How do young women experience cyber sexual violence?

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Image: cross-organizational Cyber Self Defense Project team

Held on May 8, the Webbing with Wisdom Conference was part of a Cyber Self Defense Project funded by Status of Women Canada and led by East Metro Youth Services, METRAC and St. Stephen’s Community House.

At the Conference, findings of a survey on young women’s experiences with cyber sexual violence were shared. The research shows that harms of unwanted harassment, sexual bullying and spreading of sexual rumours, amongst other things, are regarded as common occurrences in online.

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Image: Webbing with Wisdom Conference breakout group led by METRAC’s ReAct youth team

Young women identified that cyber violence could lead to depression, anxiety, emotional trauma, lowered self-esteem and confidence, and self-harm and suicide. However, focus group participants said they could not successfully disengage with the internet as it might mean missing out on important dialogues, events and news. As such, it’s clear that any steps to eradicate online violence must consider and account for this struggle.

Research participants most frequently said that “education of service workers with regards to teen and high school culture and their community” was the most important factor in terms of how service providers should reach out to girls experiencing online violence. In focus groups, participants said that these supportive outlets are important because, “Sometimes parents don’t listen, so we need someone who will.”

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