Your colleague, friend, or loved one is getting hit with an onslaught of harassment, abuse, threats, and the like both on and offline. You can see it happen in real time and you can see their anguish as they mention to you (on a phone call, on Facebook, over dinner, whatever) what they are going through. Instinctively you’ll want to be there for them, and there are definitely guides on what can be done and how to help but this is a different sort of post.

This is a post that talks about what is NOT a good response to give to the one you care about. Every time someone experiences the horribleness that is being a target of harassment some ‘well-meaning’ person always wants to provide some ‘helpful advice’ or some ‘words of support’ and many times it has the exact opposite effect.

So, if you’re about to be “that friend” then STOP, read the list*, and then try to NOT respond with something like:
  • It could be worse.
  • Maybe you should just back off and get away from the internet.
  • You must have known that was going to happen.
  • You shouldn’t have engaged with them. You know better.
  • Eventually karma will come back to haunt them…
  •  … (The sound of complete fucking silence from your own colleagues)
  • It’s the price you pay for being in the public eye. Get used to it.
  • Stop being so sensitive.
  • Maybe you should stop writing about <insert subject here>
  • Don’t take it so seriously, they’re just stupid kids.
  • At least it’s not a death threat.
  • Is this really worth it?
  • Have you considered their side?
  • This wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t so ______.
  • You asked for it.
  • I’ve never had a problem.
  • You see, you shouldn’t be so ___.
  • Have you tried addressing their points?
  • You just need to educate them.
  • It’s just an empty threat.
  • What did you do to provoke the harassment?
  • Have you considered moving to a different field? Maybe you could work for <insert suggestion here>
  • You need to get a thicker skin.
  • Oh, they’re definitely not going to do anything.
  • <link to anything telling them they are crazy/should stand down/etc.>
  • They won’t show up to events, they’re all cowards and would never do anything to ACTUALLY hurt someone.
  • You should just log off.
  • Stop being so uptight.
  • The best way to deal with trolls is to just ignore them.
  • I don’t see any of that happening on my [Twitter] [Facebook] [forum].

*The list of things NOT to say shown above was compiled by dozens of folks who have been on the receiving end of such advice – and most of it recently.  Remember: each person facing harassment is responding in the way they feel is best for them and they have EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO.

Struggling for ideas of what to say? Here are a few examples that were given of things that ARE helpful:
  • I love you, I’ll support you in whatever way you need, remember that what you’re saying is important and that this reaction from crazies means it’s hitting home.
  • I’m here for you.
  • How can I get involved?

and most importantly…

I HEAR YOU AND I BELIEVE YOU.


If someone is speaking up one of the best things you can do is tell them you believe them and support them. It is infinitely harder to deal with a stressful situation when it seems like all of your friends, colleagues, and loved ones have suddenly vanished.