Category: bloggers being sued for defamation

For Fellow Bloggers of Abuse/Narcissistic Experiences: Dealing with Gaslighting Legal Threats

Please note: This is a diary on my recovery from abuse/stalking, and NOT legal advice.

My blog stalkers twisted my words into threats I never made, and then used those imaginary threats as justification to threaten me with legal action.  (See Now I’m Being Stalked, where you can read about this, my dissection of the e-mail, and the full text of their e-mail.)

I looked through all my posts but could find nothing to back up their claims that I threatened to expose them to the local community and/or church.

(Just a note in one blog, not addressed to them, that I hoped they would move away so I wouldn’t have to see them around anymore, and a note in another blog, not addressed to them, that if their church merged with mine, I would have to go to the priest for help, for my own physical, emotional and spiritual safety.)

It was a documented example of gaslighting:

Twisting your words and managing to turn things around to use them against you is a ploy of the verbal abuser. —A Checklist of Verbal Abuse | eHow.com

But I reviewed all my posts and could find nothing to justify their threats, I have tons of documentation, and I am an eye-witness of, or got directly from my blog stalkers, practically everything I wrote….

It also went against something I wrote in one blog, that I had no intention of spreading around the church the story of what they had done.

My blogs were merely about personal release of metaphorical demons, and I had no intentions of revealing their real names on here or somehow publishing them to the whole local community.

(And how on earth I was supposed to do so, I have no idea.  Take out an ad in the paper, perhaps?  As if such an ad would even be run!  Pass out fliers?  Go door-to-door?  If they mean talking to my local friends–they can’t stop a person from confiding in friends.)

Their e-mail was so ludicrous, paranoid, absurd and revealing as to be laughable.  It gave me concrete evidence of their abuse, self-centeredness and vindictiveness, so I’m holding onto it.

It even gave me concrete evidence that they just used us for our generosity, and were never true friends.

And I’m not the only one who’s been through this.  [Update: There was a link here to a blog post by Upsi called “Buzz Off.”  But she has removed her blog, so I removed the link.]

There is an extensive blogging community who write about their experiences with abuse, narcissism, borderline and other Cluster B personality disorders.

I have looked over countless such blogs, and it is the normal way of things to describe your experiences, in however much detail you like.

Some people use their real names, but most use pseudonyms and fake names or “titles” for the people in their blogs, such as “NM” for “narcissistic mother.”

Oftentimes the blogs are found by the people described.  Sometimes these people get upset, but don’t do much except be nuisances by leaving nasty comments or sending complaining e-mails denying the truth of the blogs.

But I have come across various cases of bloggers being threatened with legal action.  One narcissism blogger wrote this very helpful post for fellow bloggers, Airing the Family Laundry: Libel, Slander and Defamation of Character.  I’m reblogging this for all such bloggers who might happen upon my blog.  Some quotes:

“…context matters: courts have held that given the nature of online forums, online comments cannot be taken as seriously as those made in real life or in the media. Because of these requirements, bringing a claim for internet libel is a challenge.” —the Legality ….

I read several articles in preparation for this post and most of them suggested it was ill-mannered and probably not-very-wise to write about family and friends.

However, in context of the recovery community, personal narrative and disclosure are de rigueur. Readers expect a certain type of blog when reading about narcissism.

We don’t expect love stories—unless the blog is seriously pathological and merits being flagged as inappropriately ludicrous like Chicken Soup for the Soul-less or something.

We expect bloggers to write from the gut, interspersing emotion-laden anecdotes, not clinical appendages suitable for publication in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

We expect to see a cooperative blog where people share their troubles with one another; i.e.: airing out the family linen together.

On blogs like mine, self-disclosure is i-m-p-e-r-a-t-i-v-e. Bloggers connect the dots between past and present which will, if we are doing our recovery work, focus on family dynamics.

Bloggers write about sensitive topics such as: family patterns and dysfunctional behaviors; internalized beliefs and assumptions; distinctions between normal and pathological behavior; traumatic events; intimate details in relationships; our thoughts, behaviors and reactions to other people’s thoughts, behaviors and reactions; and never forget: the armchair diagnosis based on accessible information about pathology.

We do not expect bloggers to be professional psychologists so whatever diagnosis bloggers have determined best fits, is not libelous. It’s opinion.

Don’t let the fear that you ‘might’ be sued stand in the way of speaking your truth.

I would imagine that more than one blogger writing about narcissism has been warned—finger in the blogger’s nose—that should she write even ONE WORD disparaging the narcissist’s most excellent reputation and untarnished character, that she would be sued into the netherworld of Hell.

