How to handle your online harassers
In the world of social networking, it is difficult to keep things private. A Facebook post where a student in Delhi posted a screenshot of the lewd messages sent to her by a married man is another eye-opener to the fact that sexual exploitation of women is not limited to the streets.
According to a recent report on cyber crimes released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, cyber crimes are likely to cross 3,00,000 in 2015, almost double the number from last year. However, the latest figures released by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) state that there were only 54 cases of cyber offences registered in Tamil Nadu in 2013.
The main reason behind this, according to S Jeyakumar, Deputy Commissioner, Central Crime Branch, is the growing awareness about cyber crime among women of the state. "We have been conducting programmes in schools, colleges and workplaces, educating people, espe cially women, about how to be safe and avoid falling prey to various cyber offences. Unlike earlier times, now, offenders know that they face imprisonment for as long as 3-7 years if they try to breach into someone's privacy or send sexually explicit content," he informs."However, it is also important for women to speak up and bring it to our notice whenever they receive any offensive content on the internet or are being harassed on the cyber arena. They should never ignore any lewd comments or messages that they receive from anybody on cyber space, and they must bring it to our notice immediately ," he adds.
While there is considerable amount of awareness among the city's women, Harshita Venugopal, a city-based activist who has been working to create awareness on crimes against women, says that the scenario in rural Tamil Nadu is different. "There have been a lot of cases of cyber stalking and revenge porn where the victim, in an attempt to avoid attention from the media, has settled the matter out of court.A lot of women prefer to do that. This solves the problem temporarily . In majority of the cases, the offender strikes back. So, it is important for the government to spread awareness about laws against cyber crimes in the rural areas of the state also, so that women there come forward and report the cases," she says.
According to Venugopal, in cases of revenge porn, the fear of stigma makes women reluctant to go to the court. Also, the fact that, most often, the offender is an acquaintance of the victim -a former lover, colleague, relative or friendt u r n e d f o e."Irrespective of who the offender is, the victim should come forward and file an FIR against the miscreant," she says.
It is not only important to be aware of the legalities of cyber crimes but also imperative to be alert and have foolproof privacy settings on social networking sites. "One must be cautious about what content he or she is sharing online. Do not share intimate pictures and messages on cyber space as it is extremely dangerous. While there is nothing wrong in using social networking sites, utilizing their privacy settings is always helpful. And once the crime has been committed, it is important to bring it to the notice of the police so that necessary action can be taken," informs inspector Melwyn of cyber crime department.
Renowned cyber law expert, Pavan Duggal, on the other hand, calls for cyber crime education to be included in school curriculum. "If the government wants to create a digital India, it is their responsibility and biggest challenge to make the country cyber crime-free. As users, our responsibility is to have a proactive look in protecting ourselves. As family members, we must first equip our children with life skills before giving them cell phones," he says.
SOME DO'S AND DON'TS
Activate privacy settings and give limited access to your personal data. Do not add strangers to your profile. In case you receive any lewd messages or comments, inform the police. You can send screenshots to, firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know about the situation. Copy the URL of the post. It will help in tracking the offender. Don't give your device to others and always lock your applications.