Online violence just as destructive as offline violence

Contrary to claims that cyberhate is mostly innocuous because it’s ‘virtual’, the widespread suffering caused to women can be significant, says UNSW Senior Lecturer Dr Emma A. Jane.


While the digital age helps facilitate spaces for women to be heard with movements and campaigns such as #OrangeTheWorld #MeToo #TimesUp #NotOneMore, conversely, it also presents further opportunities to inflict harm on women.

Kicking off 25 November, the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women will feature 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign.

What is online violence?

Dr Emma A. Jane, a UNSW Senior Lecturer in the School of the Arts & Media, says online violence can refer to a range of dialogues and acts that occur at the gender, technology and violence nexus.

“Examples of online violence include hate speech, sexually violent dialogue, plausible rape and death threats, stalking, large groups attacking individuals, the malicious circulation of targets’ personal details online (known as ‘doxing’), and the uploading of sexually explicit material without the consent of the pictured subject (‘revenge porn’),” Dr Jane says.

Dr Jane says contrary to claims that cyberhate is mostly innocuous because it is virtual rather than ‘real’, the widespread suffering caused to women is significant, tangible and embodied.

Gendered cyberhate causes women significant social, psychological, reputational, economic and political harm. It’s understood as constituting a new form of workplace harassment as well as an emerging, economic dimension of existing, gender-related digital divides.

Response to online versus offline violence

Dr Jane says victims of online violence should be provided with similar, if not the same protections as victims of offline violence.

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