And yet, here we are—still blogging, still learning, still fighting for healthier relationships by opening the doors on dysfunction…whether people like being written about or not.

The chances that you will be sued are slim-to-none if you follow Good Faith practices protecting your anonymity.

If you’re the one being unjustly written about, be careful reading websites sponsored by ambulance-chasing attorneys who’ll feed your greed and your desire for revenge.

You’re better off toughening your own thin-skin and keeping the narcissist away from your blog, than you are engaging in litigation that could cost thousands of dollars and a decade of your life.

And what for? So you could tell the narcissist she was a scuz? So you could stick it to the person who said you were scuzzy?

I am preaching to myself as much as anyone because it isn’t easy defending people’s right to free speech when you’re seriously butthurt from something they said or wrote about you.

….Cyberspace is most definitely a new world from the print-world I grew up in when the printed word (newspapers and magazines) was the only source of information.

Retractions for false information couldn’t be edited at a moment’s notice and people had no voice for opposition if they didn’t own a printing press.

Libel suits were integral to a fair and just society because reputations could be ruined and financial losses irreparable by the time a retraction could be published.

This is not our reality today. Our first action ought be contacting the author. Working things out. Resolving our differences. Not hiring an attorney.

…I hope my blog inspires an army of ACoNs [Adult Children of Narcissists] to start writing since nearly every person who does, discovers a power within they didn’t realize they had.

Writing puts things into perspective and for some of us: restores our SANITY.

I was thinking about the ACoN community and why blogging is so important. If you ever attended 12-step meetings, you’ve likely heard the cliche: “Your head is a bad neighborhood to visit alone.”

Talking with other people interrupts unhealthy rumination and even obsessiveness. That’s been my experience and believe you me, I know a lot about obsessiveness. ha!

… Where do you go to talk about dysfunction and narcissism? If you join your local quilting group and start talking about patriarchal abuse, they’ll stick you with their needles and sew your mouth shut. I mean seriously, who are you going to talk with?

A lot of people have the resources and the time to spend years in therapy. Some of us don’t have extra cash for that and our insurance policies won’t pay for it anyway.

To just sit in our ‘shit’ and let it fester rather than working through our issues with people who don’t shame, blame and “sue” us for defamation, perpetuates dysfunction.

We start out with unhealthy behaviors and if left uncorrected, those behaviors turn into traits and pretty soon, you’re the lonely old cat lady shooting passersby and muttering to yourself.

The last two paragraphs were in response to a comment that there are no support groups in real life for victims of narcissists and Cluster Bs, so this is why we turn to blogging.

My comments are turned off because my narcissists found my blog.  But just writing my story, and occasionally commenting on other narcissist/abuse blogs, and reading their similar experiences, has been very helpful.

These are people who understand because they’ve been there, and don’t judge you.  They don’t give you pat answers like, “just let it go,” because they know that the only way to move on is to face the problem head-on and work through the pain and anger.

The biggest words to keep in mind are, of course, “falsely” and “knowingly.”  You have to be deliberately writing things you know to be false, for it to be libel.

I steer clear of such behavior, having always had an innate sense of honesty.  Whatever I write, I have reason to believe to be true.

Using real names is also a big no-no in most cases.

So avoid both and may your blogging lead you to emotional health.  Your blog gives you a voice, something which you may have been denied–as I was–in dealing with your narcs/Cluster Bs/abusers.

I don’t even care anymore when I see my blog stalkers in the stats.  I know it’s them because of telltale signs, such as IP addresses and other things I won’t go into publicly.  I no longer worry about them.  When I see them in my stats, I go, “Oh, there you are.  I missed you!  Where were you?”

Here’s an example of not letting the bullies intimidate you–even at the risk of your own life: Pakistani Girls Walk in Shoes of Young Activist (the one who was shot by the Taliban).

[Update 11/10/12:] Another blogger who’s been threatened with a lawsuit, this time blogging about a narcissistic ex-husband, but it went nowhere:

The bottom line– he saw my blog and wants it removed.  He wants the custody orders changed and is throwing out words like “defamation” and “slander”.

He threw out accusations of Parental Alienation Syndrome which is the furthest thing from the truth.  He is a bully and he is trying to intimidate me. –Tina Swithin, Intimidation Tactics

After receiving the paperwork yesterday with his request for an emergency hearing, I spoke to many knowledgeable people.  Professional bloggers and people with a background in law.

