twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Cyberstalking: Mom Bloggers Attacked

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Gina Kaysen Fernandes:As a ghostwriter, Jody Ortiz preferred to keep a low profile, allowing others to bask in the limelight. The Oklahoma businesswoman ran a successful transcribing service out of her home and immersed herself in dozens of writing projects. Jody wasn't the type who surfed the Web in her free time, looking to pick fights. But all that changed after she stumbled upon a horrifying story of child abuse that turned her world upside down.

Jody Ortiz

Jody's online blogging about the tragic death of a toddler unleashed a torrent of comments from trolling hatemongers who have relentlessly been stalking her online for years now. It's a terrifying experience that has changed her life. "I'm Catholic; I went to church," says Jody. "I never got involved in anything like that."

Due to her effort to expose the injustice surrounding what Jody believes was the wrongful conviction of that child's mother, Jody became the target of cyberstalkers. She spoke out and exposed information, causing an uproar among a tight-knit group of blogging bullies. While cyberbullying is more common with teenagers, outspoken moms are increasingly on the receiving end of online attacks. In Jody's case, the escalating harassment went beyond nasty e-mails. "I have bullet holes in my truck, my truck has been keyed and my home has been burglarized," Jody says.

Jody's nightmare began in April of 2007, after the senseless death of 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs set off a powder keg of emotions in Oklahoma City. The little girl's stepfather pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The child's mother, Raye Dawn Smith, was about to go on trial for enabling child abuse and faced decades behind bars. No one was convicted of murder; however, Kelsey's mom had become a social pariah, convicted by the court of public opinion long before a court of law.

While the trial dominated the local news, Jody knew nothing about Kelsey's death until a former District Judge of Lincoln County hired her to ghostwrite his life story. Judge Craig Key had proceeded over Kelsey Smith-Briggs' custody case and had decided to place the toddler back in her mother's home. Four months later, Kelsey was dead and the intense media and public scrutiny of Key's ruling ultimately ended his judicial career.

Key wanted to write the book to respond to critics by including facts never revealed at trial. At first glance, the case seemed clear-cut. "I had judged [Smith and] I thought she was a terrible mom," says Jody. But as she began reading the documents, Jody's opinion about Raye Dawn Smith began to change. She visited Raye Dawn in prison, where the mom showed Jody the baby book she had made documenting every milestone of Kelsey's short life. "I could tell she really loved her daughter," says Jody. "I realized she was innocent."

Two days before the jury returned with a verdict, Jody went online and started a blog called "Seeking the Truth about Kelsey," aimed at "clearing up inaccuracies in the media reports," says Jody. Within hours, the site was flooded with traffic, forcing Jody to open a forum that could accommodate the thousands of posted comments. She had no idea that she had opened Pandora's box. "I was overwhelmed," says Jody. "I did the blog to correct things, but I didn't want to get involved."

The jury came back with a guilty verdict and handed Raye Dawn a 27-year prison sentence. Feeling outraged by what she viewed as an unfair trial and excessive punishment, Jody continued posting her thoughts anonymously online under the name "Truth Seeker." She also posted explosive evidence that had been suppressed at trial, which included e-mail correspondence between the stepfather and Kelsey's paternal grandmother.

Once members of Kelsey's paternal family got wind of Jody's website, their supporters began a relentless attack against Jody. At first, the cyberstalkers began with personal insults, like "Rot in hell, bitch"; "You're a piece of crap" and "You don't deserve to live." Within months, the trolls began spying on Jody's e-mail account and uncovered her personal information. They posted lies about Jody's work history in an effort to tarnish her credibility. They listed her home address, exposing that she worked from home. One person wrote, "Someone should pay her a visit."

The online call to action led to a burglary at Jody's home and bullet holes in her truck."I was afraid to leave my daughter alone," says Jody. "I was just terrified." She called police and explained the situation. Instead of investigating the crimes, the police officer assigned to the case told Jody that he believed Raye Dawn Smith "knew what was going on," then basically told Jody she was on her own.

