Woman has Tinder profile. Man dislikes woman’s bio. Man shares it on his Facebook page, mocking said woman for perceived sexual assertion.
Girl is shamed. As it turns out, girl was quoting a lyric from rapper Drake. Doesn’t matter; situation quickly gets out of control and within hours, girl and her friends are being threatened with violent rape.
This is the shocking, but also shockingly common, way that things play out in cyber-reality these days.
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When 23-year-old Sydney woman Olivia included one of her favourite lyrics, “Type of girl that will suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you”, she was probably trying to be playful, maybe even a little sexually assertive.
But this is the internet. People perceive things through their own lens, so it didn’t take long for her to be labelled a “slut”, a “c*&t”, a “disgrace” and more.
One particularly misogynistic commenter, Zane, wrote: “You know the best thing about a feminist, they don’t get any action so when you rape them it feels 100 times tighter.” Zane’s Facebook account has since gone dark.
When I heard about this incident, my first reaction was to think about my kids, because the truly staggering comment came from Olivia’s friend, who said she’s dealt with this type of situation countless times since she was 13.
You see, these types of things don’t really happen in my world. This is because I don’t engage much online, other than for work. I’m not very active on social media; I don’t participate in forums; I’m not a gamer.
But my kids are (already, at the age of two and four) digital natives. This is the world they will have to navigate. And I wonder: what on earth is their life going to be like? In 20 years time, what type of digital environment will they have to combat online?
All I know it that it’s completely unfair that women should expect a level of abuse – and threats to their personal safety – as part of everyday life.
Olivia’s not having it; she and her friends have started a group, Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced, in an effort to combat online sexual harassment.
It’s already making an impact and generating plenty of media interest, so I hope it has an impact. Because, as a mother of daughters, I have to say: stories like this have me terrified.
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