The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) through its Gender and ICT program has been working to raise awareness on the issue of online gender-based violence and has been involved in multi-country researches that looked into and analyzed the impact of online gender-based violence on women’s rights. It looks into the risks and harms that women and other marginalized sectors and individuals face in the digital sphere, and assists them in using technology to document and fight online gender-based violence, as well as challenge harmful and patriarchal online practices. FMA advocates for policies and regulations that promote and protect human rights and online freedoms, including freedom of of expression. 

 Cases of Sextortion

Jane, not her real name, who is 28 years old, said a certain “Peter San Pedro” messaged her on Facebook last January 31 and told her that he possesses some of her nude photos. Jane claimed that the man threatened to send those photos to her family and friends if she continues to ignore his messages asking for a one-night stand. Out of fear and anxiety, Jane decided to block Peter on Facebook. Peter got mad and posted Jane’s photos on Facebook.

Jane’s story is not different from that of other women who have suffered abuse and violence online, specifically sextortion. 

From January to June 2018, FMA has mapped 38 cases of online gender-based violence, 13 of which are cases of sextortion, making it the most prevalent this year based on FMA’s mapping. While it may only happen online, the damages it inflicts on the victim/survivors’ emotional and mental well-being can be severe.  It can also be debilitating for the victim/survivors due to the fact that they tend to lose control of the situation. Coercion and power are used by the perpetrator to get what they want, rendering victims/survivor feeling trapped and helpless.

Sextortion is defined as threats to expose a sexual image (or information) in order to make a person do something or for other reasons, such as revenge or humiliation. Perpetrators are often current, former or would-be romantic or sexual partners attempting to harass, embarrass and control victims.

4 Ways to Address Sextortion

1. Document

Documenting the threat is crucial to catch and arrest the perpetrator. One should save copies of all communications. Take screenshots of all communication and back up the evidences on a USB stick or external hard drive. 

2. Report

Immediately report the incident to the law enforcement. You may report cases to the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) or to the National Bureau of Investigation – Cybercrime Division which deals with cybercrime, including online gender-based violence such as sextortion. 

PNP ACG hotlines are:

09985988116 or +63 (02) 414-1560

Facebook: Facebook.com/anticybercrimegroup

Twitter:@pnpacg

Email: pop.anticybercrimegroup@gmail.com / infoacg@pnp.gov.ph

NBI – Cybercrime Division

Tel: (632)523-8231 to 38 local 3454, 3455

Email: ccd@nbi.gov.ph

You can also report the incident to your online or internet service providers (ISPs). If the coercion is done through social media, you can report it to the administration of the site for them to take action. 

3. Strengthen Online Safety and Security

Change and create stronger and more secure passwords to ensure your safety. 

Strong passwords are long, complex, unique, and something that is not personal so people can’t easily figure it out. 

You can also use a password manager which is a tool that can encrypt and store your passwords using just one single password so you can have multiple passwords on different sites and services without needing to memorize all of them. 

KeePassXC is an example of a free password manager that you can use. 

4. Build a support system

When experiencing online gender-based violence, it is important that you have a strong and caring support system, such as friends and family members that can help you get through and deal with the situation. 

Some family members with misguided opinions on gender-based violence must be confronted to ensure that no victim-blaming will occur. It should be remembered that whatever the case maybe, it is never the victim’s fault that she was harassed. 

Fight Coercion with Interventions

Despite the increasing numbers and the threats that women face online, we must not lose hope and let hate and misogyny hinder us from using the internet and ICTs. 

Sextortion can be daunting and damaging for the victim but through monitoring, advocacies, awareness raising, and the concerted efforts of various stakeholders from the government, CSOs, and the ordinary Filipino netizens, women can be empowered survivors and can take back the digital space.#


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