What is cyber bullying and what can we do about it?

Bullying is a problem most of us witness in our lifetime.  Whether we are the bullied, the bully or an observer, we know what it is and what it looks like in a classroom, on the playing field, on the bus, or in the work place.

Cyber bullying is the newest way for people to tease, taunt and hurt other people.  It can occur 24 hours a day and can be done anonymously which makes it that much more damaging – there are few limits.

If We Only Knew, If He Only Told Us (a true story of cyber bullying)


According to Ryan’s Story, the website operated by Ryan’s parents, John and Kelly Halligan, early concerns about Ryan’s speech, language and motor skills development led to him receiving special education services from pre-school through the fourth grade. Ryan’s academic and physical struggles made him the regular target of a particular bully at school between the fifth and seventh grade. In February 2003, a fight between Ryan and the bully not only ended the harassment at school, but also led to a supposed friendship.

However, after Ryan shared an embarrassing personal story, the newly found friend returned to being a bully and used the information to start a rumour that Ryan was gay. The taunting continued into the summer of 2003, although Ryan thought that he had struck a friendship with a pretty, popular girl through AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Instead, he later learned that the girl and her friends thought it would be funny to make Ryan think the girl liked him and use it to have him share more personally embarrassing material—which was copied and pasted into AIM exchanges with her friends. On October 7, 2003, Ryan hanged himself in the family bathroom. After his son’s death, John discovered a folder filled with IM exchanges throughout that summer that made him realize “that technology was being utilized as weapons far more effective and reaching [than] the simple ones we had as kids.”

Aftermath: There were no criminal charges filed following Ryan’s death because no criminal law applied to the circumstances. Seven months after Ryan’s death, Vermont’s Bully Prevention Law (ACT 117) was signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas. John Halligan also authored Vermont’s Suicide Prevention Law (ACT 114), which passed unchanged in April 2006.

You can read more case studies here.

So what is cyber bullying?

rumors, testing, gossiping, threats, name-calling, harassment, mean words, lies

The simplest definition of cyberbullying is the use of technology by a young person to harass, embarrass or threaten another young person.  Some common examples* of cyberbullying are:

  • Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages
  • Denigration: Distributing information about another that is derogatory and untrue through posting it on a web page, sending it to others through email or instant messaging, or posting or sending digitally altered photos of someone
  • Flaming: Online “fighting” using electronic messages with angry, vulgar language
  • Impersonation: Breaking into an email or social networking account and using that person’s online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others
  • Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information, or tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information and forwarding it to others
  • Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety (depending on the content of the message, it may be illegal)

* Nancy Willard with the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (CSRIU) has developed this useful taxonomy of the various forms of cyber bullying. Visit CSRIU’s site.

Where does it happen?

Most of us have heard of chat rooms, text message, facebook, instant messenger, twitter and perhaps instagram.  These are the most widely used electronic mediums and most familiar to youth and adults alike. Of course, every day there seems to be some new website or “app” that is gaining in popularity.  Myspace is out. Snapchat is in.

mobile devices

Recently, some mobile apps that tout their anonymous posting ability have been gaining popularity.  These can be very welcoming opportunities for people bent on bullying. This article in NY Magazine describes several anonymous apps and what their capabilities are and this Boston Globe article describes the fallout some users of the apps have experienced.

Here is just one quote from the NY Magazine article that exemplifies how dangerous these can be:

App Store description: “Yik Yak acts like a local bulletin board for your area by showing the most recent posts from other users around you.”
What makes it different: Yik Yak is beloved by teenagers (and loathed by their teachers), who use it for all manner of anonymous shit-talking. 
Will Haskell wrote earlier this year about how Yik Yak’s text-only posts “brought [his] high school to a halt,” after messages like ““K. is a slut” and “The cheer team couldn’t get uglier” made their way onto the app.

Prevention Tips for Parents:

  • Know what technology your child is using
  • Learn how their electronic devices work
  • Lead by example – do not post anything on social media that you would not want your child to see or post themselves
  • Monitor their social media accounts, either by “friending” them or asking to see their computer/phone  There are APPs you can download to help you monitor your kids.
  • Talk to your kids about internet safety – remind them of the basics
    • Never share your password
    • Do not give out personal information such as address or phone number
    • Never post/send information or photos that you wouldn’t want a non-friend to see
    • People online are not always who they say they are
    • Tell a trusted adult if someone threatens, insults, scares or is somehow mean to you or someone else
    • Never share an embarrassing photo of someone else
    • Think before you post – once you post something on the internet (or send a message) you have no control over what happens next with that information/photo

