However, cyber violence comes in many forms and is not only perpetrated by online sex predators. Family members, partners, peers and colleagues use smart phones and numerous social network platforms to harass and bully people.
In August this year, a 15-year-old British girl hanged herself because she was unable to cope with the cyber bullying she experienced on social networks. In April, a 17-year-old Canadian girl took her own life after men gang raped her and the attackers posted photos of her ordeal on social network platforms that ended up surfacing at her school.
She was subject to more abuse after her rape; school peers and community members judged, bullied and sexually harassed her. This forced her and the family to move to another region and new school. But, because her ordeal went viral on the internet, the abuse continued. The pressure was so much and it eventually killed her.
In Mauritius, just two months ago a woman in her twenties attempted suicide after her boyfriend blackmailed her using photos that he had in his possession after they broke up. He demanded Rs75 000 ($1500) to keep the photos private. The young woman could not afford to pay so much money, and instead set herself on fire to escape the shame.
To avoid harassment and cyber violence, psychologist Veronique Wan Hok Chee recommends that parents keep computers in a public area at home and keep communication open with their children, maintaining balance of watchfulness and respect for their privacy.
Wan HOK Chee says that with the proliferation of multimedia technologies caution is key, “Even if you are in love and lose your head, never agree to be photographed either scantily clad or naked by your boyfriend. Dare to say no. If your relationship should falter, you will have no worries about sexual blackmail on the internet. Love should never be stronger than reason.”
In many countries, policies, regulations and services that respond to these new forms of violence do not exist or are inadequate. Therefore strengthening cyber violence laws, regulation and implementation needs to be a priority.
This must go hand in hand with providing adults and children with information about the dangers of the internet, the importance of reporting cyber violence, and how to seek help. Cyber criminals are not above the law and like all perpetrators of GBV must be tracked down and jailed.
Laura Samoisy is a journalist in Mauritius. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service, special series on 16 Days of Activism, providing fresh views on everyday news.