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Warning over online sexual harassment

Sexual harassment online often goes unreported as perpetrators consider it “normal” and some victims choose to ignore it, the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation has warned.

The foundation said that such a threat was a step towards sexual violence, Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS) reported on Thursday.

The foundation, which monitored 294 sexual violence reports in 14 newspapers last year, found that 26 sexual violent crimes (or 8.8 per cent) were committed by a person the victim knew via online social network, said the foundation’s senior staff member Angkhana Intasa.

The study found that 128 cases (43.5 per cent), were committed by an acquaintance of the victim, followed by 112 (38.2 per cent) of cases were committed by strangers and 28 (9.5 per cent) were committed by the victims’ family members or relatives.

As society still largely perceived the online world as unreal, sexual harassment – which includes small acts of harassment through words or bigger acts such as a release of the victims’ obscene photos online – was viewed as a non-serious issue.

“The victims often chose to let it go, partially because they didn’t think it was a violent act and some thought the legal action against wrongdoers would be difficult and take too long,” Angkhana said.

With the Internet’s ability to spread information far, wide and fast, most victims chose not to go through a legal process to contain the damage, she added.

Angkhana said that sexual harassment online or offline should constitute a legal offence.

“If [offenders] feel they can harass another person with words as if that person isn’t an equal human being, it can make [them] dare to proceed to violate the person’s other rights, such as launch a physical attack,” she said.