Cyber-VAWG on the rise

06 October 2015

Amethyst's Victoria Prewer discusses the shocking findings of a new report


It’s never been easier to see what our friends, family and even casual acquaintances are up to; thanks to sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it’s all there at the touch of a button.

But unfortunately, as social media has increased, so have the opportunities for online abuse.

According to a new report by the UN’s Commission for Digital Development, Cyber-violence against women is an increasing problem, but one which continues to remain under-regarded.

The report, Cyber-Violence against Women and Girls: A World Wide Wake Up Call, explains that the expansion of both cyber-violence and cyber-crime against women and girls (VAWG) is “emerging as a global problem, with serious implications for societies and economies around the world.” 

This ranges from ‘revenge porn’ and the leak of intimate celebrity photos, to the rise of misogynist trolls who often target prominent females such as feminists, politicians and journalists. Shockingly, in South Africa, viral rape videos have become commonplace. But even though the country has strict laws on this, according to the report they are rarely enforced.

In fact, the report cites that in nearly three quarters of countries, law enforcement bodies fail to take appropriate action against cyber-VAWG, which can even include the threat of rape, death and stalking. The report states that the internet is becoming not just a platform for abuse, but a way of enabling it in the real world due to the increase in the availability of information online.

The only way to tackle the problem of cyber-VAWG is for organisations, individuals and business to share responsibility. As the report concludes: “The majority of big and small internet companies can be expected to support a system of checks and balances” as well as telecoms companies, search engines, media and technology unions and ‘digital citizens.'


Cyber-VAWG is on the rise, but whoever we are, whatever our age or gender, we can be the victim of harassment:

  • Cyber Bullying – This can occur online only, or as part of more general bullying

  • Cyber Stalking – Persistent, unwanted contact from another person online

  • Trolling – Deliberately upsetting or shocking individuals or groups of people with extreme views, such as racist, religious or homophobic abuse

  • Creeping – Obsessively following someone’s life online.


The National Crime Prevention Council advises victims to block all communication with a cyber bully as soon as possible.

If you’re the victim of someone's online activity that is abusive or malicious, there are a number of places you can contact for help. See  and for the details of organisations as well as lots of practical advice.


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