The problem of violence and abuse is the greatest challenge the Internet faces today. According to the United Nation's 73% of women have already been exposed or experienced some form of online violence. It is a significant issue that cannot be fixed with simple and easy solutions this is because cyberviolence and online abuse is much bigger than the average person, and much more complex than the snarky attitudes we see in the comment sections or the obvious violent threats.
Cyberviolence is gendered, it is relentless, and it is systemic!
Cyberviolence against young women and gender variant people requires multi-pronged strategies targeting every platform and every level. It is an issue that demands real investment and real change ranging from social media platforms and technology companies, policy and law makers, service providers and advocates, institutions and communities, and especially from young women themselves.
WHAT IS CYBERVIOLENCE ANYWAY?
Cyberviolence is defined as online behaviours that criminally or non-criminally assault, or can lead to assault, of a person’s physical, psychological or emotional well-being. It can be done or experienced by an individual or group and happen online, through smartphones, during Internet games, etc. Even though cyberviolence takes place online, it affects people offline and has real world implications. Some examples of cyberviolence include but are not limited to:
- online harassment
- unwanted sexting
- hate speech
- non-consensual sharing of images
- recording & distribution of sexual assault
Remember if you, or someone you know, experiences online gender based violence you are not alone and it's not your fault. Everyone deserves support!
WHO EXPERIENCES ONLINE GENDER BASED VIOLENCE?
According to a Pew Research Center survey from late last year, 40% of people have been harassed online and 73% of people witnessed someone else being harassed online. We know that many folks, from all walks of life, experience and even perpetuate online gender based violence. However, when it comes to threats, women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately impacted. Of those who have experienced online harassment, 66% said their most recent incident occurred on a social networking platform (Hollaback!, 2016).
WE HAVE IDENTIFIED FOUR CATEGORIES OF CYBERVIOLENCE!
- Cyber & Online Harassment: From individual threats to coordinated abuse. Including trolling, doxxing, hate speech, etc. It can be anonymous, or someone you know!
- Non-Consensual Sharing of Intimate Images: Sharing intimate photos to humiliate & exploit. Sometimes referred to as 'revenge porn'- but it's actually sexual violence.
- Recording & Distribution of Sexual Assault: When video & images of sexual assaults are shared through social media. This is not just a privacy issue- this is a form of gendered violence as it disproportionately affects young women and other marginalized genders.
- Cyberstalking & Digital Dating Abuse: Harassment, tracking, threatening & controlling a partner online. For example: GPS phone tracking apps could be used to track a women's every move.
YOUNG WOMEN & GENDER VARIANT YOUTH WANT YOU TO KNOW!
- The term “cyberviolence” is more helpful than “cyberbullying” because it recognizes sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.
- Young women experience violence and harassment from their family, partners, and peers more often than from strangers online.
- Adults focus too much on the dangerous and negative side of online life; girls and young women want to be empowered and supported online.
- Tangible benefits that young women and girls find from social media are: access to community, access to safer spaces, access to critical anti-sexist and anti-racist content, access to content promoting body positivity and sex positivity, and tools to develop as a digital media maker.
- Surveillance, monitoring and censorship must be approached as a problem, not a solution.
- Viewing social media as educationally 'unproductive” and censoring or blocking it dismisses its importance in young women’s emotional lives and well-being.
- Young women would like to have their knowledge and expertise valued and be viewed as trustworthy. Regulating and monitoring social media use frames young women as untrustworthy and undervalues their knowledge and expertise.
- Young women & gender variant youth are deeply aware of how complicated it all really is online.