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As I type this, I know the kind of messages that will come streaming through my inbox in the coming days, but I also know that the most painful part of my experience has been feeling suffocated, like I have no right to speak about how this has affected me. I hereby refuse to swallow garbage and shut up about it, and anyone who thinks I shouldn’t be sharing my story would do well to remember this: Hatred is empowered by silence.

– Lauren Duca

In PEN America’s conversations with writers and journalists, we were amazed by the sheer volume of those who admitted to feeling isolated and alone during episodes of online harassment. How could this be possible, we wondered, when so many people are undergoing the same awful experiences?

Despite numerous articles on the subject of online harassment, not to mention countless Twitter conversations about the ways in which online hate targets women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community in particular, it’s clear that there remains a dearth of storytelling around online harassment, including who it affects and the concrete ways in which it impacts people’s lives.

Storytelling creates solidarity, offers insight, serves as a launching point for important movements and conversations, and most importantly, makes people feel less alone. Since this Field Manual exists explicitly for writers and journalists—our ultimate storytellers—we wanted to offer a glimpse into the lives and perspectives of actual workaday writers who have been targeted by online harassment and survived to write another day. These stories are not glamorous, and don’t necessarily result in historic feats against vanquished trolls (although some do!), but they reveal important, honest insights into online harassment from a variety of viewpoints, with useful tips and strategies sprinkled throughout.

The following interviews have been conducted by PEN America with writers of different genres, backgrounds, political affiliations, and identities. There are still many perspectives we’re seeking—if you’re interested in sharing your story, we want to hear from you! Contact us at harassmenthelp@pen.org.

Given the vicious nature of online harassment, some names have been abridged to protect the privacy and security of the storytellers.

K.
Author
New York

Bethany Mandel
Editor and Columnist
New Jersey

Lindsay
Screenwriter
New York

Erica M.
Poet and Editor
Rhode Island

Gina Young
Playwright, Podcaster, and Blogger
Los Angeles

Jordan
Blogger
Tennessee