Warning signs that your child may be a target of cyberbullying:

  • They are upset after using their phone/computer
  • They try and hide their computer screen/phone from you
  • Sudden avoidance of school and peer activities
  • Sudden decline in grades

What to do if you suspect your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Do not blame your child, even if they have not followed your advice on how to behave online.  Support them through this difficult time and offer to help them find support services if they want them (or if you think they need them).
  • Do not engage the bully.  Do not respond to their messages or posts unless you want to send ONE message stating that what they are doing is harassment and if they continue you will report them (and then follow through on that).
  • Block the bully from access to your child.  You can block them on social media sites and you can have your cell phone provider block them as well as filter out their email.
  • If the bully is a classmate, check your school’s bulling policy.  You can find Nantucket Public School’s policy HERE.  You may also want to contact the bully’s parents to let them know what is going on.
  • Contact the administrators of the social media site where the bullying occurs.  Often harassing behavior is against terms of service and the bully’s account can be deactivated.

More resources:

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Nantucket!

Men of Nantucket, are you Man Enough? (we think so!) 

“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” 

On June 29th, from 11am-1pm at Children’s Beach, Nantucket men, lead by members of Man Up will have the opportunity to do just that in a walk-a-thon event to raise funds for A Safe Place.

Men in heels

photo courtesy of Peggy Peattie/San Diego Union-Tribune/ZUMA Press

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® is an event designed to raise awareness about violence against women by asking men to literally walk a mile in high heeled shoes. It’s not easy to walk in these shoes, but it’s fun and will help the Nantucket community think and talk about some difficult issues: gender relations and men’s sexual violence against women.

We are encouraging good natured competition between teams and individuals who will be vying for prizes based on their creativity and fundraising totals.

Getting involved is simple.  Register NowJust click to register or donate!




This will be an eye-opening experience or many, a fun spectacle to watch for women, and, we hope, a conversation starter for all.

Please call our office if you are interested in volunteering or sponsorship opportunities.

A Safe Place partners with the Nantucket License Plate Initiative

We have become a partner in the Nantucket License Plate initiative.  When you apply for the plate just note that A Safe Place sent you!  We get $28 for each application that mentions us.

Wouldn’t your car look great cruising the island with one of these plates?  Anyone with a car registered in Massachusetts can order one!Nantucket license plate

The Nantucket specialty license plate is now available for pre-order through this website and via paper application available at many locations around the island (including our office). When MassDOT receives 1,500 paid applications the plates will go into production. After the first 1,500 plates are delivered the specialty license plates will be made available in RMV location across Massachusetts.


Man Up attends White Ribbon Day events

On March 6 members of Man Up travelled to the State House in Boston to participate in the 7th Annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign events.  They joined over 450 other participants from across Massachusetts – advocates, high school and college students, law enforcement, senators, state representatives and other elected officials – who are committed to putting an end to domestic and sexual violence.

Since 2008 Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, has organized White Ribbon Day as a primary prevention strategy to help end male violence against women.  The white ribbon represents men taking a public pledge to promote healthy masculinity and speak out against all forms of violence against women.Take the pledge. Wear the ribbon.

Locally, Man Up Nantucket distributed printed cards with their pledge and white ribbons to several locations so Nantucket men could show their support.

The text of the pledge is:

From this day forward, I will stand up and speak out against gender based violence on Nantucket, and will work with other islanders to break the silence around harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault.

The event in Boston was powerful and invigorating.  The members of Man Up are grateful to have had the opportunity to join so many men working to end violence in their communities.

For more information on Man Up, like them on Facebook where you can keep up to date on all news and activities.




One Billion Rising Nantucket style!

Full house at One Billion RisingOn February 14, 2014 many Nantucketers gathered in the Studio at The Dreamland for the first annual One Billion Rising event on the island.  Originally planned to start at the Atheneum Garden with a march to the Dreamland for the second half of the program, organizers decided to hold the entire event at The Dreamland due to the weather.

