Cyberbullying is most often associated with children. But many adults also suffer online harassment. Lesli Catsouras, 46, is one such adult, and she’s sharing her harrowing story in a new memoir entitled, “Forever Exposed.” A deeply personal tale, Catsouras’ book is about the cyberbullying she and her family experienced after her 18 year old daughter was killed in a car crash.
It all started on Halloween afternoon of 2006. After having lunch with her parents, Nikki grabbed the keys to her father’s porche, the one she was not supposed to drive, and escaped out the garage. Panicked, Nikki’s mother immediately called her father, who tried to warn the police, but it was too late.
Nikki lost her life after crashing into an unmanned toll booth. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly difficult time for the Catsouras family. All they wanted to do is grieve in peace and try to piece their life back together. But the opposite ended up happening.
Due to a leak by the California Highway Patrol, the pictures of Nikki’s death leaked onto the Internet. Within days, the Catsouras family was inundated with taunting emails. Many even included pictures of Nikki’s crash. When word got out that there were traces of cocaine in Nikki’s system at the time of the crash, things got even worse. She was labeled a spoiled brat who deserved what she got, and the family had to endure the nightmare – both online and off.
The cyberbullying was relentless. The disparaging messages came in day after day, week after week, month after month. And yes, those months turned into years. Can you imagine years of persistent cyberbullying? It got so bad that the youngest Catsouras, who is now 13, is still not allowed on the Internet.
The Catsouras’ bid to rid the Web of the gruesome photos has been long and challenging. According to Lesli, her family has spent several millions trying to remove the photos from the Internet…and years later, some images still linger in the ether.
If you or someone close to you is being cyberbullied, there are legal avenues available to fight back. You can file a defamation lawsuit or get a temporary restraining order, for example. Also, tons of online reputation services help those who are in need of “cleaning up” any unwanted information that has managed to find its way onto the Internet.
Cyberbullying is a terrible thing to suffer through. But don’t give up. There is help out there, the first step to rectifying the situation is picking up the phone or sending that initial email to someone who is experienced with the legalities of cyberbullying.