A Soldier Took Her Life After Milspouses Bullied Her. We Must Sound the Alarm

(Photo: Unsplash, Jay Wennington)

This is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the views of MilSpouseFest.

Last week,  Nicole Burnham, a 21-year-old soldier at Ft. Carson, took her life. She had been reportedly cyberbullied by military spouses. Social media has made it easy for military spouses and service members to find like-minded groups. . .or so they think. Then, one wrong question or comment can lead to an attack from the very people who are supposed to be supporting each other and building each other up.

Cyberbullying is an epidemic in the military community. Why is it happening?

  1. Many things that are written online would never be said straight to someone’s face in person.  The digital age has made it easy for others to hide behind a computer screen without many repercussions.
  2. When you put hundreds or even thousands of military spouses in a group, there is bound to be conflict. I have noticed many groups having more and more administrators so someone is watching things around the clock to hopefully halt any discussions that go south.
  3. There are no standards or punishments for civilian military spouses involved in this type of online behavior.

As a military spouse, I have been cyberbullied by other spouses. I never knew people in the military community could be so cruel until I joined several military spouse groups and witnessed it. A new military spouse asked for advice in a Facebook group, and everyone was chiming in with their tidbits of advice. I had recently written a blog post on that same topic, so I shared a link with her in the thread. Another person notified me I was about to be shamed in a Facebook group that exists solely to bully, humiliate, and name-call military spouses. I went to the Facebook group and was fuming mad at the names and stereotypes that these military spouses, service members, and veterans were calling me. I reported this to Facebook several times to no avail.

How can the problem of cyberbullying in the military spouse community be resolved? These are just a few ways:

  • Social media group administrators: Group admins need to monitor comments and posts more closely, recruit more group administrators, and report cyberbullying when it occurs instead of simply deleting a post.
  • Accountability: Military spouses who engage in cyberbullying should be held accountable for their actions.
  • Facebook: The Facebook community guidelines about bullying and harassment state that “We don’t tolerate bullying or harassment,” however, not all reports of bullying and harassment are taken seriously enough. Groups that continue to allow bullying and harassment of individuals should be shut down immediately.
  • Training: Military spouses must be trained on cyberbullying, safe and secure usage of social media (as OPSEC is continually violated), and cultural sensitivity/diversity training.  Military spouses are from many different cultures, ages, experiences, and education levels. Training would help our entire community to be on the same page and understand what the expectations are for online behavior.

We should be building each other up, sharing resources to help each other, and teaching others the lessons we have learned along the way. We should be paving the way to make this life easier for others, not more difficult than it already is. Military spouses need to show more compassion to each other online and reach out a helping hand instead of a dagger. As an Army wife, I am appalled by those who harassed and bullied Burnham to the point of suicide and ruined the entire Army and military spouse reputation in the process. It is time to combat the issue of military spouse cyberbullying once and for all.

By Wendi Iacobello

8 Replies to “A Soldier Took Her Life After Milspouses Bullied Her. We Must Sound the Alarm”

  1. This is a excellent article ! As a spouse of a military retiree I am horrified to think this happened , I know it’s a different military now ( we retired in ‘96) but what happened to having compassion for other and where were all the CSM, 1Sgt wife’s – this is not acceptable.

  2. This is such an important issue. I have also experienced this phenomenon in online military spouse groups, and while they can be an incredible force for good, they can also be very destructive if this type of behavior is permitted. These are great suggestions!

  3. I can’t wait for you to come on my podcast and chat about this topic Wendi. I have been cyber bullied as a spouse as well. It was actually one of the contributing factors to my suicide attempt. It is my hope that I am creating a safe haven in my community so there is no bullying.

  4. Sherry Shoults says:

    I retired from the military in 2004. The spouses were brutal.

  5. I am not as close to this situation as some of my wonderfully suportive military friends, but bullying in any fashion is unacceptable behavior. Until one walks in another person shoes , they have no right to make comments about anything that happens in their lives or the experiences that they’ve been through. This is a very important topic that absolutely does need to be addressed and promptly, so that hopefully this doesn’t happen again

  6. Out of curiosity, was this the fort Carson fb wives buy and sell page? I’ve seen incredulous drama there it’s unbelievable. Anyways, we ask for an opinion and should be prepared for the influx of responses. I cannot imagine being bullied but I’m sympathetic. Some people are just plain mean but perhaps, they were also bullied before? It’s just lack of understanding and sometimes ignorance that compels us to do the things we do sometimes. Military wives go through trials and tribulations only a fellow wife can empathize with. We should uplift instead of bringing each other down. Anyways, have a wonderful day.

  7. Excellent article!

  8. Kristy Boller says:

    I myself was a victim of cyber bullying as well. When my husband was away these other military wives created a horrible Facebook group and started rumors about me and my spouse. They went as far as making judgement of my looks weight and everything when I almost took my own life due to this I looked for help from outside the base we lived on. I got into therapy and was on many different medications to help with my depression they made me feel like an ant. I couldn’t trust anyone. When my husband found out what was going on he took it to his command and found out that it was another military wife in his command that didn’t even know us. It’s sad that you can’t trust the ones who are suppose to help and support you when times are tough. Something needs to be done!

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