Our President Professor Lynne Gabriel has spoken about online violence and the role of counselling in helping with healing, as part of the release of new research that's revealed one in 10 women have experienced online violence.

Researchers from The Open University have carried out the UK’s largest ever study into societal attitudes and experiences of online violence against women and girls across the UK.

The findings reveal that more than one in 10 women in England have experienced online violence, with this figure increasing amongst those aged 16 to 24 (25%) and LGB+ women (35%).

Of those women who have experienced online violence, more than one in 10 (13%) said it later progressed to offline violence.

Online anonymity (49%), ease of getting away with it (47%) and misogyny (43%) top the most commonly perceived reasons for why people commit online violence against women and girls.

Lynne said: "The Open University researchers are to be applauded. The scale of their research project is welcomed, its findings less so.

Abuse is always unacceptable

"Online and digital platforms are virtually unregulated, and as these findings show there are individuals who cannot moderate their online behaviour.  Most humans condemn toxic and harmful behaviour against others and, whatever stance we take on the regulation of human behaviours, abuse is always unacceptable. 

"It is disturbing that as a human race we continue to perpetrate abuse. This research will provide valuable evidence for many including counselling and mental health professionals, policy makers, educators, researchers and social media platforms who are looking to stop online violence against women and girls.

Help and healing

"For anyone who is subject to abuse, counselling is a valuable source of help and healing. Registered counsellors can be found through Professional Standards Authority accredited registers which are held by the leading UK professional bodies for counselling and psychotherapy, including BACP."

The first of its kind report surveyed 7500 adults over the age of 16, via YouGov, providing an insight into the societal attitudes of both men and women, and the lived experiences of women and girls across the four nations.

The data showed a lack of confidence on the part of women and girls, that the authorities would deal effectively with a report of online violence. Women who have experienced online violence are more likely to have sought support from their friends (29%) or family (16%) rather than the police (6%). And 57% of women in England stated that they thought the police lacked the resources needed to tackle online violence against women and girls effectively. Seven in ten (71%) of women in England who say they did report online violence to the police are not satisfied with the outcome.

Many forms

Professor Olga Jurasz, Professor of Law at The Open University and Director of the Observatory on Online Violence Against Women, who led the project, said:

“Online violence against women and girls can take many forms such as trolling, threats, abuse, unwanted sexual remarks, non-consensual sharing of intimate photos and messages, among many other examples and it disproportionately effects women.  This can have a serious impact on women’s wellbeing and their behaviour, including a negative impact on mental and physical health, having to implement measures to protect themselves from abuse, and a change in willingness or ability to express views online.

This new research - the first ever to be conducted into OVAWG at this scale across the four nations - shows just how widespread the issue of OVAWG really is and will provide policy makers with a foundation to help reduce instances of OVAWG and to improve outcomes for those affected.”

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition EVAW), added:

“Our lives are increasingly lived online and technological developments are creating new ways for violence against women and girls to be perpetrated. This abuse is connected to the threat of violence women and girls face offline – it cannot be minimised or ignored.

The laws we have in place are ineffective at tackling online violence against women and girls - we’re pleased to see that 68% of women and girls agree. We call on the government to make sure its new guidance in the Online Safety Bill is effectively enforced and as robust as the Code of Practice we developed with specialist partners and legal experts.”