Introduction: What to Do If Harassed on Instructables

About: Just another poor slob, trying to make it to the grave with as little hassle as possible. . Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, a…
Instructables is a family of DIYers with members world wide. Notice the emphasis on family. Sometimes (thankfully not very often) a few bad apples sneak in and disrupt our family. Dealing with this type of situation is the subject of this Instructable.

This is a family-friendly site where members are expected to follow the Be Nice policy that is shown at the bottom of message entry fields. The policy gets stretched quite a bit, but, most of the time, the members on Instructables all get along just fine. They laugh, joke, and talk like family and old friends. But there have been a few incidents where some have sent inappropriate messages and pictures to others.

Harassment will not be tolerated on Instructables! If you are being harassed, you do NOT have to put up with it.

As with any other form of bullying, victims of harassment often suffer in silence.
Perhaps they feel that the treatment they receive is somehow their own fault, as if they invited it somehow.
Perhaps they feel that to report it will invite something worse.
Perhaps they fear ridicule from other site users for not being able to deal with the harasser, or for being too sensitive about it.
Whatever the reason, there is no reason to suffer in silence. Tell somebody, even if you don't want them to take action right away.

If nobody knows about a problem, the problem cannot be solved.

If you are being harassed and don't know what to do, read on ...

Step 1: What Is Harassment?

Harassment can come in many forms and includes:

  • Threats of physical harm.
  • Demeaning or insulting comments.
  • Any comments after you have informed the sender that you do not want to communicate with them.
  • Cyber-bullying.
  • Other forms of harassment can become a very gray area, sometimes defined by the target more so than by others. If the message makes you uncomfortable, it may be harassment.

What is NOT Harassment?

  • A polite invitation to chat. If you feel comfortable contacting the person, respond with a "Thanks, but I'm not interested.", otherwise, ignore it.
  • A "compliment" is not necessarily harassment. "You're pretty" or "You have nice hair" is not always harassment, but "You're hot! I want you!" is. Continued unwanted compliments is harassment.

We do have to be careful not to be TOO overly sensitive, nor to react too quickly when it is a case of uncertainty. It can be difficult to communicate via text only and some people just have poor social skills, so the sender may not realize that their message is offensive to you.

But if you feel harassed or uncomfortable, by all means, tell someone. They can help you determine the intent of the message(s) and advise you as to what further steps to take.

Step 2: What Should I Do If I'm Being Harassed?

In almost all cases, the best thing to do is ignore it.

If the comment is particularly offensive or contains threats, do NOT ignore it. Report it to randofo (the staff member that handles harassment reports) immediately and DO NOT respond to the offender.

You should also consider telling the harasser - it is quite possible that he or she has simply misinterpreted some casual comment as an indication that you might appreciate the messages you are receiving. After all, it is very easy to make mistakes when members have wildly varying backgrounds and skills at language, and you have no tone of voice to help.

A quick reply to a comment or message along the lines of Thank you for your interest, but that's not really my style could work wonders, getting an apology and a quick return to normal relations.

However, if they continue to send the same kind of comment, then you should not re-send the message. They have had their chance, and deserve anything else they get. Do NOT get in an argument with them about it - that is staff's job - one notification is enough.

You can tell whoever you like, wherever you like. There are, though, three main groups of people you can turn to for help:

  • You can PM any of Instructables staff. randofo handles most of the harassment reports, so he is a good choice.
  • You will have seen a number of regular names crop up in forum threads. If you like their style or attitude, you could ask them for help.
  • You can PM any of the collaborators of this Instructable. Keep in mind that these people are not always online, so it may take a while for them to respond. Click on their name in the following list. This will take you to their personal page, where you can PM them, using the Private Message Me link in the left column of the page. In no particular order: NachoMahma, Lithium Rain, Goodhart, Jessyratfink, and Kiteman.

ANY threat of any kind should be taken seriously. This needs to be resolved expediently. Take all precautions when dealing with this type of harassment, however. Do NOT, in this case, under ANY circumstances, contact the offender directly. Please contact someone on staff or one of the collaborators of this Instructable.

Sexual harassment is serious business. This is another of those cases where ONE request to stop is enough. Further harassment means taking some or all of the courses one has at their disposal to silence and/or remove the source of the harassment. If it is patently offensive, do NOT contact the offender - notify staff immediately.

How to tell?

  • Flag the comment or PM as Inappropriate. Click on Flag (usually in the upper right corner of messages) and select Inappropriate from the menu that pops up. This will send a note to staff.
  • The most private way is to send a PM ("private message") directly to the person you trust.
  • Alternatively, you can leave a comment on their Orangeboard. This has the advantage that other, like-minded individuals will see it, and if the person you were addressing is away (on holiday, ill, or just plain busy), then somebody else can step in to help.
  • You could start a forum thread. Bullies thrive in secret. Exposing them can be an effective way of stopping them, because it also gives other, silent victims a chance to come forward as well. However, you must be prepared for the possibility of more flaming for the "crime" of acusing somebody of harassment.

