They say hindsight is 20/20, and I guess that is true. Because I have been looking back on the last 9 weeks with growing wonder at how something so seemingly small – a blog post about my son – became a worldwide talking point. How one thing I wrote became such a big deal. And how a small altercation in my local shop – one in which I was the wronged party – has almost ruined my life.
So much has been written about me in these last weeks. So many rumors, so many lies and misinformation spread around as truth. My sanity has been stretched to the limit. And I have not handled it well. When I wrote that post, I’ll admit that I wanted it to get some level of attention. I wanted people to read it and talk about it and see how ridiculous it was. I wanted people to see the bigger picture – the one I was focusing on: that society is so afraid of alternative sexualities that they will bully a child in an effort to defend their bigotry.
Unfortunately, that “bigger picture” I wanted to show was overshadowed in the event itself. Supporters and haters alike focused on my son getting assaulted rather than what *I* thought they should be focusing on. And in the end I became the bad guy.
I’ll be honest, when the threats started coming at us, and our home address was posted online in various right-wing forums I was scared. I let the trolls and the nasty people (an admittedly small minority) get to me, and I panicked. I’ll never be able to repeat some of the horrific and abusive emails, phone calls and comments I received in that time – many of them directed at my son. Suffice it to say that I was shocked and truly scared by what some people can find to say behind anonymous online identities. I packed my family up and left town. First we stayed with my parents for a couple of weeks and then we went to stay with my husband’s family for nearly a month! It was the only way I felt safe, and it helped me to recover from the hysteria.
I shut down my blog and my social media accounts because every one of them was being trolled. My email address and phone number had to be changed. People were digging through my past with a fine tooth comb looking for anything that would incriminate me. My blog, having been archived in the past, provided excellent fodder. Many things were taken out of context and passed around to make me look crazy (or crazier than I am), and I was even being (dis)credited with antics which weren’t mine. Apparently there is another (or possibly more than one?) person with the same spelling of the name Vyktoriah out there. One of them likes to do sexually aggressive “booty dance” videos on Youtube. All I can say is: that’s not me!
It has been weeks since our story spread like wildfire through the media, and in that time I’ve done a lot of introspection. I have wondered to myself why I didn’t report the incident right away. I guess I honestly believed then that it was not worth bothering the police because it was nothing more than a public slinging match. It was the words that hurt, and I didn’t think police would be interested in tracking down a man who was, in essence, name calling. But after a lot of urging and a couple of days to think about it, and most especially once the nasty comments started coming in, I *did* go to the police.
I asked their opinion of whether I should have reported it right away or not. I was surprised to hear them say that “yes” I should have reported it. If for no other reason than to have it on record. I was also told I was right to report the abusive and threatening emails and phone calls I had received, though unfortunately there isn’t much they can do except document it. Apparently unless someone is standing at my front door with a weapon, the police don’t take it very seriously.
Much has been said about the fact that I was “Baker Acted,” a Floridian term for committed to psychiatric care by the police. My past mental health issues and severe anxiety and depression have been well-documented on this blog, and it would come as a surprise to no one that with the entire world watching my every move and dissecting every word I said (or didn’t say!) I would become overwhelmed and terrified. In the week after the post was published on HuffPost, I lost 12 lbs because I couldn’t eat. They say that fear is “cold” and I never understood until that week. Everywhere I went, I was convinced people were staring and whispering. Every person walking in our neighborhood was a journalist or a person who wished us harm. Every time my phone rang, I jumped and looked fearfully at the caller ID, wondering who was on the other end. I didn’t handle it well.
When the police were taking my statement, I was so scared that I ran to the bathroom to be sick. When I emerged, I was covered in sweat and about to pass out. The police asked if I was okay, and I just… I lost it. I broke down, hardly knowing what I was saying. The stress had driven me to the point of near-insanity, and I admitted that I was thinking of self-harming or worse! I think I said, “I wish I was dead.”
All I could think of was my kids. That I had inadvertently (and say what you want – it WAS inadvertent – if I’d had any inkling of how big this post would get, I NEVER would have written it) made my child famous and put a ton of negative focus on our family was unbearable. You know how people often say they want to “crawl into a hole” or have “the earth swallow [them] up?” Yah, that was how I was feeling.
Unfortunately when you make those kinds of statements in front of law enforcement, they are bound to take you into custody. I fought it at first, but I was advised to go gently because I had no choice. In essence – we could do this the easy way or the hard way. I was also advised that I didn’t have to worry about word getting out. HIPAA laws would protect me and no one would ever know that I was sectioned. They drove the point home that they wanted to HELP me, and that it wasn’t a punishment but a way of getting me some much-needed relief from the pressure and stress.
I was gently but firmly put in handcuffs and locked in the back of a police car. I was driven an hour away to the nearest hospital where I was treated like scum by the staff. They took blood and urine against my will and forced me to disrobe. I was not allowed to call my family or ask questions. In fact, when I questioned why I had to disrobe, I was told to shut up or I’d be put in solitary! The old woman in the bed next to me was begging for blankets because she was cold, and they laughed at her and told her she was fine. An Emergency Room doctor came over and told me that the best thing is to just fully cooperate with them, speak honestly to the psych team and that maybe I’d be let out quickly. Realising that I was completely helpless, I did just what he suggested. In the end, I was there for 18 hours, and in that time not one doctor or team member tried to “help” me. I was simply processed, asked a few questions by a doctor and then told I’d be released as soon as they could get the paperwork done.
