Online Harassment

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Instead of being curbed despite the growing awareness, a new and quite effective form of harassment has emerged in the market- online harassment. Perpetrators are finding innovative ways to disrupt the lives of their victims, and have so far, proven quite successful, given the fact that 2017 reported an increase in online harassment in India, with Mumbai leading the number of cases reported. But before jumping into facts, let us take a look at online harassment in general and its many branches. Online harassment encompasses any form of mental, physical and emotional harassment that a person faces on the account of the perpetrator’s virtual action. However, virtual reality soon becomes actual reality, in many cases of online harassment. Cyberstalking, which constitutes a whopping 45% of the reported cases, is trending these days. Not only is the ‘aam janta’ or the common man falling prey to it, so are the famous people. Many actresses and actors, like Shruti Hassan, have reported cases of cyberstalking- which eventually turns into actual stalking. However, actors and actresses, and the other famous people can still do something about it immediately- for the sole reason that they are influential. The commoners try to carry on with their lives, for they live in fear that one single report to the police, and the virtual harassment would turn into real, physical harassment. And these are just the cases that have been reported. And, this is just scratching the surface of online harassment. Cyberbullying (44%) and threats to physically harm someone (45%) are also major contenders in this race to see which form of online harassment becomes the prominent one. Bullying someone online to do somebody’s bidding or just so that the victims feel bad about themselves is a means of expressing dominance through a virtual media wherein it is quite easy to morph oneself into a person one intrinsically isn’t. Such perpetrators often hide behind masks of fake accounts, and a fake sense of self-worth- and they tend to bully you until they get what they desire. Such perpetrators feel a sense of entitlement and no shame about the fact that they are being abusive or perverse, because it is with ease that they will message some random girl saying ‘send bobs and vagene pics’. Or in many cases, impose their own nude photos onto the unsuspecting victim. Virtual media and social media sites have given people a false right to post whatever they please because nobody is stopping them. Perpetrators use this to their advantage and casually and frequently slut shame, body shame, abuse and just lay their naked thoughts forward with the sense of security that even if somebody does complain against them, the worst case scenario would be that their account would be blocked. But unblocked accounts are just fake accounts waiting for the right opportunity to harass. The victims in such cases undergo severe mental and emotional trauma, not to mention the fact that such filthy comments can be viewed by just about everybody on that social media platform, and people are meaner online because they are cowards who know that they do not have to face the victim in real life. Hacking into a person’s social media account and making private information public, and generally wrecking havoc in that person’s life also constitutes as online harassment. Spreading malicious gossips and rumors, insulting, sexually harassing, threatening, consistently troubling with messages and comments- all of these are facets of online harassment.

Design credits: Khushal (Team Womenite)

A 2017 report stated that 87% of the victims are disabled people and those with poor mental health, and 77% of the victims were those having weight issues. Highest threats of physical violence were reported in Mumbai (51%), Delhi (47%) and Hyderabad (46%), and most of the victims of online harassment are under 40 years of age. While the percentage of online harassment cases is definitely high, there’s a high percentage of unreported cases as well. Online harassment is definitely prevalent in India, with 8 out of 10 Indians have faced some or the other form of it. Effective and immediate measures need to be taken to stop it- one of them being educating people and changing their mindsets. Being nice to somebody online seems like a good start- however, your version of being nice by sending ‘gud mrng deer, butiful pix, I luv u’, is not exactly the receiver’s version of being nice. Education and spreading awareness about online harassment and appropriate behavior would go a long way.

 

Article by: Sharvari Narendra

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