Argentina

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

Argentina
© Unsplash

[A harasser] pretended to be me on social media and sent intimate photographs to other men during sexually aggressive virtual chats.

He gave them directions to where I lived, my schedule and my personal, work and family information. I had to change my number after I received messages at any hour from men.

He made them believe that I wanted to meet them and suggested pretending they were raping me if they saw me. Believing that I was talking to them on Facebook, those men began to search for me in places I visited daily. Others recognized me as I walked through my city. They approached me with sexual intentions. It happened about 50 times over a couple of years.

“I thought about moving but this would follow me everywhere; it was useless to escape.”

When the first encounter occurred, I didn’t understand how someone I saw for the first time knew so many details about my life. This man, standing on the corner near my house, was saying things about licking my neck and what he would do to me sexually... I was completely frightened and ran home.

I feared men would kidnap me, rape me, kill me. For a year and a half I rarely left my house. I worked remotely. I walked away from friends who joked about or minimized my situation. Most of my male friends had been in contact with the fake me; some even received pictures. I was a zombie who woke up just to investigate what I could do to get out of this situation. I thought about moving but this would follow me everywhere; it was useless to escape.

DOXXING

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© Juri Gianfrancesco
Natalia
Let’s meet together.
Natalia
If I resist, it’s part of the fantasy. Don’t stop even if I tell you to.
Natalia
Let’s meet at 5:00 P.M. at my house.
Natalia
I want to see you.
REPORT FAKE CONTENT
Doxxing

Posting personal and sensitive information including home and work addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and family names without permission.

UNFPA Argentina
© UNFPA Argentina

No one thought this was worrisome, arguing that if it was happening on social media, it was not serious.

Almost two years after the first incident, the fake profile approached a neighbour, who warned me about it. We recorded the conversation together and took it to the unit that takes complaints, which then turns to the courts.

[One person was identified through the messages sent to other men.]

I was granted a restraining order and a panic button.

I am still frightened by contact with men I don't know, in case it’s someone who has seen my pictures and may seek to extort me or ask for sex. I am disturbed by any failure in my computers or equipment, believing that someone may be trying to hack them. I do not post photos with friends or family. If someone I don’t know starts to follow me on social media, I research them deeply. I never accept requests without identification. Alerts of attempts to enter my email generate a state of total panic.

“Aggressors do not rest when they can have control over their victims from the comfort of their own homes.”

Digital violence mutates as fast as technological innovations do. It is a 24-hour job, every day of the week, because new attacks are constantly opening on all sides, and the aggressors do not rest when they can have control over their victims from the comfort of their own homes.

The main message for the aggressors is: Violence is not a lesser kind just because it is digital. And to survivors of this type of violence: We deserve to live in freedom. If life deals the opposite, we must fight to break the chains.

1/6

women in eight countries who experienced online harassment or abuse had their personal details posted online. In the U.S, it is 1 in 3.
– Amnesty International
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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.