Content warning: this story describes forms of cyber violence against women and girls
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I met this guy at a student party. We’d been to the same school but had never spoken before. Now we were studying at the same college. It was nice to see a familiar face among so many new ones. We chatted like old friends—he was easy to talk to. Later, he walked me home to make sure I got back safely. I felt safe. After all, we were from the same city and even the same school.
The next morning he sent a text with a rose emoji. I thought it was a joke and didn’t reply. That weekend I returned from a night out with friends to find 24 missed calls from him. I tried to laugh it off, saying he must have butt-dialled me.
I met the guy again in college and we talked for a while. In the evening I saw another 20 missed calls. When I confronted him, he joked that he must have fallen asleep on his phone. He offered to meet up. I told him I’m in a relationship and it's better we just stay friends.
The next day, on my way to lectures, I saw him close to my apartment, even though he lives elsewhere. He kept popping up: appearing around a corner; hanging at the bus stop. One time I caught him standing outside my window. That’s when it became disturbing. All the while he kept sending me rose emoji messages. I asked him to stop, reminding him I have a boyfriend. Eventually, I stopped reacting.
Then I found my phone full of dirty pictures from him. He called me disgusting names. I blocked his phone. But the fear and discomfort wouldn’t go. I felt unsafe, scared and feared the unexpected because it was like my every step was being watched. He knew where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. It was a total invasion of privacy, which made me feel so many things at the same time: anger, helplessness, irritated and this sense of pressure all over me.
I found information online about the Specialised Comprehensive Assistance Centre (SKPC). I called, we talked and they listened. They gave me legal and safety advice. They helped me realise this was psychological and sexual abuse. That none of it was my fault. And I’m not alone.
— Alina, 20 years old.
What is cyber stalking?
Cyber stalking against women and girls involves intentional repeated acts against women and/or girls because of their gender, or because of a combination of gender and other factors (e.g. race, age, disability, sexuality, profession or beliefs).
It is committed through the use of ICT means, to harass, intimidate, persecute, spy or establish unwanted communication or contact, with malicious or obsessive intent, making the victim feel threatened, distressed or unsafe in any way.
Tackle CVAWG and all other forms of VAWG in a comprehensive framework
Institutions should prioritise the promotion of a comprehensive framework to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG). CVAWG should be included as a core element and addressed as a distinctive form of violence, characterised by the use of ICT means.
Develop and adopt harmonised definitions of CVAWG and its forms
Institutions should develop and adopt harmonised and mutually exclusive definitions of CVAWG and its forms. Definitions should include a gender and intersectional dimension and acknowledge the ‘online-offline’ continuum of violence between the digital and the physical worlds.
Add a gender dimension to data collection and crime statistics on CVAWG
Institutions should issue guidelines on how to collect data on CVAWG and its forms. A gender dimension to data collection and crime statistics should be taken into account to allow the collection of good quality, comparable and disaggregated data.
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