While the trolls demonized Jody for supporting Raye Dawn, she also became a symbolic leader for others who sympathized with the cause. "Trying to raise awareness has put her in a horrible place," says Emily from Pittsburgh, one of the many Raye Dawn supporters who heard about the controversial conviction on Facebook. Emily is a mother of three and a licensed professional counselor for children and families. After scouring the Internet for more information, she found Jody's postings and felt compelled to speak out on the issue. "I can't explain why; it just felt so wrong," says Emily, who has also suffered the consequences of voicing her opinion.

Immediately after becoming a "friend' of Raye Dawn's Facebook page, Emily began getting random friend requests. "Trolls were stalking me, trying to trap me into giving them information," she says. The cyberstalkers lashed out at Emily's postings with constant name-calling and threats such as, "You better watch out, little girl" ... I hope you don't have children." The taunts took their toll on Emily. "It wears you down," she says. "It makes you feel defeated and belittled."

There are some ways to fight back and minimize your risk of attracting cyberstalkers."Less is best," says Alexis A. Moore, of the nonprofit group Survivors in Action. She warns that you should never provide your home address or private numbers when filling out online contact-information forms. If you're running a blog or an online business, install a free Web counter application that allows you to track information about the people who leave comments. An IP address is like a fingerprint that cyberstalkers leave behind; it identifies a person's location. "If someone is a threat, you can provide the IP address to law enforcement or an attorney to corroborate the stalking," says Moore.

Another line of defense is enrolling in a monitoring program like ReputationDefender.com, which can help with damage control. There are also victims' support groups (such as HaltAbuse.org) that offer additional tips, resources and information about cyberstalking.

The only real way to stop trolls from attacking is by disengaging. "You can't stop it from happening, but you can change how you feel about it," says momlogic cyber-expert Lori Getz. She offers this advice: "Don't put yourself out there if you don't want that attention." Getz, who runs her own cyber-education consulting business, frequently receives mean-spirited e-mails. The insults are aimed at trying to silence her from speaking out on cyberbullying and online predators. "I refuse to take it," she says. "I won't allow myself to be the victim."

The anonymity of the Internet can make people feel much bolder and act more brazen than they would face-to-face. "It's a mob mentality," says Getz, who believes that's why Jody's cyberstalkers went to the extreme. "They get other people riled up.They think everyone agrees with them, and that they're doing what's right for the community."

Unfortunately, there's little legal recourse for bad blogging behavior, unless someone crosses the line. If they threaten physical harm against you or your child, that's a crime. "You can't threaten people; it's illegal," says Getz, who advises that you reach out to police if it reaches that point. But cyber-crime is still considered new territory for police, judges and prosecutors. "Law enforcement is behind the eight ball, because cyberstalking evolved so quickly," says Moore.

With nowhere to turn, Jody Ortiz had no choice but to go underground. "I lost all my business, because I was so devastated by hate," she says. She was forced to move to another town and invest hundreds of dollars in spyware. The relentless stalking continues to this day. "I'm trying to get back to work, but they keep attacking me on the Internet," says Jody, who sought counseling to deal with the emotional turmoil. A therapist urged her to express her feelings through writing, which has helped. Jody has just finished writing a book she has self-published about her ordeal, entitled "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn."

Jody is still struggling to get her life back and to rebuild her reputation. While she continues to publicly support Raye Dawn Smith and her appeal efforts, "I'm more cautious about what I say online," says Jody. Although standing up for her beliefs has caused significant hardships, Jody believes she's doing the right thing. "I'm just a country girl with a big heart," she says.


next: Kids Should Be Banned from Wearing Flip-Flops
90 comments so far | Post a comment now
Baby Boutique December 18, 2010, 1:06 AM

This is my first time I have visited your site. I found a lot of interesting stuff in your blog. From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the great work.

