University students attend a class on hate crimes at the Ertzaintza headquarters. Javier Hernández
Physical violence, especially against women, is like the observable universe: the visible part is minimal compared to the unseen reality.
For each known case there are dozens of situations of daily violence, latent and sustained over time that, in most cases, find their vehicle, their tool and their amplifier in the technological media.
A study by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) carried out in the last two years,
Combating cyber violence against women and girls
, concludes that there is "a serious lack of data and research that hinders an adequate assessment of the prevalence and impact" of this scourge.
"Until last year we didn't even have agreed definitions," warns Berta Vall, a member of the Blanquerna-Universidad Ramón Llull Couple and Family Research Group and member of the
DeStalk European project against cyber violence.
The EU study identifies nine fields: from stalking, extortion, intimidation, harassment, gender-based hate speech or non-consensual use of intimate images to other more imperceptible or subtle forms involving the use of internet-connected home devices , trolling or disclosure of data.
During routine surveillance of the environment of a woman with a protection order, the Civil Guard detected this past December in Isla Mayor (Seville) that the car of the victim's ex-partner, with a restraining order, was parked in front of to his house.
The inspection of the vehicle made it possible to detect in one of the windows a mobile phone with a "remote video surveillance application, through which the ex-husband had full knowledge and control of the woman's movements," according to the agents.
The assailant was arrested and brought to justice.
It is an example of how technologies facilitate different forms of cyberviolence, which include both that carried out on the internet, through social networks and messaging platforms, and that which results from the use of devices, such as the case of Isla Mayor.
“Online violence is nothing more than a continuation of the violence that occurs against women and girls on a daily basis.
This amplifies, extends and worsens with the use of the Internet
and digital devices”, explains the Albanian Iris Luarasi, president of the Expert Group in the Fight against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Grevio).
This international team has published the first General Recommendation on the digital dimension of violence against
General Recommendation on the digital dimension of violence against women
"You have put on green lingerie": the harassing message that generated an alliance against the applications that spy on us
Kirsten Leube, German representative to the Council of Europe acknowledges that, given this reality, "there is not enough data on the various forms of cyberviolence and this has to do with the fact that many Member States do not address them in their penal codes, for so they are not collecting the corresponding data either ”.
The Internet security company Kaspersky is part of the European DeStalk program and is one of the sources to glimpse the reality of cyber violence.
According to his latest report, the
70% of women in the EU who have suffered violence through spying networks or devices
has also experienced at least one form of physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner.
Spain ranks sixth among the most affected countries and 24% of the people surveyed by the company have admitted having suffered some type of violence or harassment by a partner or ex-partner using technology.
21% suspect that they are being spied on through a mobile application, a circumstance that contrasts with the perception of this type of behavior: three out of 10 respondents
they do not see any problem in the control of the couple “under certain circumstances”.
The EIGE study aims to break this barrier of ignorance and misperception of actions that are intolerable under any circumstance, despite the opinion of that 30%.
And the first thing is to identify these behaviors.
In this sense, the European report identifies nine fields in which these forms of violence develop:
It occurs methodically and persistently and is perpetrated by an individual with the intent to undermine the victim's sense of safety.
It involves the use of emails, offensive or threatening messages, the dissemination of intimate photos or videos, and the monitoring of victims through various means.
Intimidation, coercion and harassment (
It is also persistent behavior designed to cause severe emotional distress and often fear of physical harm.
The main victims are young people and children with vulnerability.
It may involve requests for sexual favors or the delivery of any unwanted content that is deemed offensive, humiliating, demeaning or intimidating with threats and hate speech online.
Online hate speech / incitement to violence or hatred
Although it is a broad term linked to violence against groups based on their ethnic, religious or origin conditions, it is also registered against women and implies sexualization, objectification and degrading comments about physical appearance, as well as threats of rape.
Non-consensual dissemination of intimate images, espionage and sexual extortion.
The first action refers to the public dissemination of sexually explicit content of one or more people without their consent.