One Billion Rising Lisa frey Images_27

The hour-long program, much of which was translated into Spanish by Carla Zenis, A Safe Place’s bilingual advocate, began with remarks by A Safe Place’s Executive Director, Kat Robinson Grieder. Kitty Pochman shared a message that One Billion Rising’s founder and inspiration, Eve Ensler, had sent to the organizing through Wendy Schmidt:

Dear Amazing Women,
I have heard from Wendy that you are cooking up a massive rising in One Billion Rising Michael Pearson Images_2Nantucket and I wanted you to know I am so deeply with you and so moved to hear of the extraordinary energy you are calling up for a world where women are safe and free. I have been traveling all over the world and this One Billion Rising for Justice will be massive. So many are coming together, women
, men, children, old young, 200 countries, villages, towns, cities, islands to end this violence and call for justice  and love. Please know I am with you and I send my heart,
Eve Ensler

The rest of the program included a video from last year’s OBR events worldwide, a dance presentation by a troupe of girls from the Boys and Girls Club, a spoken word performance by students from the Girl Band at One Billion Rising EventUMass Boston Nantucket Semester, a proclamation from the Board of Selectmen and live music. One of the most emotional parts of the program were the Rising Statements made by members of the community, some of whom were representing organizations such as A Safe Place, Strong Girls Yoga, Peers Promoting Action and Awareness, Nantucket Boys and Girls Club, Nantucket High School, Nantucket Police Department, Self Love Org and Man Up Nantucket.  The program ended with applause and spontaneous dancing to the beat of Girlband.

Organizers were thrilled with the turnout: the Studio was packed with community members from every sector of the Nantucket population.  standing room only crowd spilled into the hallway outside.  All those in attendance were moved by displays of passion, strength, trust and mutual support.

One Billion Rising Lisa frey Images_14A Safe Place is grateful for so many leaders in the community who came to Rise with the survivors who attended.  The support and love shared during the event showed us all that the power to change society and stop gender violence exists here.

Nantucket Joins One Billion Rising for Justice

1 Billion Rising February 14One Billion Rising is a rapidly growing worldwide movement designed to raise awareness about sexual violence, and to call on governments around the world to help bring justice to survivors of gender violence.

At 5p.m on February 14, 2014, Nantucketers will gather in the Nantucket Atheneum courtyard to stand in solidarity with over one billion people in more than 200 countries across the world, who are calling for an end to violence against women and girls. After gathering in the Atheneum courtyard, participants will march together across the street to the Dreamland Theatre to: watch a short video, listen as people rise to speak out against gender violence, and enjoy hot cocoa with fellow islanders.

Please rise with us on February 14.

A Safe Place co-sponsoring One Warm Coat drive with PPAA and access Nantucket

Nantucket High School’s Peers Promoting Action and Awareness (PPAA) is holding a coat drive for One Warm Coat this month.  We are happy to be joining the students and access nantucket in the effort to collect warm coats and clothing for our greater community.

PPAA Coat Drive January 2014

Look for collection boxes at the front entrance of the high school, at the access nantucket office, here at A Safe Place and at the Fire Department.  The response has been generous so far, and we will continue to collect coats until January 31st.  

Thanks so much to everyone who has donated already – the community has really rallied and shown the PPAA that they really can make a difference to those in need during the cold of winter.

January Book Club Selection

Selected books contain themes related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking as a basis for discussions about healthy and unhealthy relationships. The meeting is an informal gathering with light refreshments and engaging conversations. If you are interested in joining this group or for more information, please contact Jennifer Frazee at 508-228-0561 or email

A Safe Place’s book selection for January is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Book club will meet on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 from 5:30-6:30pm at the A Safe Place office, 5B Windy Way.

Description from, by R.J. Palacio

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Give the gift of hope and resilience

All of us at A Safe Place wish you and your family a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.  Thank you for the many ways you support our mission throughout the year, it means so much to so many.

With winter approaching, it can be an especially challenging time for our clients and resources on the island are scarce. We hope that as you enjoy the holiday season you will consider giving to support the lifesaving services at A Safe Place in honor of your friends and family.Tis the season to give

When you give $25 or more you can designate the gift in honor of a friend or family member who will receive a personalized card letting them know that you made a gift to A Safe Place in their honor.

Thank you for helping make Nantucket safe for everyone.


The staff of A Safe Place, Inc.

Enter our raffle at Christmas Stroll!

Saturday, December 7th we will be at the Christmas Marketplace in the Stop & Shop parking lot raffling off this amazing basket overflowing with Nantucket Favorites.  Items have been donated by many generous local businesses and all proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets will benefit A Safe Place!

Stroll 2013 RaffleThe basket is worth well over $200 and contains plenty of items to keep for yourself or give as gifts to off-island friends.  Raffle tickets will be sold from 10am – 2:40pm for $10 each and we will draw a winner at 2:45pm.  You do not have to present to win!

Stop by our table to enter, and since it’s going to be a chilly day we’re also selling hand warmers that will make the rest of your stroll in the cold much more pleasant.  Make sure to come early, there’s a limited supply!