While I was relieved to be let go, I was more relieved that no one would have to know about the fact it happened. So imagine my surprise when I got into the car, turned on my phone and immediately got a call from a local reporter telling me that it was all over the Orlando Sentinel that I’d been Baker Acted. When I asked how they’d found out, he said the police had released the report. My full name, home address, etc were on the report and it was happily sent to the news outlets.
So much for HIPAA laws, eh? Not only that, but the police had assured me that the other reports would be private because they involved a minor. But once again, we were foolish to believe it because they sent that out with my son’s name and address on it, as well.
My family has been put through the wringer in the last couple of months. Websites and online newspapers continue to “follow the story,” even stalking my Instagram account to find out where I am and what I am doing. My spur of the moment wedding to Mark (we went to Vegas and got married by Elvis) has been talked about all over. When I put the video on YouTube for my friends and family to see, I immediately got ugly commentary from a nasty troll calling me a “deranged c*nt.”
The snark out there is incredible. It took me until very recently to actually go through and read the posts, threads, etc about me. Until the last week or so I just wasn’t strong enough. Even writing this post, I tread a fine line between being incredibly bitter and wanting to just get past it.
I don’t know what my intentions are for this blog. I wanted to acknowledge what happened while at the same time making it clear that I am ready to move on. I have put my heart and soul into this site for nearly four years. And while it has gone through some name changes (mostly because I hated the previous domain names), the content has remained as it always has.
There are some rumors and lies I’d like to clarify directly right now, though. They are the ones that are bothering me the most.
1. I lied about the whole incident, planning it out in advance, which is why I took a picture of my son at WalMart wearing the headband.
No. First off, I didn’t lie. I took a photo of Dex in the headband because it was cute. If you have read ANY of my blog or followed me on ANY social networks, you would know that I take pictures CONSTANTLY. Of everything. My kids are probably the most photographed kids of anyone I know. That I took a photo of him looking cute is par for the course with me. That something dramatic happened later is coincidence.
2. I wanted the post to go viral, which is why I posted it to Reddit, HuffPost, etc and did loads of interviews. I then deleted my posts because I got caught lying. I also deleted any comments which questioned my truthfulness.
There is some truth to this. I posted it to Reddit (as I have posted SEVERAL other of my own blog posts in the past) hoping it would get SOME attention. I was angry at what had happened, and I was angrier at what the implications of the event were – the blatant homophobia which is so rampant in our society. I had a dream of a few extra hits to my site, and I saw myself as some sort of mommy blogging superhero standing up to bigotry.
Only, unfortunately as soon as it started to gain attention and people started questioning me, I got shadow banned on Reddit and was unable to comment or answer questions. This was seen as me deleting my profile and running away. Not so.
As far as HuffPost goes, THEY contacted ME. They asked if they could republish the post, and I agreed (this was before the backlash). They created an account in my name and posted the blog on my behalf, changing the headline to a more sensational one. They knew what they were doing because from that moment, the post gained HUGE momentum. It was liked/shared hundreds of thousands of times and garnered more comments than any article I’ve ever seen. I found out LATER that they were screening/deleting comments. I had no part of it. I didn’t even know what was going on.
I was asked to be on HuffPost Live about an hour before hand. I agreed, and I was so nervous that my knees were knocking. I was partly excited and partly worried, and watching it back, I felt like an idiot, as I was kind of smiling in shock and wonder at what was happening. Later, the fact that I was smiling was misconstrued by others who insisted I was “smirking” and laughing at the public for believing me.
I didn’t give any other interviews, despite being asked to be on numerous television shows. I was offered money for my post, I was offered exposure and other things, and I turned down every one of them. As soon as the first threat came in, I shut down everything, trying to protect my kids and family and trying to undo the damage I felt I’d done.
After I came out of the hospital a few days later, I agreed to give a statement to the same reporter who had shown up at my door the week before. I’d declined an interview the first time, but since everything was out then, I decided to just give in.
In the end, HuffPost contacted me after my hospitalisation and asked if I wanted them to remove the post. Having not slept or eaten in ages, and having been told that they were deleting/moderating critical comments, I just said yes. I knew it wouldn’t stop the drama, but I hoped it would die down. Of course, them removing it just made people say I was guilty and/or that the police had forced it to be removed. I couldn’t win either way.
During the furor, I also locked down all of my social media profiles, going on a blitz and deleting everything I could think of. Pinterest, GMail, twitter, etc. I had suffered abuse through all of them, and I wasn’t sure what personal info about my family might be available. But once again, me taking this initiative (at the urging of the police, no less) was misconstrued as me “hiding” and running away. The police also advised me not to talk about it until it was resolved. And following their advice has cost me dearly as I have had no way of replying to the people who continue to spread their lies.
