Refuge launches #MarkedAsUnsafe campaign to combat online abuse
Refuge launches #MarkedAsUnsafe campaign to highlight how social media companies are failing to protect women and girls from online abuse and harassment...
Refuge launches #MarkedAsUnsafe campaign to highlight how social media companies are failing to protect women and girls from online abuse and harassment.
- Charity brings campaign to heart of government and calls for swift and robust action against online violence against women and girls in Online Safety Bill
- New analysis shows that 158,000 women who pass through city of Westminster every day have experienced online abuse or harassment.
- 2 million women in the UK have experienced online abuse from a current or former partner.
- More than one in three UK women (36%) have experienced online abuse or harassment on social media or another online platform.
As the House of Commons returns from recess today, Tuesday 11th October, Refuge, the country’s single largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services, urged the government to tackle violence against women in the Online Safety Bill.
Joining forces with celebrity supporters Ranvir Singh and Sharon Gaffka, and former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Baroness Nicky Morgan, Refuge launched their #MarkedAsUnsafe campaign in Westminster, London, with data showing that 158,000 women who pass through the borough every day have experienced online abuse or harassment. Refuge is urging supporters to write to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for DCMS and calling for a VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Code of Practice to be implemented within the Bill.
Speaking about her personal experience of misogyny online Sharon Gaffka said:
“I receive so many unsolicited images, hurtful and hateful messages online every single day. People think this is because I am in the public eye, but the reality is that I received abuse online for years before I was on television just because I’m a woman.”
“We can’t forget that abuse and harassment are crimes. The current lack of regulation online means that the debate about these crimes often moves away from the actions of perpetrators and is placed onto the victim, suggesting she comes offline. We need to end the victim-blaming narrative and stop sending the message that women just need to accept this kind of behaviour in online spaces.”
“Women should be empowered to remain online safely and confidently. That’s why it’s so important that the Online Safety Bill returns in a form which recognises and addresses the serious harm women are experiencing every day.”
Refuge data shows that one in three UK women (36%) have experienced online abuse or harassment on social media or another online platform. This is equivalent to 11 million women. Two million women in the UK have experienced online abuse from a current or former partner.
Refuge Survivor Ambassador Amy Aldworth said:
“When I tried to report the harassment and abuse happening to me, I was met with a wall of silence from the online platforms. Their inaction made me feel as though what I was going through wasn’t serious enough for them to bother dealing with, which compromised both my wellbeing and my safety.
“The lack of response meant my perpetrator was able to taunt, harass and abuse me for months.”
“Women in my situation can’t wait for social media companies to decide to do the right thing – we need urgent action and regulation, or our safety is at risk. I hope the government can hear our calls today and make sure women are protected in the Online Safety Bill.”
Jess Eagelton, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Refuge said:
“No one should ever feel unsafe online, but sadly this is the reality for millions of women in the UK. Every day, perpetrators are using social media to stalk, threaten, intimidate and monitor women, all as social media companies are failing to see the danger this presents and to act on it.”
“The government has a straightforward opportunity to put a stop to this epidemic of online abuse by including our VAWG Code of Practice in the Online Safety Bill. This code would hold social media companies to account for addressing, removing and preventing the abuse happening on their platforms and provide them with clear guidance on how to better protect women and girls.”
“It’s been encouraging to hear ministers commit to bringing the Online Safety Bill back soon. We now need the government to prioritise women by putting them at the heart of the Bill, making sure the serious crimes they are subjected to online are dealt with swiftly and robustly.”
Baroness Nicky Morgan said:
“As a former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) I know just how much work is needed to make sure legislation that regulates the online world works for everyone. As a former Minister for Women and Equalities I know how important it is that this legislation addresses the needs, and protection of, women and girls.”
“That is why I’m supporting Refuge’s campaign to make sure the Online Safety Bill prioritises the safety of women and girls by adopting a Code of Practice which would regulate social media companies and ensure they act when abusive or harmful content is posted on their platforms. The solution cannot be for women to be forced offline; it must be to make online platforms safer.”
Refuge Ambassador and broadcaster Ranvir Singh said:
“Online abuse has become all too common for women in the UK. The vitriol, hate and misogyny directed at women – both in and out of the public eye – is terrifying, but what should also concern us all is how little social media companies do in response.”
“Women should be free to enjoy online spaces and not be told that going offline is the only solution. We need to create an environment where it’s perpetrators who face the consequences for abuse, not survivors.”
“We can and should be demanding better from those with the power to make change.”
Notes to editors
- Images to be credited to photographer Stacey Osborne. Images will be available to download here from 13.15 on 11.10.22.
- Read the Refuge’s Unsocial Spaces report.
- Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Code of Practice can be read here. The Code was jointly developed by Refuge, Carnegie UK, The End Violence Against Women Coalition, Glitch, NSPCC, 5Rights and academics Professors Lorna Woods and Clare McGlynn.
- More information about the Code can be found here.
- Campaign devised by BBH London.
- The campaign includes digital OOH provided by creative street advertising specialists JACK, part of BUILDHOLLYWOOD.
- Take action by writing to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for DCMS.
For more information or to arrange an interview contact the press office on 0207 395 7731 or email the press team.
Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit the National Domestic Abuse Helpline to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit our dedicated tech abuse website.