First Person - Words can wound as deep as any knife

Allan Crow
Allan Crow

It doesn’t matter how much time you spend on social media, its dark side still has the ability to smack you straight between the eyes.

From Twitter to Facebook, from web forums to comments posted below news stories online, the abuse can be corrosive.

This week saw TV host Vanessa Feltz reveal she had been groped by Rolf Harris live on air while hosting the Big Breakfast back in 1996.

In full view of the camera crews, and with his wife standing in the wings, he pushed his hand up her skirt knowing there was nothing she could do. A predatory move by a man who knew exactly what he was doing.

Doesn’t that one single incident fully reveal the cold, calculating pervert who wore the mask of a beloved family entertainer for so many years?

Police viewed the footage and confirmed he clearly molested her.

The comments which poured in like a tidal wave grew darker by the second.

Feltz was mocked , abused and vilified in the most disgusting manner by several hundred people.

It was horribly mysoginistic in tone ; a free for all that saw her career, looks and size all given a brutal kicking.

‘‘A fat media whore’’ was just one of the comments posted. There were many, many others equally disturbing and grossly offensive.

By the time I went back online, the comments from the Daily Telegraph - yes, the Torygraph, the posh people’s paper read by colonels, country gents and judges - had all been removed and the story locked down to spike the abuse.

But who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to write such vile stuff? What planet do they live on?

What motivates someone to log on and post such horrific abuse?

This was well beyond the usual trash talk you get on social media.

This was nasty, vile personal abuse, written by grown adults and, it has to be said, mainly men.

I thought we’d dumped all those cavemen back in the neanderthal days. Apparently not ...

In most cases their own name and picture were proudly displayed - as if this was something to share with their mates on Facebook.

Boy, I bet their children, partner and parents must be so proud.

Words can wound as deep as any knife can cut through flesh. When they come in a torrent then the impact on the person can be devastating.

Feltz chose to tell her story, presumably, to encourage other women to find the strength to come forward and speak about sex abuse, however far in the past it may have happened.

Her reward - a tsunami of witless abuse, sick ‘jokes’ at her expense (the ‘even Harris had standards’ line was truly horrific) and a demoralising character and career assassination.

Those who posted such garbage might just have pushed the women Feltz was trying to reach further into the shadows than ever. Possibly forever.

Do they care? Probably not – in their warped eyes this is all just banter of the ‘sticks and stones’ kind.

In their warped world you CAN say anything about anyone and get away with it.

And they are wrong. Completely, totally wrong.

I have no problem with people expressing themselves robustly – we should debate with vigour and energy – but when that descends into ugly abuse then something has to be done.

Trolls are spineless wee bullies who would never have the guts to say to Feltz’ – or any of their victims – face what they wrote about her online. She’d wipe the floor with them if they did.

But they have to be smoked out and held accountable for their words otherwise we create a generation which thinks such online hatred is perfectly acceptable and consequence-free.

It never is.

It must not become the norm.