Mary Beard has taught us all a lesson in how to deal with online bullies

You should never suffer alone

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The Independent Online

Love-bombing bullies with a bit of kindness, compassion and common sense isn’t the counter-intuitive response that we’re usually taught. Hopefully, though, victims of bullying can feel empowered by the example of Professor Mary Beard, and the way in which she has dealt admirably with those bothering her. It doesn’t condone or excuse bullying, but it can surprise bullies out of their hateful little rut.

Professor Beard was targeted online by several people, all of whom she dealt with in a glowingly efficient manner that would work just as well in real life. In one well-documented incident, one troll – Oliver Rawlings - called her a “filthy old slut” before going on to insult her body. A proud moment for the Rawlings family I’m sure. Mary responded by simply reposting the yuck-filled message, sitting back and allowing her fan base to stand up for her. She called him out without having to stoop to his level or even say how upset she was.

Admittedly, not every victim of bullying has a fan base to call on, so Mary was lucky in that respect. But here’s the genius bit from which we can all take inspiration. When people turned on Rawlings, Mary came to his aid, saying publicly that she’d “take him out for a drink, metaphorically smack his bottom and tell him not to do it again”. Rawlings apologised profusely and bought Mary lunch. This week Mary wrote a character reference for him. How refreshing to see some straightforward kindness and maturity win the day.

Simply showing up your bullies by broadcasting their words or actions can work wonders. No need to retaliate or get drawn into a ridiculous conversation with them. Just tell a few influential people what’s going on and let them do the rest. You should never suffer alone. Also, showing your bullies that you’re prepared to move on quickly makes them realise just how meaningless and ridiculous their negative behaviour has been. And if you can be the bigger person and throw your bully a lifeboat of compassion when they need it, you’ll feel empowered and they’ll feel sorry they started the whole thing.

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