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'I’ve had every kind of harassment there is – it's how it is online'

Kelly Teed,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Jul 2016, 5:57am

'I’ve had every kind of harassment there is – it's how it is online'

Kelly Teed,
Publish Date
Wed, 20 Jul 2016, 5:57am

Emily Writes is no stranger to online abuse.

She’s been called names, had misogynistic comments directed at her and had her parenting skills criticised - all by strangers on the internet.

“I’ve basically had every kind of harassment there is – it’s just kind of how it is online,” she said.

As a blogger, Emily faces a torrent of online abuse almost every time she writes an article – even writing under a pseudonym.

And she’s not alone. New figures from Norton by Symantec have revealed 72 per cent of New Zealand women under the age of 30 have experienced some form of online harassment – with more than half of all Kiwi women having been targeted at some point.

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said on average, NetSafe receives around 1000 reports of online harassment per year.

“Everything from one off online abuse and trolling incidents through to cyber bullying campaigns which are ongoing,” he said.

Forms of online harassment reported in the Norton survey ranged from unwanted contact, trolling and character assassinations through to threats of physical violence, rape and death.

Norton by Symantec’s Asia Pacific senior director, Melissa Dempsey said women reported feeling violated, abused and frightened by their online experiences.

More than 21 per cent, or one in five, women reported feeling depressed, while 17 per cent felt helpless. Women also reported feelings of anger, frustration and anxiety.

Those results are concerning, said Ms Dempsey.

Perhaps even more concerning is despite more than 70 per cent of women identifying online harassment as a serious problem in 2016, only nine per cent of women affected will report the harassment.

Ms Dempsey said that could be due to a lack of awareness around what sort of help is available.

But Emily isn’t surprised at those figures. She said it’s hard for women to feel like they’ll be taken seriously if they complain.

“Women are told all the time to just accept it. It’s very rare for a woman to be taken seriously when they say they’re being abused online.

“I think every piece of writing I’ve ever done, I’ve had at least one comment that says ‘you chose to put yourself out there, therefore whatever you get, you deserve it,” she said.

Solutions to online harassment vary. Ms Dempsey believes it’s important to raise awareness of all the different help available while Mr Cocker recommends getting professional advice, which will depend on the situation.

But Emily said it’s all about changing attitudes.

“It’s not for women, it’s for men. If you [men] see what men are saying to women online – say something because when they [abusers] hear it from men it’ll mean something.”

Emily said a lot of women can’t speak out about it or push back because it can escalate the abuse.

“I really think it’s up to men to be saying to other men, ‘hey, this is how you’re meant to be behaving online’.

“Because a lot of it is what can women do, what should women do and I actually think the conversation should be moved to men sorting out their mates.”

How to Tackle Online Harassment 

REVIEW your online presence

–      Check your security and privacy settings

–      Protect your mobile device

–      Regularly change passwords

RECOGNISE the problem if it happens and move quickly

–      Do not respond to the perpetrator 

–      Keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video

–      If you are witness to online harassment, help by supporting the target and depending on the situation, letting the perpetrators know that their behavior is not acceptable


–      If someone says or does something that is inappropriate or deemed as harassment, report it to the relevant authorities immediately

–      If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email requesting the content be removed or blocked

–      If the emotional impact of online harassment takes its toll on your wellbeing or that of someone you care for, please reach out for help

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