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Building safe online spaces for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 29, 2021


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is focusing this month on “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.” This campaign highlights how to build respectful online communities. According to the NSVRC, “Behaviors or actions like sexist jokes, victim-blaming language or comments may seem like not that big of a deal, but they contribute to the same way of thinking that fuels violence. Although they only reflect the point of view of the person making them, their public visibility normalizes not taking sexual abuse seriously.

The reality is that the digital world is not separate from in-person spaces. They both make up the world we live in, and the impact of our actions can be just the same. If you wouldn’t do or say something to someone in person, then you shouldn’t say it to them online.

We can step in when we observe harmful behaviors online:

  • Report inappropriate content if you see sensitive or violent content on a social media platform, you can report it to the platform it was shared on (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) in order to have it flagged or removed. Different platforms have their own guidelines on what counts as inappropriate and what actions they will take, but that process starts with you making a report.
  • Speak out when you see harmful comments. When you see comments that blame victims for what happened to them, you can respond by refocusing accountability on the perpetrator. While you might not change the mind of the person who left the comment, others will see that not everyone agrees with them.
  • Show your support to victims of online harassment. Check in with the person that comments have been directed at to show your support. Or consider volunteering to be a moderator in certain contexts to help prevent future harassment.

When all of us see our role in keeping others safe online by stepping in when we see harmful content or comments, we can create an environment where this type of content cannot thrive.

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