I was assured that I was in compliance since I haven’t publicly named him. —Hearing Request: Denied

 

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You Don’t Have to Dance for Them: Lucky

Upsi, who runs a blog about her experiences with her narcissistic family, ended up much in the same boat as I am when her family found her blog.  I find comfort in reading about this, as she tried to go no contact but her family kept trying to argue with her over how they were portrayed.

From “You Don’t Have to Dance for Them: Lucky”:

Narcs drive many people underground – afraid to have any kind of online presence for fear of how the Ns in their lives will use it against them.

Everyday, another great blog shuts down, disappears, closes up shop.  There are many reasons for this, one of which may be acceptance and moving on, but my gut tells me it’s mostly fear….

I feel strong and truthful to keep blogging, keep telling it how I see it, keep breaking silences inside myself one by one, even knowing that my FOO can read anytime.  I will not dance for them….

The shock of knowing everything I wrote here was read by my family took a while to register….

I’ve grown comfortable with it. In the end, I am who I am, this blog is my place to talk and think out loud and be myself. Take it or leave it. Read it or dismiss it. Respect it or call it fiction –that’s not why I’m here. Everyone has a right to their opinion.

One commenter wrote that she “had a brief scare” when she thought her brother found her blog, but she decided to be like Upsi and say, “Screw you!” and not give up her confidence and true self.

Same here….When my narcs first found my blog, at first I hoped they would finally understand me and stop blaming me for the end of the friendship with them.

Then as silence reigned, but they kept checking (3-4 times a day), I began to fear.  Then they turned menacing, actually threatened to sue, thwarted all my attempts to block them, began reading it constantly.

I was scared for a while–but now I’ve thrown open the blockers and let them back in.  I know they’re still checking, and may try to use my words against me, yet I blog anyway.

It’s a chance to finally have my own voice, to say what I want to say, to them and about them.  If they don’t like it, then tough.  They can’t sue me over this!  There are no real names and there are no lies/deliberate falsehoods.

As another commenter put it in Upsi’s post “Proof“:

It’s amazing how your mom’s friend and her daughter continue to gloss over the fact that it was your mom who went out of her way to go online and find your blog – your own online diary.

She read your DIARY – your private thoughts and feelings–and then shared them with anyone and everyone! They keep accusing you of somehow ‘torturing’ your mom and yet if she wasn’t so intrusive, she wouldn’t even know your words were out there!

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Another Blogger Who Refused to Back Down From Abusers’ Threats

Some years ago, Pump up the Volume inspired me to keep writing my truth.  This may have been back in the early 2000s, or it may have been in the mid-2000s, I don’t remember now.  Maybe even both.  As the reclusive main character said at the end,

I’m calling for every kid to seize the air. Steal it, it belongs to you. Speak out, they can’t stop you. Find your voice and use it. Keep this going. Pick a name, go on air. It’s your life, take charge of it.

Do it, try it, try anything. Spill your guts out and say s*** and f*** a million times if you want to, but you decide. Fill the air, steal it. Keep the air alive. TALK HARD!!!!

I’m discovering many other people with blogs much like mine, who have been threatened with lawsuits or have been stalked, but have overcome this.

The blogs are diverse: victims of narcissistic family members, sexual abuse victims, people who went through divorce, people who were married to/living with abusers/the personality disordered.  They give their stories, then the abusers find their stories and begin to stalk them online.  Or even threaten them with lawsuits.

There’s Mikalee Byerman (was sued over her blog), Malignant Love (being stalked in real life by her ex), and Christina Enevoldsen (threatened with lawsuit by her parents for speaking out about sexual abuse).

Because they were telling the truth and they knew it, they kept going, kept telling their stories, kept speaking out.

Byerman’s blog is still up.

Here is Christina’s story of how she dealt with her parents’ threats:

http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2012/07/08/truth-about-my-abusers-threats/

One quote:

My mom did everything she could to appear as powerful as possible. That’s as much as she had and it was nothing. She meant to intimidate me into silence as though I was still that little girl that she could manipulate and control. She did her worst but she can’t shut me up.

Comment #9 is an addendum to this story.  Basically, her mother sent her a letter accusing her of lying about her father’s sexual abuse, calling it a “fantasy,” and threatening to sue her if she wrote a book about it.

The second comment to her blog, by Darlene Ouimet, who runs the popular blog “Emerging From Broken” (see comment #35), describes her own dealings with her mother, who threatened to sue her, as well.

Comment #5, by PS, also tells a similar story of her abusive family finding her website and threatening to sue.

