Women and girls all throughout their lives have to put up with violence and prejudice. They experience it everywhere, and now they even have to cope with it online. 

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) online has been an increasing problem since 2019. In Scotland, about one in five women and girls surveyed had experienced online violence, with 11% of this progressing to offline violence. This study carried out by the Open University also found that women and girls in Scotland were more likely to witness online violence (35%) than in any other nation of the UK. These are staggering figures, and clearly show that the online world isn’t safe for women.  

This type of violence can take many forms including cyber harassment, revenge porn, and can go as far as sexual harassment. The perpetrators of these crimes can be virtually anyone, colleagues, family, friends, ex-partners and even strangers.  According to an Ipsos Mori poll, 21% of women had reported abuse or harassment online, and 18% of those came from someone they did not know personally. Despite being a very common experience that has impacted many women, there are certain groups which are more likely to face violence online. These include those from ethnic minorities, disabled women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.  

A further technique used to terrorise women is the concept of ‘doxing’.  This is the revealing of personal or identifying information about someone without their consent. The main result of this abuse is to cause distress, panic and otherwise cause alarm to its victim. 17% of women have said that their details have been revealed in this way.  This doesn’t just mentally impact women but could also have an effect on their careers and social lives.

After all this you may be wondering, what are our governments doing to help women who are being harassed online?  Well, the Scottish Government are implementing the ‘Equally Safe’ strategy to protect women.  They are also improving forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault. Furthermore, the UK Government are hoping to implement the Online Safety Act 2023, which will help by providing a regulatory framework which should make internet usage safer for individuals in the UK.  This includes reducing the risks of illegal content and activity and content that is harmful to children. These acts will help to ensure a safer community for women online, where they hopefully won’t have to be worried about harassment or explicit content being used against them.

Author - Orlaith Boyle, high school pupil



Amnesty International. (2017). Amnesty Reveals Alarming Impact of Online Abuse Against Women. Available at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2017/11/amnesty-reveals-alarming-impact-of-online-abuse-against-women/

Council of Europe. (2023). Cyberviolence Against Women. Available at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/cyberviolence/cyberviolence-against-women

Ipsos Mori. (2017). Online Abuse and Harassment. Available at: https://www.ipsos.com/en-uk/online-abuse-and-harassment

Open University. (2023). OU Research Reveals Shocking Levels of Online Violence Experienced by Women and Girls Across the UK. Available at: https://www.open.ac.uk/ovaw-observatory/news/ou-research-reveals-shocking-level-online-violence-experienced-women-and-girls-across-uk#:~:text=The%20Open%20University%20surveyed%207%2C500%20adults%20across%20the,those%20aged%2016-24%20%2825%25%29%20and%20LGTBQ%2B%20women%20%2835%25%29.

Scottish Government. (2023). Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Available at: https://www.gov.scot/policies/violence-against-women-and-girls/

UK Parliament. (2023). Online Safety Act 2023. Available at: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3137