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Battling violence against women in the digital era

Photo by MART PRODUCTION for Pexels

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, so do the dark aspects, which now manifest online. This includes the troubling rise of violence against women in the digital realm. From cyberbullying and revenge porn to online stalking and the toxic behaviours of the incel community, the digital realm has become a breeding ground for violence against women.

This issue is disturbingly common, with studies indicating that a significant proportion of women have experienced some form of online abuse. According to data from the Economist Intelligence Unit, 85% of women who spend time online have witnessed cyber violence against other women, and 38% of women have personally experienced it. 

Studies indicate that cyber violence specifically targets women and girls. According to European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, from the age of 15 onwards, one in ten women have been victims of online violence. Moreover, findings from Plan International revealed that 58% of girls experienced cyber harassment, with half stating they encounter more online harassment than offline. These statistics highlight the urgent need to address this issue.  

Cyber violence against women takes many forms, each presenting different challenges and risks to women’s safety and well-being. The most frequently reported forms of cyber violence were misinformation and defamation, cyber harassment, hate speech, impersonation, hacking and stalking, astroturfing, abuse based on images and videos, doxing, violent threats, and unwanted images or sexually explicit content. 

These forms of cyber violence against women and girls often intersect with offline instances of violence and should be recognized as part of a continuous spectrum, representing a single issue. This phenomenon frequently starts offline and then moves online, or vice versa. 

The impact of cyber violence on women cannot be overstated. Beyond the immediate psychological distress caused by the abuse itself, victims often face long-term consequences, including fear for their safety, reputational damage, and social isolation. The pervasive nature of cyber violence means that escaping its reach is very hard which contributes to emotions of vulnerability and powerlessness.

It is highly important treat digital violence with the same seriousness as offline violence and to implement preventive measures accordingly. Governments, tech firms, women’s organizations, and others must strengthen their regulations. Laws should be created with input from survivors and women’s groups. Online platforms should be held accountable on cyber violence and use of data. Schools should educate students on digital safety and ethical behaviour. Collective efforts are needed to combat digital violence and ensure a safer online environment for all.

As we navigate the complexities of the digital age, the fight against violence against women must evolve to meet new challenges. By bringing awareness to this issue and through collective action, we can create a safer and more equal online world for all. Only through collective efforts we ensure that the digital era becomes a source of empowerment rather than a means of causing more harm.

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