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Is Social Media Leading to a Rise in Sexual Harassment Cases?

Mar 15,2022

In a technologically advancing world, social media has gained immense importance in the past few years. When we talk about social media, we refer to platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and others. Being communication tools, these platforms can be utilized for various purposes like finding new and old friends, attracting new clients towards businesses, etc. In today's evolving conditions, social media unites two far-ends of the same globe. Finding people online has become a cakewalk. With this ease and comfort of communication with almost anyone, the risks associated with sexual harassment have increased. It facilitates perpetrators to reach victims from all over the world.

According to Kepios analysis, as of October 2021, there were a total of 4.55 billion users of social media platforms, suggesting that 9 out of 10 internet consumers use social media. The analysis signifies that users of all ages and genders are present online. The wide availability of social media platforms makes pedophiles and adult perpetrators reach out to children worldwide intending to bully and harass them sexually and mentally. Meanwhile, reports also suggest a rapid surge in the cases of blackmailing online. Social media, on the other hand, also portrays women in sexually objectifying ways which leads to a substantial increase in sexual harassment against victims.

Forms of Sexual Harassment on Media

Sexual harassment on social media can be of two main forms. It can either be explicit harassment or indirect (implied) harassment.

1. Explicit Harassment: This type of harassment takes place when netizens straightaway comment statements referring to the sexual organs of the victim, send links of sexual or pornographic content, send images of private parts, ask for naked pictures, rape threats, unsolicited sexual remarks, etc over a post. It is no different from getting catcalled or whistled at in the streets. One of the best examples of the explicit form of sexual harassment can be seen over social media accounts of celebrities or public figures.

2. Indirect (implied) Harassment: This type of harassment is when the owner has posted something completely different and netizens comment sexual remarks on his/her post having tempting intent.

There can be numerous reasons why people on social media might be indulging in sexually harassing others. Social media has seen an increase of 13.13% of its users in the year 2021. Being at an over-crowded media, people adopt weird measures to gain attention. Sexually harassing users online is one of the ways of gaining attention for most people. On such social media platforms, there is always a constant race of winning more followers and achieving more popularity among the netizens. With regular updates and advancements in the algorithms, it becomes tougher to get noticed on these platforms. In such circumstances, inappropriate comments, links to sexual content, etc. are ways to win attention. Apart from that, another possible reason leading to social media sexual harassment can be a differing perception of the photos and content uploaded by the account owner.

Research suggests that sexual harassment has three major dimensions to it namely gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. Gender Harassment comprises sexist behavior like sharing sexual content, obscene jokes, etc. Unwanted sexual attention refers to one-sided actions demonstrating sexual interest like objectifying gaze, and unwanted touching. Lastly, sexual coercion includes behaviors like sexual blackmailing, bribes, and threats.

Sexual harassment is one of the biggest problems worldwide. And, social media is adding to the emerging concerns. Harassment of individuals does not only pose problems for the victims but also increases the risks of sexual violence like rape, child sexual assault, and others.

Most often sexual harassment is ignored by victims, governments as well as private bodies working against sexual violence. The focus area is usually thought to be the sexual violence cases. However, it is often forgotten that sexual harassment is a road that leads to sexual violence and assaults. Sexual harassment can have physical, mental, and emotional consequences on the health of the victim.

How to stay safe while using social media?

To avoid social media harassment, it is crucial to take safety precautions to stay away from it. A few measures can be:

  • Taking into consideration the adverse effects of social media, the new updates allow users to filter the content through advanced privacy settings. Enabling these settings lets you choose the people who see your content.

  • In case of any experience with online harassment, do not ignore it and wait for the next big thing to occur. Report even the smallest sexual harassment case.

  • Keeping your geolocation on, lets users see your locations whether or not you want to share that with them. Hence, it is preferable to keep your location off while using social media platforms.

  • The content that you share online is available to all and can later be edited and used for unwanted purposes. Whenever you think to share a post on a social media platform, make sure to re-check it before finally posting it.

Social media is useful for connecting people worldwide but excessive use of these platforms point out their drawbacks. Rising sexual harassment cases are one of the biggest threats of social media. If you or anyone you know has gone through any kind of sexual harassment online, speak up and make sure to report it. Change happens when we choose to act!