Kit #13. I am facing online abuse

Someone or many people are stalking and blackmailing me, and sending me death and rape threats. I feel unsafe both online and offline. Please help!

Online violence is violence and the strategies to combat technology-enabled violence are as diverse as the tactics being used to scare and silence you. You need to protect yourself and your associates from the online abuse as well as, in some cases, work with local groups or authorities to deal with and report on offline threats against you

Violence against women (VAW) such as sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual violence is extended, perpetrated and exacerbated in various ways online, but ICTs can be helpful for women to find help, connect with others and take action. With technology-related violence against women, be it cyber stalking, blackmail or hate speech, every situation is different. You may feel helpless, but you can take action.

Cyber stalking is a technologically enabled attack on a person for reasons of anger, revenge or control. It is much more likely that women will experience stalking than men, and more often this is done by an intimate partner. Sometimes this type of violence may also involve physical assault.

Cyber stalking includes harassment, humiliation and embarrassment of the person targeted; harassing family, friends and employers to isolate the person; tactics to make the target fearful; taking on the identity of the other person; constant surveillance and monitoring of activities and location (e.g. using Facebook notifications to find out where the person is going, using spyware, activating GPS).

What makes cyber stalking difficult to address are factors such as stalker anonymity; law enforcement’s assumption that a stalker located far away will not travel to follow up on threats; and the stalker encouraging online friends to participate in the harassment, thus increasing the person’s distress. Further, cyber stalking is not recognised in law in many countries, which means survivors of cyberstalking have no legal recourse.

Blackmail is the act of threatening to reveal damaging information about a person to the public, family or associates unless that person buys the blackmailer’s silence. The damage can be in the form of harm to reputation, well-being, employment, or in some contexts, to physical safety. Online sexualised blackmail is where blackmailers may steal, fake or use private and often sexualised images or correspondence and threaten to publish or distribute them without consent. The price demanded may be money or physical and emotional control of the person being blackmailed. In the case of what is known as “revenge porn“ (where private sexualised images or videos are published online without consent but without financial motive), the price seems to be pure humiliation and degradation of women. It can happen in many ways, from government surveillance for power, to manipulation of photos to humiliate, to images stolen for financial gain, to videos taken without consent, to partner surveillance, to images taken of violence and kept as a way to control someone.

Remember that blackmail is unacceptable and you have rights (PDF): a right to freedom of expression, a right to privacy and freedom from defamation, a right to freedom from violence and a right to protect your artistic work.

What you should do

Here are some strategies you can use to respond and protect yourself. However, this is not an exhaustive list. Do remember that it is not your fault and we recommend talking to trusted people in your life about this for help.

You can also denounce stalkers and seek redress. Here are some suggestions how you can do this.

Where to find more help

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