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Online harassment, wrecking mental havoc in victims

Victims of cyber stalking and/or harassment experience a multitude of harmful and detrimental consequences for their mental health, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and panic attacks.

2022 Jun 29, 7:59, Kathmandu

Online harassment is on rising in recent days in Nepal. Stalking, trolling, sexting or embarrassing someone online can be considered forms of online harassment. As Internet use increases, there is a growing risk of online harm, including cyber stalking and cyber harassment.

According to the data provided by the Cyber Crime Bureau of Nepal, last year, 3,050 applications had been filed for complaints with many relating to photo mutilation, revenge porn, defamation, and hacking. Compared to data from previous years, there has been a drastic rise in cases. While the number of cases related to social media and hacking reached 2,154 this Mangshir.

Women, especially, have faced increasing cases of cyber attacks. An OXFAM International study published in 2021 indicates that violence against women particularly, young girls, has moved out of the physical space and into the virtual realm, with reported cases increasing in cyberstalking, bullying and sexual harassment. While men and women both have been equal victims to cyber attacks, women in particular are most likely to experience sexual harassment online.

“When I was a teenager, I wanted to keep my profile public on Instagram. I received a lot of requests online. But, when I was talking to this particular person, he sent me unsolicited pictures of his private parts.”. said Pushpa Bhandari, a student at St. Xavier’s College. Bhandari was forced to make her account private as she felt extremely vulgarized by those messages. She further added that, “ As a tennager, it affected me very much.”.

Online harassment, hacking and online abuse have made individuals distrustful of social media and technology itself. A report on ‘Demographics of Cybercrime’ says that only 37% of women feel safe online and just 26% feel their information is private, while 49% of men feel safe and 32% feel a sense of privacy online, worldwide. The report also highlights that one of the reasons why cases of cybercrime are increasing is because of the absence of a generally accepted notion of consent, in society and in the law itself.

Online harassment is affecting not only young victims, but also the victims' families, the bully, and witnesses of cyberbullying. The perpetrator is also at high risk of substance abuse as per a report by a non-profit organization fighting against cyber crimes. However, the effect of cyberbullying can be most detrimental to the victim, as they may experience a number of emotional issues that affect their social and academic performance as well as their overall mental health.

“People have more confidence harassing online but what they don't understand is that they can themselves be deeply affected by it. The consequence of such harassment by the perpetrator may cause them to lose jobs or get socially boycotted,” said Swapnil KC, a student and a victim of online harassment. KC was harassed by one of her own classmates, which is not a new phenomenon. Perpetrators are mostly someone who knows the victim or is an acquaintance of the victim.

KC faced a hard time opening up about the incident, but she felt it needed to be addressed as she and the perpetrator had to share the same class making it extremely difficult for her. “My abuser sent me a friend request, which I accepted as we were classmates. However, he soon started sending me dirty texts, which I believe is called sexting. He seemed like a really quiet person and I ignored his messages many times. But it got to a point when I realized that other girls from my class were also victims to his online harassment. So, I broke my silence.” Swapnil added. She wished she had opened up sooner as she feels she could have protected them from such harassment.

On the other hand, cases of cyberstalking have also increased which does not just compromise privacy but also the safety of the victim. There have also been reports of physical threats to victims of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking may cause psychological distress similar to that of real-world stalking. Although women are at much higher risk of cyberstalking, men also have faced similar situations. Obsessive stalking by females is also on the rise even though there aren't specific data in the country about it, which in itself proves to be problematic. Most officials feel that women are not capable of something so outrageous, an inherent patriarchal view that results in biased reporting of such cases.

“ One of my female friends asked me out on a date but I refused it, but she continued to message me and at some point even showed up outside my home.” said a 20-year-old student Raj (pseudonym). She threatened him that she would come inside and complain to his parents that he assaulted her. He was left flabbergasted and had no choice but to tell his parents about it.

Raj further added, “ My parents didn't want to report it as it may ruin her life but they never realized that they were completely disregardful of my own feelings. I was disappointed by them. My parents talked to her parents and the messages stopped, however, it left a deep scar on me and I still don't feel very comfortable around girls. I choose my friends very carefully, but I never make female friends anymore.”

Cases of online harassment are on the rise not only in Nepal but worldwide and it is only increasing. It is an issue of immediate concern and should not be overlooked. In Nepal, crimes related to online harassment are taken in action on the basis of The Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) but many do not even consider filing a complaint due to the risk of further victimization. The process of filing complaints must be made easy and unbiased, while digital literacy must be included in the curriculum.


Online Harassment stalking trolling sexting Cyber Crime Bureau of Nepal cyber stalking sexual harassment online abuse The Electronic Transaction Act (ETA) Psychological damage Mental Health nepal NepalNews Latest news of Nepal
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