3. I am after money/fame/a book deal/a movie of the week.
Again, I turned down all offers of money and/or TV exposure (other than HuffPost Live, which I regret). I wanted to raise awareness, but I am not an advocate. I seriously regret “getting political” on this blog. I am a mommy blogger – a woman trying to document the lives of my children so they can read about it when they’re older. Occasionally, I take on sponsored posts or reviews that gain us a bit of pocket money or a free product. But I would never leverage my kids rights or my family’s safety for a bit of change.
A few weeks before this all happened, I was approached by a production company who wondered if I’d like to be considered for a new reality tv show about parenting. It would track several families over a few weeks and watch how they raise their kids, etc. Mark was all for it, but I immediately declined the invitation. I told Mark that it would be horrible to have people watching us on TV and judging us as parents for what they saw/didn’t see. I didn’t want to invite criticism of my parenting decision by exposing us all over the nation.
What a laugh in retrospect. Instead we are all over the world, and everyone has formed their opinions based on lies and rumors.
On one article I read, a woman left a comment defending me and taking to task the commenter before her who called me a liar.
His reponse? “She made it all up. She confessed to lying.”
The woman then replied, “Really? Oh my god, what a horrible woman. She should rot in hell!”
SERIOUSLY? All it took for her to believe that I’m a liar is ONE person saying so. No research, no skepticism. In her mind, I am now forever a liar and deserve everlasting torture at the hands of Satan. Thanks for that.
4. I am a self-confessed pathological liar.
This one is not a lie so much as misinformation. Something taken out of context which is not the fault of those who posted it, but is my fault for not clarifying it. The post people are using to discredit me was written in 2008 as part of a writing contest I was participating in. It was not a fiction, but it was an over-the-top exaggeration of my experiences. While I DID like to exaggerate a lot as a teen, I was far from being a “pathological liar.” In 2011, I reposted that bit of prose and updated it a little to suit this blog. I should have made clear that it shouldn’t really be taken too seriously. I can understand how people would read it and think the worst. That one is on me.
5. I like to place myself in the middle of drama, lying to gain sympathy or attention.
This is the biggest frustration I have about this whole thing. On this blog used to be a list of “102 Things About Me,” a page which was literally a list of my dinner-party anecdotes and small facts about my life. It was a list I wrote when I first switched domains to HerPretty.com back in April 2012. I was trying to get away from the “mommy blogger” label and become more of a “lifestyle” blogger who happened to be a mommy. But then I found out I was pregnant a couple months later, and eventually I changed domains again to this one because I realised that being a mother is the biggest part of who I am and really and truly what I am passionate about.
Anyway, I wrote a list of facts to encourage conversation. Some of them were fairly boring, some of them were quite dramatic, and all of them were true. One of them involved me having been a Flight Attendant and the flight I used to work crashing after I left the company. People have done their “internet detective” thing and figured out that the flight I referenced was one in which there was no Flight Attendant on board. And so they have deemed me a liar. Had they simply ASKED me to explain I would have clarified the idea of “deadheading.” This is when a member of flight crew doesn’t WORK a flight but simply rides as a passenger in order to get to the next part of their trip. All of my trips were short-hauls, meaning I would work 5 – 6 flights PER DAY. Sometimes I was required to start my trip in a city which wasn’t the city I lived in. So I would dead head to the next destination, where I’d begin to work in earnest. I did this often at the time, and that is what I was referencing.
Another fact that people are disputing is me claiming to have had 3 failed kidnap attempts on me and one successful one. Again, this one is pure silliness and was there to encourage conversation. It wasn’t a big scary dramatic event with cops and ransoms. It was a fraternity prank in college. But I guess it’s much easier for people to jump to conclusions instead of just giving the benefit of the doubt.
The list of 102 things was pulled down pretty quickly because I had more than a few emails from people urging me to get rid of it as it had a lot of personal information on it which I was warned could let people find me. Unfortunately it was already archived and pulling it down did nothing to protect us. I thought about putting it back up, but there seems little point now as it’s out of date in many ways and also has caused enough controversy.
At the end of the day, I am ashamed of myself that I let a few nasty people discourage me from continuing with this blog. I ignored the thousands of supportive messages in favor of the few hundred ugly comments. I ran away and hid in fear rather than standing my ground and saying, “It’s okay if you don’t believe me.”
Right now, I just want to get on with my life, putting this behind me and moving forward doing the things *I* want to do. And that includes writing – the only thing (other than my children) that I am passionate about. You can choose to follow or not. I don’t need your validation, but I do love those who have stood behind me and have encouraged me to get back to what I love.
For the record, I have changed my comment policy on this blog, and for my sanity I will only publish those comments which are fair and non-nasty. That’s not to say that you have to agree with everything I say or do, but name-calling of me or anyone else will be deleted. As for the comments that came on my other posts, they are still there. Many of them are negative, and they will stay there. I deleted a few which were clearly trolls (all with different names but the same IP address), but I’m not afraid of letting people see what others have said.
I hope that you will all continue to read the blog and to offer encouragement and support as you have always done. I guess that’s all I can say for now.