Online violence against women increases with pandemic

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović, has called for submissions on the increase of violence against women (VAW) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest UN Women report suggests the increase of online gender-based violence and domestic abuse. Many women and girls locked down at home are in dangerous situations, because shelters, services available, and friends are now even harder to reach out to. The World Web Foundation warns about a ‘pandemic of online violence against women and girls’. In their submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, they offer policy recommendations that focus on the digital dimension of the crisis, emphasising that the growing trend of online violence and abuse against women ‘has accelerated during the COVID-19’. Distribution or threats of sharing non-consensual intimate images takes place also in the context of intimate partner violence. UK based Revenge Porn Helpline shows their website traffic doubled since the lockdown began. An American model, Morgan Barbour, started documenting the influx of online abuse she personally experienced since the pandemic started. Due to the COVID-19, online platforms sent default responses that since there are fewer people to review the content, they will prioritise ‘content with the most potential for harm’. ‘The first report that received this response from a platform was for a DM from a user threatening to find me, rape me, and murder me. It would seem ‘most potential for harm’ is subjective.’, said Barbour. Online violence has traumatic consequences for victim wellbeing.