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Sextortion: Online Harassment as Gender-Based Violence

October 3, 2017

2 Minute Read

The following post is written by the team at HeartMob, a movement to end online harassment by providing real-time, immediate support. Their work, fueled by the anti-harassment organization Hollaback! also empowers bystanders to act when they see harassment and contribute to safer spaces online.

Online harassment isn’t just about being mean: it’s about reinforcing unequal power structures. These power imbalances can be societal or interpersonal. Either way, gender-based online harassment limits women’s and LGBTQ+ individuals’ ability to use digital technology and maintain economically viable careers online.

Whether you call it revenge porn, sextortion, blackmail, or non consensual sharing of intimate images, sextortion – or even the threat of it – can negatively affect a person’s health, safety, dignity, professional life, and financial stability. Harassers may threaten to post intimate images to “revenge porn” websites, or publish the images along with identifying information and contact details. Along with death threats, threats of sexual violence, defamation, and doxxing, sextortion causes emotional trauma and contributes to unequal spaces online, disproportionately targeting women and LGBTQ+ folks.

A Fresh Take

All too often, people targeted for this form of online sexual harassment hear that they’re the ones to blame. That’s why we’re so excited about this new PSA video from our friends at Thorn. Their brilliant video personalizes the experience without blaming the person being targeted. Watch this video, share it, and use it to start conversations with people in your life you want in your corner.

HeartMob Can Help

HeartMob – the online harassment program from Hollaback! – reduces trauma for individuals experiencing online harassment. If you’re being targeted for sextortion, you should know about the safe community we’ve created where you can report and maintain control of your stories. You can keep your report private to catalogue in case it escalates, share it with vetted volunteers (HeartMobbers) and request various forms of support, or mark it as public to show the world the extent of online harassment. No matter what you decide to do, remember that Thorn and HeartMob have your back.

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