Norton by Symantec has released research which reveals that almost three quarters of New Zealand women (72 percent) under the age of 30 have experienced some form of online harassment. While online harassment affects more young women, more than half (52 percent) of all Kiwi women have been targeted.
The Norton survey, Online Harassment: The New Zealand Woman’s Experience, shows that forms of online harassment range from unwanted contact, trolling, character assassinations, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, rape and death. The survey also reveals the significant emotional toll it takes on women in New Zealand.
Despite 70 percent of New Zealand women identifying online harassment as a serious problem in 2016, more than one third (39 percent) will choose to ignore it. In addition, only 9 percent of New Zealand women report perpetrators of the online harassment to police.
Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director, Asia Pacific, Norton by Symantec, said the findings provide some insights into the implications of online harassment for New Zealand women.
“This survey uncovers the prevalence of harassment against women in the online world, and sheds light on the extent of the problem in our society. It also exposes the high emotional toll online harassment is having on New Zealand women and brings to light the uncomfortable truth that some Kiwi women are feeling violated, abused and frightened by their online experiences.”
“At Norton, our mission is to inspire people to boldly go online, confident that they are safe from all forms of harm. Protecting the world’s online community is no easy feat but awareness and collaboration between the IT industry, policing and law enforcement agencies can play an enormous role in reducing online harassment and preventing it from becoming an established norm in our digital society,” added Dempsey.
Experiences of Online Harassment
The survey reveals one in seven women have been affected by general threats of physical violence including death, rape and sexual assault. This figure rose to one in four (23 percent) for women aged under 30.
The harassment is frequently of a sexual nature. 1 in 10 women have experienced graphic sexual harassment, rising to nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) for women under 30. Threats of sexual violence are shockingly common experiences. One in 14 women have been threatened with sexual violence/rape, rising to 1 in 10 women under 44. In addition, one in four lesbian, bisexual and transgender women who had suffered serious harassment said their sexual orientation had been targeted.
According to the survey, 19 percent of women identified their physical appearance as being singled out in an attack, followed by weight (16 percent) and gender (10 percent). Of disabled women who were harassed online, their disability was attacked in 1 in 5 cases. Social media (69 percent), text messages (24 percent) and email (22 percent) were most commonly used to facilitate online harassment.
Lee Chisholm, Netsafe Training and Education Specialist says NetSafe routinely receives reports from New Zealanders regarding online harassment and abuse, much of which is relentless and often devastating for those targeted.
“We receive a higher percentage of reports of personal harm from females than males. Anyone who is harassed or abused online needs positive support as well as practical expertise - which can be accessed through NetSafe.”
Impact of Online Harassment
The effects of online harassment vary, but many women had feelings of anger (37 percent), irritation (34 percent), frustration (32 percent) and anxiousness (26 percent). Disturbingly, some six percent of New Zealand women felt suicidal.
The implications of online harassment are significant:
The impact of online harassment caused 26 percent of the New Zealand women surveyed to enhance the privacy settings on their social media accounts; 25 percent changed the nature of relationships with some friends; 21 percent lost friends; and eight percent closed their social media account.
How to Tackle Online Harassment