Over the past decade now, cosplay has become one of the largest subsets of the geek/nerd community, both in and out of the convention scene. Faith recently reached out to Nerd-Base to write a guest post on how to protect yourself and safely enjoy the Cosplay Communtiy:
Unfortunately, most cosplayers are no stranger to being harassed when out in public. This is especially true for
female cosplayers, probably because men find them especially cute or sexy dressed up as some of their favorite characters. Even worse, the harassment faced by some cosplayers is not limited to when they’re out in public or at conventions. There are many cases of cosplayers being harassed online when they’re supposed to feel safe in their homes. Online harassment of adults is usually referred to as cyberstalking and can be terrifying.
Californian Linz Stanley is a popular cosplayer who posts many of her pictures on Instagram. She recently came under attack from online trolls who told her that she was overweight and shouldn’t be wearing a Harley Quinn costume. You can find more of Linz’ work by clicking on these links: Linz Stanley’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Maridah (who can be found on all the social medias and her own website) is another popular cosplayer who posts pictures of herself in her outfits online. She reported that in a conversation with a fan on Facebook, he asked to see a picture of her naked. She sent him a picture of a cat wearing nothing but a piece of toast on its head. The fan then sent her a message asking for a picture of her “breasts visible.” Maridah says that this is by no means an isolated incident. Clearly, cosplayers are targeted by trolls and cyberstalkers, so it’s critical to protect yourself online. Our editor reached out to Maridah, and she had some good input on the topic:
Perverse messages are a very common occurrence on Facebook. In part that is due to the size of the site’s user base, but the website’s lackluster approach to moderation adds to it. I eventually got too busy to wade through all the messages, so I turned off the ability to contact my page and got a moderator. I’d like to say that totally stopped the dickpics and gross messages, but persistent perverts learn to tag your page or try messaging your personal account. It cuts down on most of it though.. If a cosplayer is dealing with harassment, I’d recommend making it inconvenient for people you don’t know to message you on social media. Many harassing messages are sent spur of the moment, so it cuts down on the volume of stuff you’ll get sent. Set up an email, and make that your main point of contact. Ask a friend to help moderate for you & return the favor on their accounts if you can. My fiancé moderates for me, and that has been a big help! Many of my cosplay friends have spouses, siblings, or best friends doing the moderating for them so they can stay positive and focus on the hobby they enjoy.
- Never Share Personal Information
Despite Project Secret Identity 2015, many people continue to share personal information online. I’m sure you know not to share your name, telephone number or physical address with a stranger online. But those are, by no means, the only pieces of personal information that could potentially endanger you.
Seemingly innocuous details, such as what type of work you do, can also endanger you. If someone gathers enough details about you, it’s possible for them to combine all those details and find you. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your IP address. This will make it much harder for anyone to track you down. While your IP address won’t give anyone your physical address, it can help them significantly narrow down their search. Combine that with a few other personal details, and it might be possible for someone to find out where you live or work.
- Document Your Experience
If anyone does start cyberstalking you, it’s essential that you keep a record of every encounter you have with them, no matter how small. Keep every message they send you and take screen shots of all your interactions with them. Also, make sure to keep a backup of all this information in case something happens to your computer.
This may sound like an extremely paranoid thing to do, but if things escalate, it can make or break a stalking or harassment case. The last thing you want is to be endlessly stalked or harassed, then find you have no legal way to protect yourself because you have no proof. You can also use this information to convince a social media network or website to block the person who’s harassing you online.
- Report and Block Offenders
Most social media networks and websites have a policy of use that allows users to report and block other users who harass them or behave inappropriately. If someone is cyberstalking you, follow the website’s guidelines to report your harasser. Depending on what the harasser has done, the website may go ahead and block them from contacting you via their site, or they may block them from using the site entirely.
This is where your record keeping and documentation come in handy. If you have proof that the other person has been harassing you, it will probably fast-track the process of having them blocked. This may even be enough to dissuade them.
- Involve the Authorities
If the cyberstalking continues, you need to contact the authorities. Don’t be tempted to try to ignore it, especially if the person makes any threats to harm you, your property or your loved ones. Report it to the authorities immediately. These situations can escalate extremely quickly.
While there is still a need for new national laws to protect people from cyberstalking or harassment, many states have laws against cyberstalking. Illinois, Florida, Texas, California, Washington state, Missouri and Massachusetts all have some form of legislation against cyberstalking. So contact your local authorities, and ask them to help you protect yourself.
Are you a cosplayer who’s been cyberstalked? If so, how did you manage the situation? Please tell us about it in the comments section.
About the author: Faith Macanas is an entertainment blogger who loves cosplay. Unfortunately, she’s had her own experience with cyberstalking. Faith wants to help anyone else who’s struggling with it. You can find more of Faith’s work on securethoughts.com.