The threat of Online Sexual Abuse

The threat of Online Sexual Abuse

Fifteen year old Gensi Manuella is living the ‘good life.’ At her tender age, her parents have bought her every gadget they can afford so that she “can move with the times”. She owns a Tablet, iPhone 6 and a Mac laptop. Her parents say they are very busy and these gadgets help them keep in touch. As such, all her gadgets have online connectivity. Gensi is not wasting this opportunity and has created several Whatsapp chat groups and has more than 500 Facebook friends, 400 Instagram followers and whom she chats up regularly.

She is also exposed to several online threats including child pornography; considering that her parents are busy, some of the threats Gensi faces online go unchecked.  Unfortunately, Gensi is a typical story of growing statistics of children in the country facing the threat of online childabuse.
Like Gensi, more than half of Uganda’s population are children below the age of 18 with access to mobile phones and technology which calls for empowering children on how to protect themselves against online abuse and exploitation.

Currently, online sexual abuse may be in different forms including; making sexual jokes, comments, or gestures to or about someone, spreading sexual rumors (in person, by text, or online, writing sexual messages about people on bathroom stalls or in other public places, showing someone inappropriate sexual pictures or videos, asking someone to send you naked pictures of herself or himself ("nudes"), posting sexual comments, pictures, or videos on social networks like Facebook, or sending explicit text messages, making sexual comments or offers while pretending to be someone else online, touching, grabbing, or pinching someone in a deliberately sexual way, pulling at someone's clothing and brushing up against them in a purposefully sexual way, asking someone to go out over and over again, even after the person has said no, public shaming and use of images or videos to manipulate individuals. It is particularly carried out through email, social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and mobile phone instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp, messenger and viber.

If you think you're being harassed, don't blame yourself. People who harass or bully can be very manipulative. They are often good at blaming the other person and even at making victims blame themselves. But no one has the right to sexually harass or bully anyone else, no matter what. There is no such thing as "asking for it."

There's no single "right" way to respond to sexual harassment. Each situation is unique.

It often can be helpful to start by telling the person doing the harassing to stop. Let him or her know that this behavior is not OK with you. Sometimes that will be enough, but not always. The harasser may not stop. He or she might even laugh off your request, tease you, or bother you more. That's why it's important to share what's happening with an adult you trust. Is there a parent, relative, coach, or teacher you can talk to? More and more schools have a designated person who's there to talk about bullying issues, so find out if there's someone at your school.

Most schools have a sexual harassment policy or a bullying policy to protect you. Ask a guidance counselor, school nurse, or administrator about your school's policy. If you find the adult you talk to doesn't take your complaints seriously at first, you may have to repeat yourself or find someone else who will listen.

You can also invest in an anti-"spam" program on your computer. Spam is another word for unwanted on-line advertisements, many of which you may consider offensive or inappropriate. Programs are available that can read and interpret material as spam and prevent it from reaching you.

In real-time discussion forums, direct your computer to block messages being sent from any other user whom you find offensive or who you feel is harassing you.

Consider installing a filtering system on your computer that automatically screens and discards e-mail messages from identified individuals or subject matters. With this type of technology, you can effectively prevent your computer from "showing you" items sent from particular people or items concerning certain topics or subjects.

In extreme cases, inform your parents of any such sexual advances, insults or other persuasions against your will.

And the Golden Rule, “Never accept to go for outings or dates with people you meet online” especially out of the school environment, just anything could happen and you may never take back the hands of time.

Olga Namukuza

Peer Educator and Youth Regional Representative, IPPF

Reproductive Health Uganda.