Do Canadian women suffer from cyber-violence?

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Cyber-Sexual Violence and Negative Emotional States among Women in a Canadian University

Women attending universities in Canada are at particular risk from cyber-sexual violence as they are both overrepresented as victims of sexual violence and are keen users of technology. Cyber-sexual violence can include a range of activities including sexual harassment, the threat or practice of creating or distributing of intimate or sexual assault images of a person, or even the arrangement of an assault; all of which are considered as harmful sexually aggressive behaviours assisted by technology.

Cripps and Stermac’s study surveyed female students at a university in Ontario. They assessed the students’ experiences with cyber-sexual violence, as well as the rates at which they reported them to the authorities. They also hoped to uncover the effects of this violence on its victims’ emotional states.

The survey’s participants comprised of eighty women from a sample of one hundred, all undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 35. Participants were asked about their exposure to cybersexual violence and if they had reported or disclosed notable incidents. The emotional states of the participants were also recorded.

The occurrences of cyber-sexual violence reported by the students varied. Online forms of genderbased hate speech and sexual harassment were more common than non-consensual porn and raperelated offenses. A majority of respondents admitted to instances of victimization that they had not disclosed.

It appears that the experiences took a toll on the mental health of the participants. Having been the target of the aforementioned abusive behaviors was linked to depression, anxiety, stress and, to the greatest extent, post-traumatic stress. These symptoms occurred regardless of whether a victim had shared her experience or not.

Cyber-sexual violence appears to have a real and significant impact on the those targeted. As evinced by the experience of women within universities in Canada, the incorporation of technology into modern lifestyles may have increased the risk to women of this form of violence.

Women at Candian universities suffer from being targets of cyber-violence, however the majority of them do not report it.