As I mentioned in an earlier post about cyber-bullying, abusers are finding ever-more innovative ways to defame their victims online. Technology is advancing while legislators and law enforcement still lag behind.
Cyber-bullying in the K-12 context has received the attention it deserves. Revenge porn has gotten the media attention needed to spark change in some cyber laws. Yet there is one form of cyber-bullying that has not received the full media attention that it merits: personal revenge websites.
What do I mean by that term? This is when an abuser creates an entire website of their own, often under their victim’s full name, purely with the intent of destroying their victim’s reputation. By creating a domain under their victim’s name, an abuser can write whatever they want, while the victim has no way to disassociate with what is being written in their name without their permission.
The Mental Illness Around Personal Revenge Websites
It takes a certain type of mental disturbance to create a personal revenge website. After all, this is not just adding a victim’s name or information to the database of a more general revenge website. A personal revenge website is meant to attack every aspect of a victim’s life, professional, personal, and psychological.
Personal revenge websites (PRW) go beyond simply being hurt or angry with someone and not knowing how to express those emotions. By going through with a PRW, the abuser is making a cold, calculated decision to decrease the quality of life for someone else, most often out of spite for not getting their way. To go to such lengths of payback requires a complete lack of moral feeling. The abuser does not have the emotional capacity to take responsibility for the self-sabotage in their own life and seeks to externalize the blame onto their victim. A PRW provides them the perfect opportunity to do just that.
There are usually two main driving forces behind PRWs: (1) vengeance and (2) fear of exposure. The first one is self-explanatory, but the second is a little more nuanced. If an abuser knows their victim has evidence of their abusive behavior, the abuser panics and their brain goes into an extremely primitive mode of self-preservation where they must destroy that victim’s credibility by any means necessary. Since PRWs are the ultimate form of smear campaigning, it is the ultimate attempt to discredit and demonize someone.
The Case of Desiree Capuano
The only news articles I’ve seen so far about a personal revenge website were about the case of Desiree Capuano. Her Canadian ex-husband, Patrick Fox (formerly known and Richard Reiss), created a personal revenge website in his ex-wife’s name with the intent to “ruin her life and destroy her,” calling her a child abuser, white supremacist, and a narcissist.
Fox created the website in January 2014 when Capuano refused to relinquish their son to him after she had gained custody. Capuano reached out to GoDaddy and was able to get the website taken down, only for it to resurface several days later under another server. While Capuano was able to get a restraining order against Fox for his harassing emails, the website still remains active.
Fox has stated that he would have no moral dilemma murdering his ex-wife if it were not illegal to do so. He has shamelessly involved their son in his vendetta and has threatened to hire men to seduce Capuano just to obtain intimate photos of her. He is obviously a sick man who has been allowed to get away with such deplorable behavior under the guise of “free speech.”
Personal Revenge Websites Can Backfire
There is no doubt that PRWs are a devastating phenomenon that should not even be allowed to exist under law, but there is a silver lining in this dark cyber cloud. Because PRWs are such an extreme form of vengeance, it almost automatically calls the perpetrator’s mental stability into question. If an abuser creates a PRW, they immediately kill the legitimacy of their grievances against their victim, especially for an abuser who is trying to portray themselves as the victim in the situation.
Good people who are righteously angry don’t engage in behavior like that; they retain some moral limitations, even after being wronged. That sort of Machiavellian attitude is reserved for those so enraged that they got caught doing something they weren’t supposed to do. They are so entitled that they actually resent not being able to manipulate and abuse others freely.
Most people realize the obsessive nature of PRWs and will not look favorably upon those who stoop so low. Ironically enough, the obsessive extent of the PRW is precisely what negates its potential effect. Therefore, PRWs often backfire onto their creators. PRWs are a terrible thing, but they don’t have to define their victims.
Ways To Counteract a Personal Revenge Website
When it comes to dealing with a PRW, or any abuser who is still trying to wreck havoc on one’s life, there is a delicate tightrope one must walk between being the bigger person, but not being a doormat.
Silence can be a good strategy for a PRW in the short-term. By remaining silent in the face of such maliciousness, you show everyone else your own maturity while the abuser socially hangs themselves by behaving so abhorrently. Silence is also best if there is a chance of the situation de-escalating on its own before you have to intervene.
If the PRW continues to remain active, then one might need to engage in a little damage control. That is what Derek did (name changed). Derek’s ex-girlfriend created a personal revenge website against him the moment she discovered that he had started dating someone new, a development that undermined his ex’s attempts to portray him as abusive, unstable, and therefore undatable.
It was more than obvious this PRW was created primarily to scare off this new girlfriend, to the point where his ex would even write Facebook posts addressed to her, directing her to the PRW. His ex’s tone was more jeering than caring.
Not only that, but because his ex had lost the ability to physically stalk Derek with his girlfriend around as a witness, she intensified the cyber abuse, perceiving it as her only outlet left to exact revenge.
After a year, Derek took proactive measures by creating another website under his name. He had to use a more obscure domain ending because his ex-girlfriend has taken the .com, .net, .org, and .info of both his birth surname and current surname, but still he did it. He now uses his website for his professional writings. He has slowly overridden the PRW, all without stooping to his ex’s level of character assassination.
PRWs are one of the most vindictive forms of cyber abuse. They are petty, malicious, and speak far more of the abuser’s character than the victim’s. While one must practice acceptance that one cannot control his/her cyber abuser, there are proactive measures one can take to minimize damage.