How to deal with cyber misconduct

By Jacqueline M. Hames
Corie Weathers, pictured with her family, receives the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award from Deanie Dempsey during a ceremony in May 2015.  Weathers was on the receiving end of cyber misconduct this past year, when her photo was shared on a Facebook bullying page believed to have been run by military spouses. (Courtesy photo)

Corie Weathers, pictured with her family, receives the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award from Deanie Dempsey during a ceremony in May 2015. Weathers was on the receiving end of cyber misconduct this past year, when her photo was shared on a Facebook bullying page believed to have been run by military spouses. (Courtesy photo)

In addition to being a licensed independent counselor, proud Army wife and the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, Corie Weathers has also experienced the hurt that comes with being a victim cyber bullying.

“My philosophy is if we can understand (the pain), and sometimes embrace that it’s happened … I believe you can bring purpose out of anything that we go through. I think when a person figures out how to bring purpose out of it, that’s where they find hope,” Weather said. Her goal is to help people work through their pain and find that hope.

The Army has recently focused on preventing and dealing with cyber bullying, a rising threat in this digital age. Officially referred to as cyber misconduct, the Army defines the term in ALARACT 122/2015 as “the use of electronic communication to inflict harm.” Examples include but aren’t limited to bullying, harassment, stalking and discrimination. Weathers further defined the term as any attack or aggression that is done online toward someone or about someone, whether the victim knows about it or not.

Weathers believes the Army, and the military at large, is doing an excellent job in defining cyber misconduct, as well as holding service members accountable for their online actions. But bullying can still happen. Weathers was on the receiving end of cyber misconduct this past year, when her photo was shared on a Facebook bullying page believed to have been run by military spouses following her award.

“Now, my image was there,” she said. “Most of the comments that were posted underneath the image, they were ripping apart someone who had commented on the article. But, because it was my image, there was a lot of people who took the liberty to completely rip apart me and who I might be, and how I might have even gotten involved in the nominations, and bashed me without even knowing anything about me.”

Those comments are burned in her memory. She regrets going to look at the page because it’s difficult to get rid of the images. She struggled with wanting to defend herself, but ultimately chose to remain silent. “I knew that if I posted something it would just give them more content to rip apart. So, I let it go, I didn’t report it. Thankfully, I didn’t have any threats, necessarily, but it was pretty brutal.”

Weathers was counseling a group of teenagers for cyber bullying at the time, and they shared some of their strategies for coping with the situation.

“I think this is a really good opportunity … to ask the younger generation how can we as adults cope with it, because the younger generation has been dealing with it in a much more severe way that is constant. … I’ve had a teen tell me ‘I can handle bullying in school, because when I leave school, I don’t have to see it or hear it, I can escape it. But cyber bullying I can’t escape. It’s 24/7,’ especially if people are continuing to have the conversation and rant and post comments,” Weathers said.

“(Adults) haven’t had to face bullying like this since we were in school, so we’re kind of turning into children,” she added. “And so I think that in order to cope with it, number one, I think the younger generation would tell us that you definitely don’t feed it.”

If the incident is not something you can ignore, or escalates to threats, Weathers and the teens she worked with advised reporting the misconduct to the proper authorities. For example, if a Soldier or military spouse is the perpetrator, Weathers says to contact the local military police and follow their direction, while civilian bullies should be reported to the regular police.

The emotional and psychological damage that can result from bullying can be difficult to deal with, but Weathers emphasized that talking about the incident is important. Reach out to family or friends, a chaplain or a counselor to talk about what happened.

“We’ve got to help each other out, but we have to remember that our real connection comes from actual human contact. And I found that with the teen group, when I got them to actually connect face-to-face, that’s where they found support. That’s when they started to get better,” Weathers said. She emphasized those seeking counseling do not need a referral from a physician.

“So reach out to somebody in person, whether it’s a mentor, or if you really need help, reach out and get the counseling that you need so somebody can help you walk through how you can get out of it,” she added.

If you have experienced cyber bullying, or are in crisis, please seek help:

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