Alderman’s meth roomie FB tag: David Heitz, would you eat these cupcakes?

Actual photo used to harass me online; I was so mad I saved it in case I ever wanted to write about it.

I had just started my freelance gig with Healthline News in 2013, and I was both excited and grateful. I already had landed a few big stories and really was loving life again, despite the fact my dad had just entered a memory care community.

For the first time in ages, I felt good about myself professionally. And I knew that as an online journalist, I had to clean up my online presence. For many years I was a drunk and a drug addict, and my FB friends reflected that.

So, when someone tagged me in a picture of these cupcakes – asking if I would like to eat one – I became very angry.

The person? Gage Wenthe, now spending time in prison for dealing meth out of the home of former Davenport Alderman Bill Boom. Boom initially denied any knowledge of Wenthe’s antics, but later admitted to lying to a grand jury during the investigation. He was convicted of perjury and sentenced in August. Boom escaped prison time, but faced fines, community service, probation and had to relinquish ownership of his busy Davenport, Iowa, gay bar, Mary’s on 2nd.

For many years, I was way too close to the alderman, his friends (including Wenthe, who I always viewed as a victim first and foremost) and the bar.

When my dad became sick and went into a memory care facility, and I went back to work, I quietly stepped away from this group. I even sold my car (the one before the Prius) and stopped going out and about to avoid these people.

The bottom line: I had left this group and these people behind. And I had made it very, very clear, albeit in a very nice and respectful way, that I had no intention of ever looking back.

Some of them didn’t take too kindly to it.

The penis cupcakes were a really stupid stunt for Gage Wenthe to pull. The cupcakes had been made for one of many raucous parties attended by “the group.”

One in three teens have been cyberbullied

People might respond differently to being tagged in a photo of freshly baked penis cupcakes.

How would your teenage daughter react? Or son? Especially with a tag that says, “Would you like one of these cupcakes?”

She/he might react like I did. Block the person and assume a zero-tolerance position from there forward to anyone associated with that person. One more stupid peep on FB from anybody and they’re blocked.

Read more: I’m a highly sensitive person, but that doesn’t mean I cry easily

Or, she/he might get really, really upset. What could be more embarrassing than being tagged on social media in a picture of penis cupcakes, someone asking you if you’d like to eat one?

To lesser and worse degrees, this is happening every day in America. But it’s when it happens to kids that worries me most.

From a recent Forbes piece:

A 2016 report from the Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that 33.8 percent of students between 12 and 17 were victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime. Conversely, 11.5% of students between 12 and 17 indicated that they had engaged in cyberbullying in their lifetime.

Cyberbullying is different from “traditional” bullying in that it happens 24/7. For victims, there is no escape. It’s not confined to school or the playground. Kids and teens connect through social media, so for many, there is no option to simply go offline.

Cyberbullying also can be a precursor to other forms of exploitation, which is why it’s critical for children to be able to tell parents anything and everything.

From Forbes:

Even more troubling is the connection between cyberbullying and child exploitation. At Two Hat Security, we’ve identified a cycle in which child predators groom young victims, are tricked into taking explicit photos which are then shared online; this leads to bullying and harassment from peers and strangers. Finally, the victim suffers from depression, engages in self-harm, and sometimes — tragically — commits suicide. It’s a heartbreaking cycle.

Taunting video leads 12-year-old to hang herself

One high-profile case ended just that way last month, when a 12-year-old girl in California hung herself.

Reported NBC News:

Over the past two months, her parents noticed Rosalie had become more reclusive, and they put her in counseling after discovering she was cutting herself, Avila said. They knew she was being bullied at school and on social media by classmates, who taunted her for her braces and called her ugly. 

But they were not aware of the extent of the bullying until after her death — when friends at her vigil showed them a video a classmate posted of Rosalie sitting by herself while the classmate made fun of her, her father said. 

“Rose just kept this to herself,” Avila said. “On the inside, it was just tearing her to pieces that they were always making fun of her.”

