Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment

Seeing an emergence of cyber-violence against women both as a weapon against women and an environment where women are made to feel unsafe, Battered Women’s Support Services dug deeper to develop our analysis of this type of violence. We initiated Cyber-Violence Against Women:  Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment research project to determine:

  1.  in what ways women are experiencing cyber-violence against women,
  2. how this type of violence impacts women’s lives,
  3. how women resist and fight back against this type of violence and
  4. how the community responds to women who experience cyber-violence.

“As information and communication technologies continue to advance, it has become easier and faster for us to communicate with one another, to distribute ideas and information and to make connections with people that transcend geographic and spatial boundaries. What we have noticed at Battered Women’s Support Services is that as use of information and communication technologies has become more ubiquitous, the use of these technologies as a weapon against women has also become ubiquitous.

Not only that, but internet and social media has also become an environment where women are made to feel unsafe and are threatened. Violence against women is being committed through the use of media such as texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, LinkedIn, YouTube and just about any other internet or social media platform you can think of. We have decided to term this type of violence, cyber-violence against women.” – Jessica  West, Researcher of Cyber-Violence Against Women Report.

In today’s world, we are not only living in a physical environment, many of us live significant portions of our lives online. As with any environment, the online environment can expose women to behaviours that are meant to humiliate, shame, or silence women with devastating consequences as evidenced by the experiences and deaths of Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott.   

Today, the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, and Jamie Hubley met with Canadian Members of Parliament, Commons Justice Committee to give their views on Bill C-13.    Bill C-13, Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, proposes to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of intimate images online. This bill is delivered to the Canadian public after an onslaught of experiences of cyber-bullying and gender violence, particularly amongst the youth population.

While this effort may have positive impact and provide criminal legal remedy, the Bill fails to recognizes many root causes of gender-based violence and sexual harassment in online environment. It is critically important to make the link between cyber-bullying, online gender violence and the spectrum of violence against women in physical environment to address the problem and find solutions.

Through Cyber-Violence Against Women:  Recognizing and Resisting Gender Violence in the Online Environment Battered Women’s Support Services makes visible the very real way girls and women are impacted and how girls and women resist.  We hope this will further our collective understanding of what cyber-violence against women is, and that it will be the beginning of a conversation about what needs to change, in both society and in policy to end cyber-violence against women.

Read our Cyber-Violence Against Women prepared by Jessica West here and please share widely.


 If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?