Braun Shaver Reviews December 18, 2010, 3:01 AM

some really nice and utilitarian info on this website , besides I conceive the style and design holds excellent features.

Psychology Bachelors December 18, 2010, 4:20 AM

I real delighted to find this internet site on bing, just what I was looking for : D besides saved to fav.

CaskClact December 23, 2010, 5:46 PM

Visit www.theclothing.net to buy eDM, Bottoms, Gigi Prom, Dina Bar-el, Beauty, Bottoms, Watches, Bestsellers, Corsets and Basques, Nightwear, Cocktail Dresses, Tony Bowls Paris, Sue Wong, Sentimetal NY, Designer Jeans, NuBra, BG Haute on sale designed by Mikoh, Hanky Panky, Helmut Lang Denim, Helmut Lang, Melissa Shoes, Kimberly Ovitz, Alexis Bittar - always on sale!

Braun Shaver Reviews December 25, 2010, 9:58 AM

you have brought up a very fantastic points , regards for the post.

Eufemia Goodenough December 25, 2010, 8:47 PM

Aw, this was a really great post. In theory I’d like to write like this also - taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get something done.

car seat reviews convertible December 26, 2010, 12:14 AM

Very clean website , thank you for this post.

Schlage Keypad December 27, 2010, 3:22 PM

Warm regards for a pretty clear and beneficial publish. I am most certainly a violator of many of these principles. I generally uncover personally conflicted when writing a blog posting because I see myself creating more than most people choose to learn, but I think that I have got to do the topic matter proper rights by thoroughly covering it. I believe that by subsequent a few of these principles I finish up cutting out imperative features to your discussion. I guess you might have to unearth stability.

panasonic electric shaver  December 27, 2010, 10:53 PM

Really nice pattern and fantastic articles , absolutely nothing else we need : D.

hypnosis December 28, 2010, 12:02 PM

Hi folks, - spotted your web site by pure luck when wandering around the internet this afternoon, and pleased that i did! I like the design and style and colorings, but I should mention that I’m having trouble when it loads. I’m using WannaBe 1 web browser for mac, and the menu bit wouldn’t line up properly. i’m confident I have applied the same design on a company’s web site, but the menu seems fine on mine. I suspect the problem is with my outdated browser and just maybe it’s time to switch!

Spencer Gambrell December 29, 2010, 4:21 AM

Great post, thanks. I signed up to your rss feed!

Pharme316 December 29, 2010, 12:15 PM

Hello! fddecke interesting fddecke site!

free iphone January 1, 2011, 6:27 PM

hello there fine site and theme. Hopefully I’m not annoying you I simply wanted to inquire exactly what wordpress plugin you make use of to display the most recent responses on your blog? I really wish to do something along the same lines for my free iphone 4 web page but I cannot locate the plugin or widget for it. Thanks a lot for your time :)

dieta anului 2010 January 3, 2011, 7:03 AM

I have beeing scouring the Web for this information and just wanted to say thanks to you for this post. By the way, just off topic, how can i find a copy of this theme? – Thank you

Ten Tees January 9, 2011, 10:36 AM

Good site. Nice and fun reading. I just have a observation to give about t-shirts.

HostNine Coupon January 9, 2011, 8:35 PM

Interesting post, thanks. Can you explain the second paragraph more?

tudung labuh bidang 60 January 13, 2011, 3:28 AM

I conceive other website proprietors should take this web site as an example , very clean and good user friendly design and style .

Unlock iPhone January 13, 2011, 6:06 PM

There is visibly a bundle to identify about this. I suppose you made some good points in features also.

Belgrade Hostel January 14, 2011, 1:49 AM

This is excellent! Where do you find this stuff?

fast cash loans online January 14, 2011, 9:52 PM

I love what you guys are frequently up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll.


Leave a reply:



(not displayed)

     




Avoid clicking "Post" more than once
Back to top >>
advertisement