Cyber Abuse and Online Harassment
Online abuse cases are increasingly becoming a standard component of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence cases, and legal systems are providing grossly suboptimal responses in many cases. The legal position on digital sex abuse varies considerably around the world and according to the type of abuse. Standardizing laws that protect victims can help discourage and prevent abuse, and hold current abusers accountable.
The problem is augmenting at an increased rate thanks to the lack of monitoring and accountability from social networks that are generally more concerned with generating profits through advertising impressions and engagement. Pew Research Center reports that more than 6 of every 10 Americans consider online harassment and abuse a serious concern.
Social media platforms are especially fertile grounds for online harassment, but these behaviors occur in a wide range of online venues.
Cyber Abuse and Harassment at School
Students are especially susceptible to cyber abuse and harassment because of the institutional setting that school provides their social lives. The increased prevalence of students on social media creates an environment where messages and images are transmitted at an incredible pace, and can often be generated anonymously.
'With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behavior. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it. Cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be:
Persistent: Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
Permanent: Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.
Hard to notice: Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.'
From Stopbullying.gov, 'What is Cyberbullying?' - https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it
Frequently online abuse target a personal or physical characteristic:
14% of Americans say they have been harassed online specifically because of their politics
one-in-ten have been targeted due to their physical appearance (9%), race or ethnicity (8%) or gender (8%).
And although most people believe harassment is often facilitated by the anonymity that the internet provides, these experiences can involve acquaintances, friends, or even family members.
Roughly four-in-ten Americans have personally experienced online harassment, and 62% consider it a major problem. Many want technology firms to do more, but they are divided on how to balance free speech and safety issues online.
Every 73 seconds an American suffers sexual assault; On average, there are 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States (source: RAINN and US Department of Justice)
Abuse victims and survivors advocacy organizations
Civil rights organizations
Abuse victims and survivors advocacy organizations
Online groups and platforms
Parents and families
There are many hotlines and online resources available for victims of online harassment and abuse. While it can be difficult to avoid or prevent harassment and abuse from happening on the web, it is important to provide those who experience harassment and abuse with support and resources to recover from their traumatic experience.
Below are hotlines dedicated to supporting those who have experienced online harassment and abuse:
Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Cyber Civil Rights Initiative Crisis Helpline: 1-844-878-2274
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1-800-537-2238
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma &
Mental Health: 1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text. Anyone can connect with a Crisis Counselor instantly. School systems, companies, governments, nonprofits, and other organizations partner with us to make sure their employees, grantees, constituents and students have the support they need.
We Said Enough app creates a community of survivors, volunteers, and activists who can provide immediate social support to victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and bullying. The app provides needed restorative resources to begin the healing process.
Real Talk app crowdsources authentic teen stories on topics like puberty, bullying, identity, and mental health and connects teens with additional resources.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2018 (2019). Note: RAINN applies a 5-year rolling average to adjust for changes in the year-to-year NCVS survey data.
Pew Research Center - Online Harassment 2017
Stopbullying.gov, 'What is Cyberbullying' - https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it'
Endcyberabuse.com, 'Confronting Online Abuse Under COVID-19' - http://endcyberabuse.org/confronting-online-abuse-under-covid-19/