Whatever route you choose to take, it is important that you take one of them, even if it means taking a step outside your personal comfort zone to do so.

If nobody knows about a problem, the problem cannot be solved.

No-one has a right to harass you. It is NOT "no big deal". You are NOT being "over-sensitive". Ignore those who tell you otherwise.

What Shouldn't I Do?

DO NOT respond in any fashion if the comments are abusive or threatening. The harassers get their jollies from your reaction; don't give them the satisfaction of knowing that they bother you. Staff will explain it to them.

Don't delete the offensive message(s). They may help staff determine what action they want to take.

Step 3: What Will Happen?

If, after being ignored and/or chastised, they continue, it becomes harassment.

Anybody exposed as a bully or harasser will receive sanctions of some kind, varying to some extent, depending on the perpetrator's past history, and the exact nature of their transgressions:

  • Responses from other members. We are, on the whole, a helpful bunch. If harassment is seen, the Good Guys tend to step in and point out the unacceptability.
  • Warnings by PM. Prominent "names", or members of the Team (sometimes both) will PM the perpetrator to point out that their behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Public warnings. Members of the Team may respond to unwelcome comments in public, ensuring the perpetrator cannot hide their crime.
  • Temporary ban. The perpetrator will be denied access to the site for a period of several days. They will still be able to read it, but not contribute to it.
  • Permanent ban. Exactly what it says on the tin. A thankfully-rare punishment, but it has happened.

Whatever happens to a bully, they deserve it. If a report from you results in the bully getting banned, do not feel guilty. Instead, feel pride - you have helped clear this very precious place of the kind of detritus that tends to give the Internet a bad name.

Step 4: Who Are the Harassers? and Why Do They Do It?

For the most part, it's teenage boys, suffering from hormonal overload and a lack of social skills, but it can be anyone, male or female, young or old. Here are a few examples:

The Troll: Trolling, in fisherman's terms, means slowly puttering along in one's boat while dragging a fishing line along trying to catch something. This is how an Internet troll works too. Sadly, they move about in chat rooms and forums looking to incite responses. Once someone has been identified as a troll, the only thing that works to relieve one's self of the parasite, is to stop responding to the person. They get bored easily, and a week or so of no response is normally enough to get them to troll other waters.

Anger/Hate Peddlers: They are trolling but for a different reason. Many times they are looking for supporters to help spread their poison. Flag or report it, then ignore it. They need not be asked more then once to stop before further actions are taken.

Needlers: People that normally joke about a lot, but normally they do not mean to harass. Even so, the basic rule is that one need only be asked once to stop, if the targeted person feels they are being harassed, and further continuance must be viewed as harassment.

Cyber-bullies: Some people use the internet as a medium to ridicule, insult and demean others, often people they know. This cyber-bullying includes text messages, emails, PMs, and comments containing material that is very often hurtful and insulting. Cyber-bullying is unfortunately often used by young people to attack people they know, anonymously. Entire websites are sometimes set up for the sole purpose of harassing and disgracing others.

Step 5: Conclusion

Thankfully, harassment is not a big problem on Instructables, but it does happen. If you are being harassed, do not hesitate to report it. You don't have to put up with it. Help us clean up our part of the Internet by reporting it.

When speaking of free speech one is speaking of freedom. But with freedom, comes responsibility. If one causes harm by means of their speaking, it can no longer be free. A free society can not tolerate its citizens doing harm to innocents.

Step 6: Thanks!

From all of us:
  • A big "Thank you. You Da Man!" to caitlinsdad for the 'toons. Great job!
  • And a special thanks to all you fellow Iblers who help to keep the riff-raff out of here. Keep up the good work.

From NachoMahma:
  • Thanks to all the collaborators for putting up with me. You people are the greatest.
  • Kudos to Kiteman for supplying the lion's share of the text and to Goodhart for the "Who Are The Harassers?" section.
  • Thanks to Adrian monk and jessyratfink for text, suggestions, and encouragement.
  • Weissensteinburg made some very valuable suggestions.
  • Thanks to kelseymh for proofreading and suggestions.

Step 7: Request for Input

We would like to encourage you to help us make this iBle better. We are open to all critiques and suggestions.

If you see any dangerous factual errors or omissions, please report them in the comments, so that others can be made aware ASAP.

For spelling/grammar errors, editing and formatting suggestions, etc, please PM one of the collaborators. No need to clutter up the comments with minor items that will be fixed.

We reserve the right to incorporate any comment into the iBle. :)