Rationale for Definitions, Policy and Recommendations Strategy

Many of our stakeholders have experienced cyberviolence. Too often their workplace, administrations, teachers, counselors, colleagues, family and friends didn’t know what to do about it. Sometimes it was dismissed as just something that happens when you go online. Unfortunately, it was sometimes suggested that people experiencing cyberviolence were somehow responsible for the cyberviolence because they had made themselves visible in a space where violence happens. This is why developing clear definitions of cyberviolence and policies outlining how organizations plan to address it when it happens are so crucial.

The findings from our stakeholders outlined in the needs assessment (prepared in the first year of the project) pointed to a need on the part of stakeholders for a clear definition of cyberviolence directed at girls and women. In the absence of clear definitions and policy that consider the gendered nature of the ways in which cyberviolence is manifested our stakeholders tell us that it is near impossible to prevent and eliminate cyberviolence within their organizations. Clearly defined definitions and policy let their organization’s members know that gendered cyberviolence is not tolerated by the organization. Definitions ‘de-normalize’ the cyberviolence and most importantly serves as a tool for the girls and women who are targets of cyberviolence to access support and resources.

The goal of this strategy is to work with our stakeholders in education, academia, law enforcement, heath, counseling and the video game industry to create definitions and policy recommendations drawing upon their own needs and experiences, along with the findings from the needs assessment to create a shared definition of cyberviolence and a set of recommendations that will both concretely help shape policy and provide a set of potential consequences for acts of cyberviolence.

The strategy project objectives are to craft clear definitions, and a series of policy recommendations outlining procedures that organizations can follow to discourage cyberviolence. Additionally, we will assemble resources to support individuals who experience cyberviolence.

Due to the continuously evolving nature of technology we endeavor to craft definitions and policy recommendations that focus on people rather than technologies, addressing codes of behavior that individuals and organizations can apply to multiple platforms and spaces as those online environments evolve.   Our partner organizations require broad policy that can be adapted based on  individual needs and implemented easily, it should encompass the contextual and ever changing technological and social landscape in which cyberviolence is occurring.

Procedure for the Strategy:

  • We are conducting online research to find existing cyberviolence definitions, policy and recommendations (Conducting a literature review on cyberviolence definitions, policies and recommendations) in order to build a resource database


  • Work with individual stakeholders to understand their specific and contextual needs with regards to definitions, policy, and resources


  • Develop resources, in collaboration with stakeholders, and assist stakeholders in implementing these definitions and policies within organizations.



Project Definition of Cyberviolence:

Cyberviolence refers to online or technology facilitated behavior that constitutes or leads to harm against the psychological and/or emotional, financial, physical state of an individual or group. Although cyberviolence occurs online it can begin offline and/or have serious offline consequences. Gender-based cyberviolence refers to, cultural and social norms, behaviors and standards that allow women, girls, LGBTQQI2S and gender non-conforming people to be targets of violence, inequality and misogyny in both the online and offline worlds.


*Suggestions from stakeholders suggested that we attempt to make this definition more gender inclusive/welcoming to diversity


General Suggestions:

  • Avoid victim blaming which is a very common response in these situations. Instead of responding with comments such as, “what did you expect when you were interacting online, you over-shared, do you think you might be over-reacting, too sensitive?” A helpful first response might be, “Are you okay?” and “How can we help and support you?”
  • Include the victims of the cyberviolence in developing responses and solutions to the incident

Manifestations of Cyberviolence:

¨Grooming – using social media to develop trust in order to harm (i.e. commit sexual assault)

¨Surveillance/Tracking – stalking and monitoring victims activities (i.e. GPS, Keystroke monitoring)

¨Recording and/or distributing images or video of sexual assault

¨Inciting others to assault

¨Distributing sexual images without consent

¨Harassing victims of sexual assault

¨Violent threats (rape, death, etc.)

¨Distribution of doctored photographs

¨ Impersonation of the victim

¨ Identity theft

¨Lies and slander spread online about the victim with the intention of damaging the victim’s reputation (libel)

¨Technical sabotage and privacy invasions such as hacking victims’ computers, e-mail, social media accounts

¨Strategically sharing hacked information with the intention of manipulating the victims life (this is particularly damaging if the victim is unaware that they are being targeted)

¨ Doxing (hacking and posting confidential information such as social security numbers, medical records, passwords, license numbers, banking information)

¨Disclosing personal information such as address, place of work or school, daily routines and schedules online

¨Defamation (posting or directly sending false information to victims friends, relatives, employers, potential employers with the intention of permanently destroying the victims reputation

¨Creep shots (clandestine, lewd photos taken of girls and women without their consent or knowledge then posted online)

¨ Coordinated denial-of-service attacks and “image reaping” campaigns to shut down victims websites and blogs


Abuse tactics:

¨Gas lighting (presenting false information with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception or sanity)

¨Dog piling  (A group of people overwhelming  someone with a flood of unfriendly responses to a comment in a short time period

¨Sea lioning (pestering a target with unsolicited questions delivered with a false air of civility/a swarm of seemingly random, largely-anonymous people descending to comment and criticize)

¨Gish galloping (flooding a debate space)