Ecuador

Name and identifying details have been changed for privacy and protection

Photography used for representational purposes only and does not depict the story’s subject

Ecuador
© Santiago Arcos

When I ended a relationship, my ex-boyfriend started writing and calling me non-stop. It got to a point where I was forced to block him from all social media, but I could still see how many times he tried to contact me every day. A month after the breakup, he went to my house. We tried to get back together, but within three days, I didn’t feel safe. The constant messages and calls resumed. He told me that he would kill himself, that he had an accident and almost died, that he had changed, that he was going to be a better person. He kept writing and calling me, repeating the same thing.

I wanted to lodge a complaint of psychological violence with a judicial unit, but you had to file online and the page wasn’t working. My lawyer suggested I go to the police department, which sent me from place to place until I ended up at a police station that was closed that day. My lawyer and I went back to the judicial unit to lodge a complaint of physical violence to expedite the process. A week earlier, [my ex] had banged my head against the door and hit my arms and hand, but only the open wound on my hand made it into the report because the other injuries weren’t visible.

"I felt frustrated that victims are the ones who have to take action to protect themselves."

Even though I had protective measures like a panic button, he continued to send messages, call and video call, and send Instagram requests. I decided... to use his messages as evidence of his continued harassment. But he also called from other numbers, so I avoided unknown numbers almost every day.

At the trial two months later, during which he continued to send declarations of his love, he was found innocent. We asked that the insistent telephone calls be used as proof of his abuse, but they rejected that. The judge mentioned that she did not take into consideration the allegations of psychological violence because the complaint was specifically about physical violence.

The judicial unit made me feel guilty, telling me to consider that the complaint could affect the life of the perpetrator and his ability to find work. The psychology expert told me that it happened because I allowed it by returning to him. I felt powerless when the justice system did not validate this as harassment.

CYBERSTALKING

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© Adam Cybulski
Private Caller
Lost call
Private Caller
Answer my calls
02:17 A.M
Private Caller
I need you
02:17 A.M
Private Caller
Call me please
03:00 A.M
Private Caller
Answer me now!!
05:04 A.M
CYBERSTALKING

Persistent, unwanted and/or threatening surveillance, contact and/or pursuit by technological means. Cyberstalking can turn to offline stalking and vice versa.

Santiago Arcos
© Santiago Arcos

The harassment continued for three months, when I finally changed my number. I felt frustrated that victims are the ones who have to take action to protect themselves.

I felt frustrated that having to change my life for something he was doing, that victims are the ones who have to take action to protect themselves.

Since then, I have been in therapy. Luckily, I turned to my family and friends, and with psychological support I have been getting through little by little. My physical condition is stable; the psychological condition is more difficult to get back to normal.

As far as the Internet is concerned, I am very careful about the requests that come to me. Even today when I see unknown numbers, I live in fear that it may be him.

7 in 10

women who have been cyberstalked also experience sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner.

– European Women’s Lobby

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WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody

do more

For technology companies

do better

For lawmakers and law enforcement

do right
Disrupt digital violence

Take Action

A virtual world free of violence is possible. UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, supports the right of all women and girls to live without fear of gender-based violence or abuse in all spaces, including online. Everyone plays a role in making this more than a hope but a reality.

WHAT CAN I DO?

For everybody:

DO more

Anyone who shares another’s intimate images without her consent – even if a sharer is not the original perpetrator – is committing violence against women. Let the disruption start with you. See people attacking, bullying or threatening someone online? Don’t join in. Post positive messages to counter the negative. Report the abuse to the technology platform. One cybermob attack survivor said she felt seen and supported by people who defended her.

For technology companies:

DO better

UNFPA joined the World Wide Web Foundation in its call to Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter to prioritize the safety of women online, holding them to the pledges made to do so during the 2021 Generation Equality Forum in Paris. But there are many more platforms. In the words of Thorn, which works to end online child sexual abuse, “We won’t achieve the goal of building an Internet that is safe until every platform with an upload button has adopted proactive detection measures.”

For lawmakers and law enforcement:

DO RIGHT

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, “In 64 of 86 countries, law enforcement agencies and courts appear to be failing to take appropriate  corrective actions to address online violence against women.” Lawmakers need to recognize the pervasive and prevalent nature of the violence and support legislative and regulatory responses that meet the needs of women and girls, including creation and resourcing of independent monitoring and regulatory bodies. For example, Australia’s Office of the E-Safety Commissioner is serving as a model for countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom in addressing online safety. Seeking justice should not have to be another traumatizing experience.