Online Sexual Harassment
Online sexual harassment is a form of harassment that is carried out via technology (i.e. social media, messaging platforms, and online dating apps). It consists of sexual behaviours such as:
– unwanted & explicit sexual messages or calls,
– coerced sex-based communication,
– image-based sexual abuse (non-consensual creation and sharing of images),
– obtainment and/or distribution of sexual images or videos of another person
Some common platforms where abuse was experienced was on Telegram, Whatsapp, and Instagram (Straits Times, 2021).
This could also lead to Sexual Grooming.
Protecting Against Online Harassment
Simple steps you can take to protect yourself from being harassed online:
- Identify what information about yourself is accessible online
- Adjust your privacy settings
- Limit any and all forms of unwanted contact
- Do not be afraid to stop, block, confide, record, and report
For more info on how to protect yourself online, please find out more here
What should I do if I think I’m being harassed online?
- Stop engagement and BLOCK the contact
- Tell a trusted person
- Contact a professional (refer to helpline section)
- Ensure that you’ve recorded evidence
- Make a police report (You can do so online , go to the nearest neighbourhood police centre or post, or by calling the police hotline ‘999’)
- Apply for a Protection Order under POHA (non-family) or a Personal Protection Order under the Women’s Charter (family)
How can family and friends support the victim?
- Do NOT blame or accuse the victim
- “It’s not your fault”
- Do not judge or impose your opinion on the victim
- “It’s your choice how you want to move forward”
- Validate their feelings and experience
- “I’m here to support you.”; “That must have been very difficult for you.”
- Direct them to other formal sources of help (i.e. helplines)
A note for parents: You may be tempted to confiscate devices, stop all online activity or monitor the child’s activity. First, understand that social media and technology are becoming an integral part of the child’s social life. Then, sit down with your child to patiently discuss possible boundaries and reasonable safety restrictions to prevent such incidents from happening again. If you need advice for how to go about doing this, contact TOUCH Cyber Wellness (1800 377 2252). More information can be found here.
Where can I seek help?
Call these hotlines if you think you are experiencing online sexual harassment
|24-hour National Anti-Violence Helpline||1800-777-0000|
|TOUCH Cyber Wellness
(For help on a range of cyber wellness issues)
|AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre||
6779-0282 (Mon – Fri, 10am to 6pm)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm, replies within 3 working days)
|Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection||6555-0390|
|Trans SAFE Centre||6449-9088|
|Care Corner Project StART||6476-1482|
If you are able to, you may also approach your nearest Family Service Centre
According to the DQ Impact Report 2018,
● 54% of children, between the ages of 8-12 are exposed to at least one cyber-risk (cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meetings, online sexual behaviour).
● 16% of this group have been exposed to online sexual behaviours such as visiting websites with sexual content or having sexual conversations online with strangers.
● 12% of respondents have chatted with or met online strangers in real life.
According to the The Straits Times, in 2020 there were
● 191 reported cases of technology-facilitated sexual abuse with 55% of these occuring between 18-34 year olds
● Out of these cases, the most common perpetrators were:
– Intimate partners (29% of the time)
– Acquaintances (21% of the time)
– Contacts from dating apps (10% of the time)