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‘It’s in our phone, in our hands, and it’s in our house’: Six women share their experiences of online sexual harassment

Emily Atack begins her documentary, Asking For It, with this startling confession to camera.

She then lifts up her smartphone and counts how many unsolicited images she’s received just that morning alone: 37.

‘It’s the ultimate disrespect,’ the 33-year-old TV star says as she continues to scroll. ‘It says: “I think you’re easy access and you’re up for it.”’

Cyberflashing and sexual harassment online is as old as the internet itself, but the increasingly digital nature of our lives, and the subsequent lockdowns of the past few years, has resulted in unsolicited sharing of images online rising massively.

One in four women said they have been cyberflashed in the last year, with only 15% of young girls feeling safe on social media.

It’s not just celebrities with huge social followings like Emily who have been targets for online harassment, either. According to domestic abuse charity Refuge, one in three UK women have experienced online abuse or harassment, with the government’s Online Safety Bill now looking to clarify the laws around inappropriate and worrying behaviour online.

Here, six women give an insight into the extent of harassment they see on an almost daily basis.

Bianca Westwood, 48, is a Sky Sports football presenter based in London.

This has been happening forever, but I think women’s consciousness has changed over the last few years. Before, we’d laugh it off. But after MeToo, we said: Hold on a minute, we don’t like this, we’re going to say something about it.

I’ve been on TV for a decade, and being in such a male dominated field I’ve always had nasty messages from men on Instagram, but cyberflashing and more sexual content has become more prominent in the last five years. They mostly fall into two camps – some that find it a laugh to tell me I’ve got nice tits, and then the distinctly more sinister guy that feels dangerous.

I have one man who messages me about once a month with really graphic sexual and pornographic descriptions of what he wants to do to me, what he’s doing to himself, what he thinks about. If I blocked him, he’d pop up with a new account. I ignored it for a long time. Once I lost it and replied that he was probably a virgin sitting at home on his own who’s never been with a woman. That just seemed to excite him more.

Source of data and images: metro

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