Chapter 9: Rape threats and revenge porn: Defining sexual violence in the digital age – Jordan Fairbairn

ABSTRACT

Fairbairn argues that the prevalent understanding of sexual violence as physical assault limits our ability to address the harms of online behaviours such as trolling, revenge porn, rape threats and cyber-harassment. Especially given the blurring boundary between online and off-line spaces, it is imperative that we define, document and prevent violence against girls and women in all its manifestations. New definitions and new forms of data gathering are required because the interplay between power and control in digital spaces is complex and multifaceted. Moreover, the types of violence girls and women experience there are often discounted because they are perceived as “not real” or the result of girls’ and women’s naiveté. Fairbairn concludes that, if we assume online violence can be ignored, we will continue to blame victims for the harms they experience. If, in the alternative, we acknowledge the real psychological and emotional harms women experience when they are threatened, humiliated and abused online, we will be able to create supportive responses that place online sexual violence within a spectrum of harmful behaviours.

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