The digital dimension of gender-based violence concerns a vast range of acts committed online or through technological tools that are part of the drama of violence that women and girls suffer even within the walls of the home. A phenomenon so vast that there is no definition that covers its different nuances. On the one hand, the web seems able to offer great opportunities to people, which potentially reduce the gender gap. On the other hand, online violence enjoys new possibilities, within which inequalities and abuses are growing. These are some of the reflections that emerged from the many speakers who spoke today in the Regional Council at the conference “Preventing and defending yourself against gender-based digital violence”organized by the Human and Civil Rights Committee and the Women’s Council.
Over the course of one’s life, according to the National Institute of Statistics, the 6.8% of women has had inappropriate offers or obscene or malicious comments about him through social networks and1.5% it has happened that someone has substituted himself to send embarrassing or threatening or offensive messages to other people. The diffusion of harassment that occurs through the network is increasing, in line with the greater use of social networks in recent years. More than 44% of harassment on social networks it was repeated several times in the case of female victims.
On 42,143 posts and tweets analyzed by Amnesty International, in the report “The Hate Barometer 2020 – Keyboard Sexism”, more than 1 in 10 (14%) is abusive, discriminatory or hate speech. Looking only at cases of hate speech, there are almost 1 in 100 (0.7%). 25.6% of offensive and discriminatory comments particularly concerned women and gender rights; 23.2% are sexist messages. According to a report published by Women’s Aid, 45% of victims of domestic violence suffered some form of online abuse, while the 48% have been subjected to harassment or abuse online after a breakup. In 2019, there was a 67% annual worldwide increase in the use of mobile tracking programs. The most affected European countries are Germany, Italy and France.
“As a regional council – the president began in the classroom Stephen Allasia – we do not intend to shirk the commitment to which the experts of the Council of Europe remind us. The rapid development of technologies has multiplied the opportunities for violence against women and girls, exposing them to greater risks of abuse. There are four pillars on which the Council of Europe, through the Istanbul Convention, invites us to undertake concrete actions: prevention, protection, prosecution and coordinated policies. Institutions such as the Regional Council have the task of continuing with conviction the fundamental work that we have been carrying out for some time with schools and the younger generations, also with the help of families: digital literacy and online safety at all levels of education ; conscious use of social networks; gender education and the fight against sexism”.
For Sara Zambaia, vice president of the Human and Civil Rights Committee of the Piedmont Region “what emerges and strikes us is the vast typology of violence. Today psychological violence is recognized on a par with physical violence but more difficult to demonstrate and implement. We must help create awareness, starting with the youngest. Propensity towards digital and the web must be controlled and monitored so that it does not lead to cyberviolence.
Giampiero Leo, vice president of the Human and Civil Rights Committee of the Piedmont Region, taking up a famous quote from a film, declared: “with great powers come great responsibilities”. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The Internet and digital technology give “bad” people enormous power to offend, hit, hurt without even running the risk of “putting their face” on it. So it is just smart and appropriate to organize a conference like this, to address the problem, as well as the possible solutions, from every point of view.
According to Ornella Toselli, president of the Regional Women’s Consulta “even the legislator must chase the sudden evolutions of digital. The crimes increase and diversify according to the platforms. In this sense, the contribution of the forces of order and of the world of associations is precious”.
Fabiola Silvestri, director of the Postal and Communications Police of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta – “The continuous and permanent presence of digital tools in our lives makes some criminal phenomena more insidious and more damaging by exposing the victims to hidden risks that can turn into injuries of the legal and personal spheres of the victims. Just think of the enormous harmful scope of revenge porn or worse of long-term attacks such as cyber stalking. There is a submerged suffering made up of fears, anxiety, apprehension for one’s reputation, fear for one’s safety or even a violation of privacy. “
Barbara DeToma, manager of the anti-crime division of the State Police – reports that there are three types of warnings from the Police Chief. The one for cyberbullying is almost unknown, even if introduced in 2017 (Turin Police Headquarters only 7 since then), more knowledge among young people would be needed, even with the contribution of the school. The warning for stalking introduced in 2009, together with the crime for stalking, requires a necessary request from the offended person, therefore it is less widespread than that for domestic violence, introduced in 2013 and which can be adopted ex officio. In 2022, the Turin Police Headquarters received 42 warnings for stalking against 31 men and 11 women. Recurrence for cases of stalking (9 percent), 6 for domestic violence”.
According to Manuela Monti, Legal IT Studies Center (CSIG), Ivrea, “hate on the net often affects women who hold positions of power, aggressive discourse amplified by communication channels. Anxiety in the victims also arises from the fact that the perpetrators of hate speech are often hidden”.
For Elena FerraraRegional Human and Civil Rights Committee “Kids say that cyberbullying is one of the most serious forms of online violence. In 2018, the Institute of Health found that most boys think that classmates are kind and helpful , but girls are the ones who feel this favorable environment the least. However, there are alarm bells, because there is a large group who do not think so. According to the Elisa platform, 8% of those interviewed have suffered episodes of cyberbullying and it is above all girls who feel most threatened.The prevarications travel above all on the net, with growth in the post-pandemic period in secondary schools and training agencies.
The data tell us that the cyberbullying referent provided for by law 71/2017 is little known, as is the law itself.
Pierangela Peila Castellani, Telephone Rosa Piedmont executive, Digital violence destroys every type of relationship, it affects women in their own way of being a person. Anonymity, in a first phase, deconstructs the woman who however today is finding the tools to react in a second phase. The major feelings that have emerged during the confrontations are fear and anguish, the relationship becomes public and the person with whom feelings have been shared becomes an enemy. The woman feels a sense of shame and guilt for this type of violence which makes personal facts public, which are combined with distrust and a sense of helplessness. It is possible to get out of the trauma when the desire to react and ask for help from public authorities and specialized centers like ours emerges”.
For Giovanna PerinoInstitute for Economic and Social Research of Piedmont (IRES) “The gender equality index assigned to Italy in 2021, equal to 63.8 out of 100, places us in 14th place among the 27 EU states with 4.2 points below the average Violence against women is a phenomenon that is difficult to measure because it is largely submerged, but from the in-depth studies carried out on various information sources it is possible to outline its characteristics in various contexts, including the digital one, of which threats and at the at the same time opportunities for prevention and contrast. Fundamental, in this regard, to acquire the elements useful for the definition of targeted policies, are the collection, analysis, monitoring and evaluation of data, with a common methodology at European level”.