Most of the victims are women and it is usually committed by the victim's ex-partner with vengeful intent or to undermine the woman's privacy.
espionage is another form of violence in which perpetrators take non-consensual or consensual images of women's intimate areas and share them.
Some emerging forms of these abuses include spreading false images or receiving unwanted sexually explicit content.
The RAE (Royal Spanish Academy) provides a precise definition: "In internet forums and social networks, posting provocative, offensive or inappropriate messages in order to boycott something or someone, or hinder the conversation".
It begins to be considered a form of harassment by including aggressive or confusing messages.
The perpetrator may have no relation to the victims and their weapons, when the trolling is sexist, are gender-based slurs, vicious language, and threats of rape and death by a coordinated group to humiliate women, particularly those who express their opinion.
It is an aggressive and hostile form of online communication that is always characterized by insults, disaffection and hate.
Typographically, they usually contain capital letters and exclamation marks.
It is used to provoke the reaction of another user.
It is closely related to trolling and few laws or policies include it as a form of violence.
These actions can be overtly misogynistic and often contain threats or fantasies of or incitement to sexual violence.
Disclosure of data
Doxing or doxxing
It consists of seeking, collecting and publicly sharing personally identifiable information against the will of the target.
It includes personal and sensitive data, such as address, photographs and names of the victim and relatives.
It can be used by large numbers of perpetrators in campaigns of harassment and threats with significant psychological consequences and, by allowing victims to be physically located, it can also be a precursor to physical violence.
The methods employed to acquire such information include searching publicly available databases and social networking websites, as well as hacking and social engineering.
The reasons can be harassment, exposure, financial damage, extortion and even the targeting of the victim in the physical world.
Coercion of false friends (
This is coercion to expose or share sexual material.
Unlike outright extortion, it is a process by which the perpetrator grooms the victim for abuse through manipulative behavior aimed at obtaining sexual content, such as nude images or conversations or other forms of online interactions.
It begins with contacts to generate a relationship of trust with the victims and, especially with minors, the perpetrators take refuge in false profiles to pose as someone who facilitates the false friendship that will culminate in extortion.
Violence through connected devices (
It is the exploitation of the IoT (Internet of things or connected devices) to harass, stalk, control or abuse.
It is carried out through devices such as smart doorbells, speakers, security cameras or any other device connected to the internet and with remote control.
Some examples of this type of violence are operating remote switches (such as those for lights or heating in the victim's home), locking another person in by controlling the smart security system, or recording using security cameras or private devices.
Researcher Berta Vall highlights the importance of this approach to the reality of cyberviolence: “We know that if you don't have a name, a definition, it is very difficult for both victims and aggressors to identify it.
There was a great need to know the different types of violence and the specific tools to address it.”
The researcher defends an intervention “that involves different relevant sectors.
Not only from the psychological or police attention point of view, but also to legislators, politicians and society, which must be made aware”.
The need for social awareness is endorsed by the growth of cyberviolence practices thanks to the proliferation of means to carry them out.
“You don't have to go to the dark web or be a
[hacker] to engage in cyberviolence.
In fact, you just have to search on Google and you will find dozens of programs, applications and tutorials.
It's scary how much information there is on the internet about cyberbullying”, warns Elena Gajotto, project manager for the organization Una Casa per l'Uomo, also a member of the DeStalk programme, for which Kasperski has designed a free course available in five languages.
Dimitra Mintsidis, from the WWP European Network project, argues that programs like these must "ensure that women and girls are free and safe in the spaces in which they act and live."
“Women must be empowered to recognize forms of digital violence, discourage men from using them, make available resources known, and mobilize.”
In this sense, the cybersecurity company Kasperski, in collaboration with the Stop Digital Gender Violence Association, gave a series of workshops last December to train agents of the IPA (International Association of Police Members) of the Basque Country in the use of the TinyCheck computer tool, created to detect spyware and digital harassment on tablets and mobile phones.
During these workshops, agents were also trained in advanced cyberthreat detection systems, specifically cyberstalking spyware.
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