Well it was inevitable that cyber bullying would reach the ranks of military spouses and there is quite a variety of military spouse bullying out there mostly on Facebook. Most military spouses are tough and resilient and take an instance of cyber bullying and let it roll off our shoulders even though our feelings maybe hurt. For some these attacks can come at a moment of weakness when they are at a low point dealing with loneliness and depression. Sadly, we recently lost one of our military spouse sisters to suicide and it is thought that cyber bullying may have played a role.
In reading about this story, I read many articles and the comments as well. One really resonated with me as a young spouse described her experience with cyber bullying. Her husband was deployed, and other spouses had created a Facebook group and made up rumors about her and her husband. They also judged her on her appearance and weight. Unbeknownst to these cruel cyberbullies she was beginning to suffer from depression and almost took her life because of their comments. Luckily, she was able to seek treatment.
Types of Military Spouse Cyber bullying – Here are some of the common types of military spouse cyber bullying found on Facebook:
Making fun of Dependent Status – This type is usually single active duty service members or disgruntled ex-husbands who rant and rave about how military spouses are entitled, haven’t served and are freeloaders.
Rumors – This one is particularly heinous and can often affect the unit as well. People spread rumors that a spouse is having an affair, or a group of spouses are out partying all the time. This one is not new, my mother experienced this during the Vietnam time frame. The husbands were deployed, and a group of wives decided to go to dinner at the Officers’ Club for dinner. Next thing you know it made to the unit and everyone was up in arms not knowing what was going on as of course the rumor became this group was partying and hanging out with other men, not their husbands. Rumors like this can take the focus off the mission.
Just plain mean – This is the bullying where photos are taken and posted online to ridicule a spouse on her looks, how she is dressed or her weight. It also can be directed to someone who asks a question on Facebook and mocking their question or others responses.
What Can You Do to Prevent Military Spouse Cyber bullying or Other Forms of Bullying?
Call it Out. Bullies will often say things on Facebook they would never say in person. This can be an intimidating thing to do as it can often result in that bullying coming down on you. There are ways to be more subtle about this. Report online bullying to Facebook and enlist your friends to report as well. I rarely get told any rumors anymore because I have a reputation of not tolerating it. It is amazing how not saying anything and giving someone a look as they gleefully share a negative rumor can shut them down in their tracks. I also like to ask them who told you that and how do you know this is true? It forces someone to realizes they are spreading rumors and gossiping. Another response, a look of surprise and the comment. “Wow, that’s mean.” You can also make comments online but be careful you don’t get sucked into a bunch of negativity.
Be Positive. Make your comments on Facebook groups and pages encouraging and upbeat. It you can show military spouses in a positive light do so. You can write a blog post or make social media posts highlighting cool things military spouses are doing. This is an effective way to deal with trolls that make fun of military spouse dependent status.
Report to the Chain of Command – Really think this one through and only do it if the situation warrants it. Bringing bad behavior to light goes a long way towards stopping it.
Military Spouses who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression are extremely vulnerable to cyber bullying attacks. When visiting and participating on Facebook pages and groups pay attention to signs someone may feel left out or hurt by comments directed towards them. Reach out if you feel comfortable by private message and ask how they are doing. Maybe suggest a resource if you sense something is amiss.
Here are a few resources:
- Military One Source Military One Source has a confidential 24/7 hotline
- Tricare Crisis Hotlines A variety of hotlines for those seeking mental health help
- Suicide Prevention Hotline The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com