Symantec has released research indicating that 72 percent of New Zealand women under 30 and 52 percent of all women have experienced some form of online harassment.
The Norton survey, Online Harassment: The New Zealand Woman’s Experience, of 536 women aged 18 and over, shows that forms of online harassment range from unwanted contact, trolling, character assassinations, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, rape and death.
However, where the respondent identified the gender of the perpetrator, females exceeded males by a small margin (19 percent and 18 percent respectively).
Despite 70 percent of New Zealand women identifying online harassment as a serious problem in 2016, more than one third (39 percent) will choose to ignore it, Symantec said. In addition, only nine percent of New Zealand women surveyed said they reported perpetrators of the online harassment to police.
Women under 30 suffered more from abuse in all categories and the level of some of the more serious types of abuse was surprisingly high: graphic sexual harassment, 18 percent; death threats, 12 percent; threats of sexual violence or rape, 10 percent.
However, users of online dating sites can take comfort in the fact that encounters on these sites were identified as the source of the harassment in only 1 percent of cases.
Social media (69 percent), text messages (24 percent) and email (22 percent) were most commonly used to facilitate online harassment.
The survey revealed significant adverse impacts from online harassment. Many women had feelings of anger (37 percent), irritation (34 percent), frustration (32 percent) and anxiousness (26 percent). Some six percent felt suicidal.
The implications of online harassment are significant:
Twenty one percent felt depressed, 17 percent) felt helpless or vulnerable in their situation, 14 percent felt violated or abused and 11 percent felt frightened. Nine percent needed to seek professional help for depression or anxiety.