Women and girls are both the targets and scapegoats of online harassment; we’re singled out and then victim-blamed as though we asked to be persecuted. The cycle has been vicious and endless, but not anymore. It’s time for us to take control and put an end to the attacks on women online.
Online, women are subjected to harassment, violence, oppression, and just generally uncomfortable situations that few (if any) men have to deal with. The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a study reporting that 85% of women worldwide had witnessed online violence against other women. In the EU alone, 10% of women report having experienced cyber-harassment since age 15.
The effects of cyber harassment can be debilitating and have real-life consequences such as low self-esteem, insomnia, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, the ever-growing awareness of cyber violence against women has brought with it some useful tools and strategies for preventing and addressing online harassment.
You have a right to feel safe in your own skin and participate in the world in all of its forms. With this cyber safety guide, you’ll have the tools you need to minimize, prevent, and handle the many different forms of online harassment.
How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Harassment
The most frequent social media users worldwide are 15-year-old girls, and unfortunately, this is also the age at which most girls report their first encounter with online harassment. While young girls typically learn better strategies for managing online harassment as they age and continue using social media, 42% of women’s behavioral response toward harassment is still simply to ignore it.
Harassment on social media isn’t limited to women alone, but there’s no denying that social media harassment is far worse for women than it is for men. Women have to deal with disgusting comments about their bodies, unsolicited dick pics, death threats, rape threats, and worse. And studies show that trans women are even more at risk for incurring violence on and offline. Online transphobia and harassment towards trans women often involves intentional misgendering, deadnaming, and transphobic slurs, all of which take a significant toll on trans women’s mental health and self-esteem.
It’s not all bad news, though. Women everywhere are empowering themselves with social media to call attention to these issues and more, mainly through the #metoo movement. Beyond drawing attention to the violence and maltreatment individual women experience, the movement is awakening the world to the larger systemic issues women face.
We have the right to feel safe in person, and we deserve to feel secure online. Protecting yourself from social media harassment doesn’t mean you have to delete your accounts and lose touch with your network, though.
There are actually a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and still participate. Some sites and apps have platform-specific options, but there are some general guidelines and tips that apply everywhere.