Online dating apps and social media have created a wealth of new opportunities for people to connect with one another. However, while positive social connections can be more easily fostered through these channels, the digital age has also brought forth all-new ways for sexual harassment and dating violence to occur. Harassment and sexual violence in the online sphere create situations that are difficult to navigate, as it is not always clear how consent, rights and accountability fit into an online space that sometimes falls outside of the jurisdiction of known or established channels of discipline.
It is important to understand how to engage in safer behaviour on the Internet by taking precautions such as improving your privacy settings and vetting people that you meet online, but it is also important that we figure out ways to combat cyber harassment by changing our online spaces. As we shift our discussions on sexual harassment and assault from ones that centre how women and non-binary people can behave in ways that are coded as ‘safer’ to ones that engage with how to make public spaces safer to access, we must similarly interrogate our online spaces. We should not accept cyber harassment and dating violence as inevitable parts of Internet culture but rather should work to create online spaces where we advocate for safe, comfortable places to explore the possibilities of online connection without fear. We must work to create online spaces that are sex-positive and consent-driven and that protect and prioritize the rights of marginalized people and that do not tolerate violence. We can do this by calling out abuse when we see it, creating our own safe Internet communities, and respecting the boundaries that we and others set for our online spaces.
If you encounter cyber-harassment or online dating violence, SHARE can advocate for you and help you to understand your rights, and can help direct you to legal channels. Email [email protected] to report any cases of cyber-harassment or online dating violence, or to discuss any questions you might have around Internet dating culture.