We all need to be up to date on social media safety tips in today’s world.
There are malicious bots, website hackers, and viruses ready to attack us on multiple fronts.
But safety is especially critical for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.
Due to April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I decided to devote today’s post to this topic.
What can you do to build your author platform if you’re a survivor of domestic violence or rape?
Domestic Violence Toll on Our Society
It’s not an uncommon question. Consider these facts from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
- An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
- Females who are 20 – 24 years of age are at the highest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
- Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.
- Also, 75% of women who are killed in domestic violence homicides after they leave or while they are in the process of leaving.
These are scary numbers.
Sexual Assault Statistics (Including Incest)
Consider these statistics from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
-> Women are at risk everywhere. In the United States, every 73 seconds, another woman is sexually assaulted.
-> 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).
-> About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
-> From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated or found strong evidence to indicate that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
-> A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17.
Assaults Occur Everywhere
What was the victim doing in advance of the assault? Look at these numbers from RAINN:
-> It may be hard to believe but it’s a fact that 48% were sleeping or performing another activity at home.
-> 29% were traveling to and from work or school or traveling to shop or run errands
-> 12% were working
-> 7% were attending school
-> 5% were doing an unknown or other activity
Authors Affected by Stalking, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Assault
At a writers conference several years ago, I met a writer who was being stalked.
Also, a domestic violence survivor contacted me, asking for my advice. Then, while attending another conference, a rape survivor asked me a similar question.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, have them call 800-656-HOPE. The domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.
Finally, if you need police intervention, call 911.
Keep reading. You will learn how you can protect yourself while building your author brand.
Social Media Safety Tips
The most straightforward strategy is to create a pen name. Even authors who don’t have a sexual assault in their backgrounds sometimes use pen names.
Some use a maiden name as their author name. In some cases, an author with a pen name may be a school teacher who writes romance or erotic novels. If their principals discovered their books, the teachers could lose their jobs.
Pen names are a perfect choice for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
Keep reading more additional strategies.
Facebook Safety Tips
First, let’s talk about your avatar. I recommend using a picture of your pet. If you don’t have a pet, download a picture on a free image website such as Pixabay.
Want to post on Facebook? Make sure your status update setting is for approved friends only.
For more information, check out Facebook’s web page on its privacy settings.
Use a pen name so your abuser can’t find you on social media. If you don’t adopt a pen name it’s too dangerous to have a Facebook author page. In that situation, focus on building your profile and tighten your privacy settings.
Facebook Security Settings
Your first step will be to block the abuser. Go to your news feed (the Home tab) and click Settings.
Next, click Settings in the left column. Then click Blocking.
Type the name of the abuser or rapist in the search bar and click Block.
Next, navigate to the settings under Privacy.
Here, you’ll want to check these sections:
- Who can see your future posts?
- Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in.
- Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?
- Who can send you friend requests? (I set mine as Friends of Friends. If you are concerned about your safety, don’t select Everyone.)
- Who can look you up using the email address you provided? (I set mine as Friends only. If your abuser has your email address, you want to copy my stricter setting.)
- Who can look you up using the phone number you provided? (I have a strict setting here. I don’t want anyone to find me by using my phone number due to a rape in my past.
- Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? (My setting is no. I don’t want some random men finding me in their Google browser, and you don’t want your abuser to find you online.)
Follow Your Comfort Level
Go with your comfort level and do what makes you feel safest.
Now check out the box titled “Who can look you up using the email address you provided?” If the abuser has access to your email address, make sure your filter is as strict as possible.
My setting is “only me.”
Remember, you also need to hide from your abuser’s wife, girlfriend, and friends. I recommend stringent controls here.
Twitter and Privacy Controls
Privacy on Twitter isn’t straightforward. When you open Twitter, click More and then Settings and Privacy on the left column.
These are the categories under Privacy and Safety.
- Protect your Tweets
- Location information (I don’t include my location. Under location, you can write anything. You can describe yourself as a feminist or an author.
- Photo tagging (Do not allow this.)
- Receive messages from anyone. (Do not check this box.)
- Quality filter (This filter prevents “lower-quality” messages from reaching your DM inbox.
- Show read receipts.
Discoverability and Contacts
- Under Discoverability, don’t allow people to find you by using your email address or phone number.
- Contacts – Don’t touch this setting.
There are numerous settings under this section, as you can see in this screenshot. Go through these settings judiciously.
Notifications are emails that Twitter sends you. I turned mine off. I receive enough emails and I check my Twitter notifications on the Twitter website daily.
I always recommend using a picture of yourself. Guess what? In this case, use a picture of a tree, a pet, or a new book cover.
I work for a respected domestic violence therapist and author on her Twitter account. For that reason, I’ve learned that survivors never use their own pictures. Follow their example.
My settings on Twitter are relatively strict.
Do not protect your tweets. If you do that, your account will never grow.
Similarly, use a pen name and a fake photo. How else can you build your author brand online?
On other social media platforms that you use, go to the settings feature, and make your privacy settings as strict as you need to.
I wouldn’t use LinkedIn, by the way. Animal avatars look inappropriate. Just skip this platform.
Using social media as a survivor isn’t easy. However, with the right precautions, it can be done.
Frances Caballo is an author and social media consultant. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online and building their platform. Also, she provides content writing and email marketing services. Find out how you’re doing on social media.