Some may wonder why I don’t use the gay bullying example. Well, only because I think there is a lot of attention paid to that one – kids being called gay online. There SHOULD be a lot of attention paid to that. When people called me gay in school, I was MORTIFIED.

But in the 70s, the “gay” label was gone as soon as the bully’s big fat mouth closed.

Not anymore.

But let me tell you something, gays can be bullies, too. They bully each other. A lot. Even as adults.

In fact, my fellow gay, at times myself included, can be an incredibly nasty species when threatened. It probably is from living a life of abuse, because that’s exactly how the cycle repeats itself.

Husbands and wives who are estranged cyberbully each other, too. Even co-workers do it, often in a passive-aggressive way that allows perps to keep their jobs.

Just block them! Forever!

I think it’s important to instill in ourselves and our children a “zero tolerance” policy on cyberbullying. If you are cyberbullied, block the person IMMEDIATELY. Your mental health is too important. Never take abuse twice, although never beat yourself up for doing so previously.

If that makes any sense.

🙂

Once I blocked Gage, the cyberbullying did not end. It went on for months, and months, and months from others who just emerged in his place. It was an organized attack, no doubt.

The typical scenario would be someone from the former gay bar where I used to hang out commenting on an innocuous post I would make. They would then question my sanity and use assorted narcissistic gaslighting techniques.

Then the other LGBT criminals (as I like to call them, as many of them are at this point) would “like” the nasty comment.

Anyone suffering from anxiety can explain the curse of the Facebook “like,” or lack thereof of “likes.” I know I have enough faithful followers with anxiety that I don’t have to!

Read more: Social media often makes me paranoid. Here’s how I intend to fix it

Eventually, Rosalie hung herself.

From the Forbes piece:

A 2016 report from the Cyberbullying Research Center indicates that 33.8 percent of students between 12 and 17 were victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime. Conversely, 11.5% of students between 12 and 17 indicated that they had engaged in cyberbullying in their lifetime.

My computer even was hacked into and rendered inoperable several times by apparent “White Hat” hackers I believe to be associated with this LGBT crowd I used to run with. It made it extremely difficult for me to work when the internet and/or the computer were not running. I pushed through, but the Rock Island police will tell you, nothing made me angrier than the cyber-harassment and assorted internet problems.

Now, it has caught up with me and affected my livelihood. My connectivity seems great with the new provider — too bad all the paid work is gone!

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my clients didn’t have to absorb a lot of my tension. I am grateful beyond words that they did so, and even have offered me references now that they have left Contently.

But I’m also not going to sit here and pretend I am NOT a victim. I owned my sh*t when I got sober. However, I accept no personal responsibility whatsoever for my current situation. I have been harassed and harassed and harassed and harassed. Of course it has contributed to the chronic PTSD.

I have filed multiple police reports regarding the cyber-harassment and hacking. I even showed one officer pretty damning evidence on my computer that blatantly points to one person in particular tampering with it.

Read more: Check out my portfolio of paid mental health wellness content

In the middle of all of this, my father was dying and I was fielding a dozen calls a day related to his medications, him falling in the facility, and a million other caregiver nightmares. At night, I would dodge threatening, harassing, nasty, venomous emails from my evil brother, whose mission in life always has been to torment and abuse me.

The takeaway

I think it’s critical for a person to understand how and why they react to things, and to avoid anything upsetting. Always.

And I completely understand that kids don’t get this.

If I had a child, and I don’t, I would tell them that their own special psyche – their way of looking at the world and interacting with the world – is uniquely theirs, and that it is what makes them special.

But I also would tell them that if they know that mean people harassing them online threatens their happiness and their sanity, then they need to get offline at once when it happens. Otherwise, they’re just a glutton for punishment.

My mother’s advice when I would come home from school crying after being called “faggot” all day: Just ignore them.

It’s good advice. I’d add to take a screen shot when it happens and save it in case you ever need proof of what transpired.

Until next time.

Check out my medical cannabis writing portfolio

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