourself or your future plans that are too specific, i.e. occupation, hobbies, safety plans or plans to leave. What is ‘too specific’ will depend on each commenter’s situation. Some commenters are well and truly away from their abuser and no longer suffering post separation abuse — for them, it may be quite safe to reveal identifying details. Others are still living with their abusers or in the early separation stage and/or still working through the court system for child custody and divorce. Some are facing major persecution from their churches. For such readers, it’s usually better to disidentify.

History of your marriage

We encourage commenters to share their accounts of their marriages, but be careful to airbrush details that could be too identifying. For example, rather than saying “We have been married 32 years,”  you could say “We’ve been married for about three decades.” Or rather than saying “We’ve been to five marriage counselors in the last 13 years,” you could say “We’ve been to several different marriage counselors over more than a decade.” And rather than saying, “I was 18 when I  married him,” you could say “I married him when I was quite young.”

Children

Information about your children, like ages and sexes, can be identifying.  We encourage readers to not give exact ages, names, and how many children you have.  For example, one could say “my older children” instead of “my three teenage boys”.

Disidentifying can also be important so that your children do not happen across the blog and realize that their mother is writing comments on it about them.  Kids can have all sorts of different responses to abuse and to their mother’s needs for support and empathy — and not all those responses that kids have are favorable to the mother.

Family and Friends

Details of interactions your have had with church leaders, friends and family should be avoided because not only may your abuser recognize it, but it is common for leaders, friends and family and adult children of the victim to become the abuser’s allies and they may also read the blog.

Abuser’s behavior

Avoid giving details of the abuser’s behavior that might be non-generic.  For example, your abuser having committed adultery is generic in that it’s a common feature of many abusers. But the detail about your X leaving the child at home alone, and dropping the child back to your place early after visitation might be a bit identifying, as those behaviors are not as common.

Wrap up

While we have given broad guidlelines here, each person’s situation is different, so ultimately you know best what is safe to share and what is not.  But when in doubt, ask yourself, “If my abuser or my abuser’s allies read this comment, would they know it was me? If they did know, how much could that put me at further risk of abuse? And is that a risk I am willing to take right now?”

Be Safe!!

You might also want to look at our list of resources for Safety in Cyberspace.

This post was jointly written by Barb Roberts and TWBTC. 

18 Comments

  1. Brenda R

    This is really good, Barb. I know I made a lot of mistakes in several of these ways. I don’t think X will ever find this, but there are others that could. I put my name right out there for the world to see when I should have been more discreet. I hope others see this before getting started.

    • Thanks Brenda. We are going to put this guidancenunder our New Users tab in the top menu. 🙂

  2. Seeing Clearly

    Thank you, I’m always learning.

  3. Stina

    Thank you for this. Its why I’m so hesitant to comment at all.

    • bless you Stina! Glad you are with us — whether silent or speaking. 🙂 ((hugs)) to you

  4. Well, I changed the details of my life and circumstances over on my blog completely (number of children, sex, ages, who I lived with at the time) and didn’t feel the least bit bad about it. We were in danger, the situation was constantly changing. I felt that being particular and detailed was purposefully misleading to anyone who might wish harm for me or my family. And I *wanted* to be purposefully misleading.

    Some might feel that’s lying. I do not. Up front, I told people that the story was true but the details were changed to protect my kids.

    Telling the truth was essential to getting free and I just could not be silent any longer.

    • Ida Mae, good for you!

      One day I might write a post about examples of believers in the Bible who told lies to protect life and to restrain the wicked arm of evildoers from wreaking havoc on the innocent. The Hebrew midwives is one. Rahab is another. And there are quite a few other examples.

      • Robert Simpson

        Barb, I am looking forward to that post.

  5. Another idea on choosing a name, it may be better to avoid using any pseudonym that you use anywhere else. For example, I sometimes post at Spiritual Sounding Board (and others). I have a unique user name here from there, or anywhere else.

    • Brenda R

      Marah,
      How can you remember all of that? I have a list in my planner so I can keep track of passwords, dr phone numbers, etc. If anyone gets ahold of my planner, they have my life.

      • I have a list too, but I never write my passwords down in their exact characters. I chose passwords based on things that only I will know, and I compose prompt quetions or statements that only I will know the answer to. I write those prompts in my list. They would be gobbledegook to anyone else.

        Many secure websites ask you to choose a question or question that you can answer when you log on to their site to ensure added security. Like “What was the make of your first car?” Or “What was the name of your first pet?” Those are simple memory-prompt questions. I use more unusual ones, ones that only I could guess the answer to.

        This works. so long as you don’t have Alzheimer’s!

      • Brenda R

        This works. so long as you don’t have Alzheimer’s!

        Or, Multiple Sclerosis with short term memory compications. There are days when I can’t remember how to do simple tasks at work that I did quite well the day before. There are days when my mother’s maiden name might as well be greek, because I can’t remember it. On other days everything works quite well, but they are further between it seems anymore. This week memory and vision are extreme problems. Next week I could feel totally normal, Lord willing. It also seems that more than more websites that I use want me to change passwords periodically

      • wow Brenda. I didn’t know that MS can cause memory problems! thanks for educating me!

      • Oops, I see my response was I the wrong place (it’s below).

        But yes, I understand the a as memory issues. Is also a problem with fibromyalgia. It’s part of what makes the idea of finding work after two decades feel so utterly hopeless. It’s not just physical pain, it’s memory impairment.

      • Brenda R

        Marah,
        On top of the MS, I also have fibromyalia. I had no idea that memory issues were a part of that, too. I thought the pain was bad enough. Now I’ve learned something new. I have 2 strikes against me.

        I am fortunate and blessed, I had already been working for my boss for several years when all of the ailments started. This afternoon, being on the third of 3 very long exhausting days and falling asleep on the phone while on ignore with the technology help desk, it became important to have a large amount of documents overnighted with one hour left in the day and I had no desire to go past my time to go home. I told him that I didn’t know if I could get it done in time. Fortunately some were already complete, but was waiting for further information to complete the rest. My boss immediately asked how he could help me. This was one of those, “by staying out of my way” times. So he said he would make sure to take care of the phones. We make a great work team.

        I started out working temp jobs. That may be something to consider to see what you can handle and what you can’t. I have been with my current employer for almost 17 years. I hope it will be my final career change.

      • And chronic pain affects mood. And high anxiety affects cognition.

        (hugs) to you Marah

  6. I just leave myself logged in everywhere on my mobile device, and don’t use anything else. So yeah, I’d be pretty much sunk if it were stolen!

  7. Anonymous

    This shows the controlling nature of an abusive person, and it shows the ridiculous lengths that a victim needs to go to, just to feel safe. It’s bad enough being isolated and not having many supportive people in close circles, but to have to be cautious in the one place of safety and support, how cruel and unjust that is.

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