Bullying or Fun? Military spouses go to battle over “Dependa” on Facebook

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-28 14:16:46-04

The stereotypes existed for years, but now they've moved out of the base housing complexes and commissaries, and into the world of Facebook, where anything goes.

"I see a lot of cattiness, and I see a lot of bullying.”

“It’s humiliating.”

Celeste Coomes and Trisha Ramos are both Navy wives who came to NewsChannel 3 wanting to spread the word about what they call abusive Facebook pages that target military spouses.

“Women who share pride in what their husbands do tend to get attacked and labeled with this “dependa” term,” said Coomes.

"Dear Dependa" and "OSMW" are the most popular pages featuring pictures and comments, posted in public forums by real military spouses who fit the stereotype: marrying into the military for the prestige, for the benefits, or for the money so they don't have to work.

Admins say it's all in good fun, but for those called out in the posts...

“There was a lot of shame, a lot of hurt.”

Celeste says one of her friends became a target after posting on a Hampton Roads spouse support page.

Her comment ended up going viral after someone sent it into "Dear Dependa."

“There was no recourse, it was out there and shared, thousands upon thousands of people saw it, and it was so hurtful.”

Celeste wasn't the only one offended by the actions of “Dear Dependa.”

Over the last few months, hundreds of spouses have sent in complaints to Facebook about the page, citing harassment.

So this week, Facebook finally took action by removing the page and deleting its entire history.

“We should be lifting one another up, being a backbone for each other, instead of dragging each other through the mud,” said Coomes.

So who are the people behind these spouse shaming pages?

Many of them are military wives, and some are even active duty soldiers.

“We started noticing a lot of people joking about the stereotypes.”

Meet Six. She runs the "OSMW" page, which stands for “Overly Sensitive Military Wives,” all while serving her country as an active-duty service member.

She talked with NewsChannel 3 about all the ruckus over the term "dependa."

“There is a little bit of crazy, a little bit of sensitivity in all of us, so just embrace it, rock it!”

Those offended by Six's posts have tried to shut her down before, just like “Dear Dependa.”

But she says it won't work, because OSMW doesn't identify the wife being shamed.

“I don’t care about ‘Debbie Dependa’ herself, it’s the action, so I don’t need her face, I don’t need her name,” said Six.

The "actions" she tries to expose through "dependa" shaming include wives who cheat on their husbands, wives who take advantage of government handouts, even wives who use their "military spouse" title to scam others.

It happens on bases around the country.

“If you are not what’s described, if you are not what people are talking about, don’t get offended, don’t get mad, you should be mad that it’s going on, ” said Six.

Six's page also promotes military causes; raising money for wounded warriors and helping families of the fallen, as well as informing during major emergency events like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

But much of that is overlooked by those who have been hurt in the past.

“It’s just a shame that they can't do more of that, and a little bit less of the bullying,” said Coomes.

“It seems on those pages that a lot more innocent people are being picked on,” said Ramos.

So while Celeste and Trisha want bullied spouses to continue fighting, the army of "dependa" shaming supporters aren't laying down their swords.

A new "Dear Dependa II" page is already up, and Six says “OSMW” isn't going anywhere.