Number of online sexual harassment victims are rising in Columbus

Number of online sexual harassment victims is rising in Columbus
Published: Oct. 24, 2014 at 10:11 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2014 at 2:43 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - About 25 percent of women in America say they've been sexually harassed online, and a sexual assault expert says this is a growing problem in Columbus as well.

The Pew Research Center released its survey this week, and four out of 10 adults said they have experienced online harassment like dealing with name calling and inappropriate comments.

But about 26 percent of these participants who experienced stalking and sexual harassment online was young women who are 18 to 24 years old.
Monica Lewinsky, President Bill Clinton's former mistress signed up on Twitter on Thursday to discuss and end cyber bullying.

Lewinsky claimed she experienced cyber bullying firsthand in the 1990's and she was the first victim of online sexual assault and harassment. She explained she had suicidal thoughts and a sense of guilt when the public read about her relationship with Clinton online.

Kyle Bair with Sexual Assault Support Center in Columbus explained she has seen an increase in number of sexual online harassment victims in the community as well.

"For the most part, we do see a few more people reporting on being harassed online," Bair said. "Whether they are meeting somebody online or whether they are on a dating website, we see more of that going on especially since we are closer to the holiday season."

Bair said people need to protect themselves and their identities when it comes to using technology.

"Technology has changed our world, and sometimes not for the better," Bair explained. "It allows people to hide behind technology and abusers can find it easier to follow, stalk and harass people online. Words hurt, and inappropriate comments online can shame and humiliate victims since it's exposed to large audience."

Bair said being harassed online can induce emotional and mental trauma on victims. Some symptoms include anxiety, fear, nightmares and sleeping difficulties.

"Victims usually try to solve issues by themselves or try to accept abuse and move on," Bair explained. "But if it causes you mental, emotional or physical harm, then you should tell someone and seek help."

Bair said internet users shouldn't post important information or pictures of themselves online. People shouldn't just follow, friend or add strangers they met on social media websites or app. It's also important to report the abuse to make sure abusers do not get away when they make threats or harassment.

"We can help online harassment victims find counseling or guidance through our support center," Bair said.

You can visit the Sexual Assault Support Center's website or give them a call at 706-571-6010 to get help.

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