I hope you'll forgive any rambling that may occur in this blog post. It's been a long, long process working through having a cyber harasser/bully/stalker, but I'll try to keep it succinct and maybe even offer some help if you're in the same boat.
I started my photography business years ago, like so many of us did, with big dreams and a sub-par camera. From then til now, the hustle has been real- late nights working weddings, long drives home, not enough pay, and long days of editing- all while working to maintain healthy relationships. You know how it is- your business is your baby.
So, when I started receiving false, defamatory reviews on my Google Business listing in October, it was literally like a shot to the heart. Heck, I had only signed up for a Google listing three months before and this is what was going to happen? I looked up what to do, and responded respectfully to each review that, basically, I'd never had a client by that name and that (often) I didn't even offer the services they claimed I did such a horrible job executing and delivering.
Then I went to Google. This was not an easy task. Google My Business is incredibly hard to get ahold of. They have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and buried deep, deep (like, center of the earth deep) in their help pages, an email address that I found once and couldn't ever find again. Nevertheless, the email address has been the only helpful resource, since the other accounts either never responded or frustratingly needed all my information anew each time I wrote to them, even though I could see the last three messages in the thread with the information right. there.
But, despite the frustration, it has worked, and most of the literally hundreds of false reviews that have poured in over the last few months have been removed.
The harassment didn't stop with reviews, though. To name a few other aspects:
I've had to change my phone number because the harasser found it and posted it on Craigslist, blowing up my phone with so many messages daily I could barely use it.
I've reduced my digital footprint to almost nothing to keep the number of places I can be reached and abused to a minimum.
This harasser has posted in 4chan threads requesting people to send me incredibly inappropriate photos, videos, and emails via my website.
They've accused my loving husband of severe abuse.
And since this is still happening, the list continues to grow.
The latest tactic is creating more fake Google accounts and posting on local businesses the same sort of nonsense they'd started with on my Google Business page. "I will only be using Dixie Gaultney Photography from now on....etc."
Also, they also posted these fake reviews under names like 'Sara Gaultney,' 'Al Gaultney,' and 'Peter Gaultney.' I hope it will seem obvious that if I did want to run the risk of ruining my own business’s reputation by posting false reviews on other businesses, I certainly wouldn’t be foolish enough to use my own last name.
At any rate, I have evidence to support all this, and a report in with the local police. I don't want to spend too much time thinking about this whole thing (unlike my harasser, who clearly has time to waste) but I wanted to write this post because I thought many of you out there could use an explanation either about why you're being targeted or what this could be like.
If something like this is happening to you, I'd love to get together to share more and offer support and whatever guidance I can.
If you're here because you've been victimized by my harasser, I hope you'll accept my apologies that they've hurt you. Please know I would never do anything like that.
If you've made it through all this and still want to contact me, please use the link on this page.
I'll try to keep this updated to let you know if anything new and significant happens.