Palestine

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

Palestine
© Jorge Fernandez Salas

I was 15 when I met this guy on Instagram. He was 21. We talked to each other over the phone and through Instagram. It was my first time ever talking to a guy in my life. I trusted and loved him.

He asked me to send him a photo of myself. I did. There was nothing wrong with my photo at all; it was a regular one. Later, he asked me to send him a naked video of myself. He said if I didn’t, he would share my photo with everyone in our village. In my conservative community, females cover their heads. A girl walking down the street with a guy is culturally inappropriate and unacceptable. You absolutely do not send photos to a guy who is considered a stranger to the family. I was so afraid, because I love my family and my family loves me. I was anxious and tense. I knew my parents would lose trust and faith in me.

"He asked me to take off my clothes. I did not realize he was recording it."

Instead of sending him a naked video, we did a video call. He asked me to take off my clothes. I did not realize he was recording it. Sometime later, he asked me to go out with him in his car. If he was sincere about his love for me, he would not ask me out because it could destroy my reputation. When I refused, he said he would share my topless video. I was terrified of him.

He went to a cafeteria and shared the video with two friends via Bluetooth. Others in the cafeteria received the video and started sharing it, too. Eventually, his friend shared it with my uncle, who showed it to my parents. My father was extremely angry and told me I could never leave the house, not even for school.

I attempted suicide. I brought shame to my family and had failed them. I lost all my friends and nobody stood beside me. Eventually, my parents supported me. I asked them to take me to the police to file a report. The police took me to a UNFPA safe space, where the lawyer, social worker and director general were very supportive. The psychosocial support was tremendous, and I was surrounded by so much care.

SEXTORTION

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Sensitive Content

This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing

Sensitive Content

This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing

Sensitive Content

This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing

Sensitive Content

This photo contains sensitive content which some people may find offensive or disturbing

SEXTORTION

A type of electronic blackmail, the demand for money, sex/sex acts, or additional explicit images in exchange for not exposing intimate images or private information.

Nablus Shelter
© Nablus Shelter

At the time, I was in my last year in high school. I was able to finish my studies with the help of the safe space, which got my high school to make arrangements for me to take my final exams. I passed my exams, got my diploma and can now apply for university.

The guy was caught by the police and is currently in prison awaiting trial. He was charged with electronic blackmail, defamation and exploitation of a minor. There is also a civil case for moral damage, where the guy will have to pay an amount to be determined.

I was shocked by what a guy could do to a girl.

My experience should be a lesson to every guy to treat girls with respect and use the Internet in an appropriate way.

I thought his feelings were genuine. It was a lie.

58%

of young women and adolescent girls (aged 15 - 25) from 31 countries experience online harassment

– Plan 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.