Comments #6 by Stanley, #8 by Kylie, #23 by Cynthia, #24 by Getting There, #28 by Andrea, and #37 by g, show that more and more people are finding the courage to tell their stories (such as through blogs and books) because of those who have already told.

In #11, Caden says to “take our power back.”

In #12, Netty says, “I find it so interesting that often the abuser threatens legal action for slander to try and keep the victims quiet.”

The Net–and a change in attitudes toward people who speak out–is giving a voice to so many of us who were silent before.  More and more of us–abused, bullied, and/or targeted by narcissists–are speaking out and telling our stories and validating each other.  It’s a revolution that cannot be stopped.

For my own situation, I have gone into detail in I Will NOT Be Silent and Now I’m Being Stalked.

I also have my husband as a witness, various chat logs and e-mails, and Todd as proof that it’s not just me.

These narcissists continue to spy on my blog, have been doing so at least once a week, and I have the logs.  They will most likely read this post as well.

The courage of these other bloggers to keep on telling their stories, exercising their right to free speech, and not backing down to the threats of the abusers–not allowing the abusers to bully and intimidate them into silence again–is inspiring.

We must keep on telling what’s happened to us.  It is the truth, and telling the truth “sets us free” by taking us from victimhood to being survivors.  The more of us have the courage to stand up to our bullies/abusers and tell what they’ve done, the more the victims begin to “win” and the abusers finally become the “losers.”

I have not allowed my bullies to threaten and intimidate me into silence, have not allowed them to gaslight me into doubting my own senses and thinking that lie was truth and truth was lie, have not allowed them to twist my words into saying what they never did say and make me into the bully; don’t you do it, either.

We must stand up for ourselves and stop the cycle of abuse.  TALK HARD!

This isn’t a blogger, but a Tweeter who insisted on her right to tell the truth about what happened to her: Savannah Dietrich, 17-Year-Old Sexual Assault Victim, Faces Charge for Naming Attackers

My Trip to Oz and Back is much like my own blogs, an account of two years spent by the writer with her girlfriend, which was actually a 50-page letter sent by the author to her ex-girlfriend.

That was in the late 90s, when the author had never heard of borderline personality disorder, so there had been no official diagnosis for her to point to.  But the more she learned about BPD, the more she knew her ex-girlfriend had it, so she posted this letter to help others who are dealing with someone with BPD.

It has been on the Web since 2003, and by November 2006 had received 53,000 hits.  As the author wrote on the main page,

Writing this was cathartic. It doubled as a form of therapy. I actually did send the letter; however, I doubt that it had much effect.  The more I learned about BPD, the more I realized that the likelihood of this person ever really understanding, was probably close to zero….

Why would I want to put such a personal document online?  There are several reasons. First, I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in a relationship with a person with BPD. There are many books and websites on BPD, but relatively few from a significant other’s point of view.

Second, I am hoping that someone out there might read a bit and identify with it.  When one is in a difficult situation, sometimes just hearing about another person’s similar experience can be affirming–as in, “I’m not the only one.”

Finally, I consider myself a success story–see the final chapter, the epilogue.  My wish is to give hope to others.

Like me, the author changed names and identifying details.  This is to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

It’s the most baffling part of Richard and Tracy threatening a lawsuit, because I never used and never intend to use their real names in these blogs–and anything I would tell my priest about this, would be the truth, and not in any way actionable.

Joyful Alive Woman also wrote about her abusive, narcissist, former female friend.

There is also The Angry Daughter.  This one is full of sustained rage and makes even my own angriest posts look like Care Bear Land.  But from what I read there, the author and her mother–both of whom use real names in their competing blogs–have been trading threats of lawsuits for defamation.  Yet TAD’s blog is still up after 6 years.

[Update 6/9/14:] Now Christina Enevoldsen’s parents have made good on their lawsuit against her.  But as PS writes in comment #3,

An attorney I talked to years ago when my birth family threatened to sue me said most of these cases get thrown out.

Judges feel it’s “he said, she said” and unless someone’s lost a job, suffered serious financial problems, been denied housing, etc., based on what’s been said about them, then there’s nothing to really compensate – and that’s even if the complainant declares emotional distress.

I get the feeling whatever lawyers they talked to probably told them the same thing because they never pursued it.

I’m hoping and praying that will be the case here with you. You have the right to speak your truth.

That she’s trying to use legal means to silence you does NOT alter the truth, it only reflects her desire to suppress it and it only reflects what a vindictive woman she is.

Even if she wins the suit and you have to close this site, it still will NOT change the truth.

The result: Christina won.

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