Darieth Chisolm to speak out on cyber harassment at Providence Connections

Photo courtesy of Providence Connections

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Former WPXI on-air personality, Darieth Chisolm to host  Providence Connections’ “Families First Networking Series: Everyday Courage and How to Combat Cyber Harassment”

By: Neil Strebig

Earlier this year, Darieth Chisolm had her life threatened by an ex-boyfriend. He created a website, posting nude photos he took of the former on-air personality without her consent, while she was asleep and attempted to direct Chisolm’s friends, family and professional colleagues towards the site. He told her he was going to “silence and destroy” her.  The traumatic event left the former broadcast journalist questioning her next steps.

“For a while, I couldn’t say anything to anybody,” said Chisolm in regards to the attack. “He was silencing me because I couldn’t say or do anything. Even though I wanted to deep down, there was nothing I could do.”

Now, Chisolm has decided to use this experience as a platform to speak out against cyber harassment. Earlier this year, she helped launch the 50 Shades of Silence initiative, an online platform and working documentary that chronicles the impact of cyber harassment via survivor stories like Chisolm’s (see above video). She has decided to use her story, as a “precedent” to speak out on these issues, a choice she refers to as “the most reassuring decision I have ever made.”

On Tuesday, November 28 at 12 p.m. Chisolm will take part in Providence Connections’ “Families First Networking Series” where she will share her story and help provide an educational outlet for audience members to better understand cyber harassment and what she calls “everyday courage and overcoming setbacks.”

 

“Our Families First Networking Series will be an ongoing opportunity for parents to discuss various struggles in the workplace, at home and the importance of a strong family unit to conquer today’s ongoing challenges,” said Providence Connections board member, Sheryl Johnson in a press release.

Photo courtesy of Providence Connections

According to the 50 Shades of Silence website, 72 percent of Americans have witnessed at least one harassing behavior online and 47 percent have experienced some form cyber harassment themselves. In a 13-year report compiled by Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) highlighted that women make up 70 percent of all reported cases.

Cyber harassment is an umbrella of harmful actions including verbal abuse, online bullying, revenge porn and cases of sextortion; defined by Interpol, sextortion is blackmail in which sexual information and images are used to extort sexual favors and/or money from victims.

With the internet boom and the rise of smartphone technology, there is a rising concern in how to properly combatant cyber harassment cases. For Chisolm, the battle starts with prevention, education and understanding how to protect oneself. During a phone interview, Chisolm acknowledged that a large problem affecting these crimes are outdated laws and federal guidelines. In her own case, the acting judge told her that this was “new territory.” Currently, there are only 36 states with cyber harassment laws in place along with a current legislative movement lead by Rep. Jackie Speier, CA-D in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There are no stop gaps,” said Chisolm. “In many cases, people get away with it.”

According to Chisolm, one of the biggest steps a person can take is to accept “social responsibility” and be aware when taking selfies and sharing media. She offers three steps to help protect against cyber victimization.

“I need to use my story as a platform to fight this,” said Chisolm. “Even though I can’t get criminal or civil justice doesn’t mean I can’t get social justice.”

First, is to collect all evidence and potentially damaging information or media. Second, she advises potential victims to seek a friend. According to her this doubles as both a support system and also a tool to help one “reclaim their voice.” Often it can be embarrassing to ask for questionable content back or even explaining the situation and to Chisolm, it would be wise to have an extra support system in place for oneself. Lastly, one should prioritize the removal of any damaging content as quickly as possible.

Chisolm’s own case was dismissed since it took place in Jamaica and could not be accurately tracked from one point of origin. The current format for cyber harassment laws is still largely based off of the Interstate Stalking Act signed by President Clinton in 1996, where offenders were mainly prosecuted based on location. However the problem lies in tracking the source of the crime. Without a federal statute many current state laws are regimented to state and county lines, as in the case with Chisolm sometimes the actual crime cannot be traced or linked back to one point of origin for persecution, since persons can access the internet seemingly everywhere.

Cyber harassment is a new age crime and with a rising number of reported cases and victims. Chisolm and the 50 Shades of Silence team saw this as an opportunity to become a leading voice in the battle against cyber harassment.

“I need to use my story as a platform to fight this,” said Chisolm. “Even though I can’t get criminal or civil justice doesn’t mean I can’t get social justice.”

Tickets for Tuesday’s event are $20 and can be purchased through the Providence Connections website. The “Families First Networking Series” will be an ongoing event at the Brightwood facility.

For more information on the 50 Shades of Silence initiative and documentary visit 50shadesofsilence.com.

 

This article was last updated at 9:33 a.m. on November 27, 2017.