Oklahoma City Indian Clinic provides information about online sexual abuse.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, wants you to be aware of online harassment and have the skills to intervene.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is observed every April to promote taking action against sexual abuse and provide support for survivors. This April, the 2022 call to action is “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.” Technology is an important part of daily life, but harassment, cyberbullying, sexual abuse and exploitation are often regarded as unavoidable behaviors online.
“Online sexual abuse includes any kind of sexual harassment or exploitation that takes place digitally,” said Misty Gillespie, LMFT, OKCIC’s Director of Behavioral Health. “Although online sexual abuse occurs virtually, the impact on the victim can be as harmful as an act of violence commited in-person.”
Online sexual harassment or abuse includes:
- Sending someone unsolicited or hateful communication based on sex, gender identity or sexual orientation
- Sending someone an unwanted request for nude photos or videos
- Performing sexual acts on webcam without the consent of everyone involved or in inappropriate settings, like during an online work meeting
- Sharing pornography in spaces where not everyone has consented to view it
- Grooming children to enable their sexual abuse on or offline
Another form of online sexual harassment involves sharing private images or videos without the consent of everyone involved. This is known as “revenge porn” and is illegal in 46 states, including Oklahoma.
According to Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced online harassment. Luckily, bystander intervention is effective in preventing violence and showing support for victims.
“There are several ways to intervene when you see someone being harassed,” Gillespie said. “Reporting hateful comments, creating new threads of conversation to distract attention, showing direct support for the victim and addressing harmful content in the moment are all effective ways to practice bystander intervention online.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, it’s important for bystanders to intervene when it is safe for themselves and others. If it feels dangerous to intervene in the moment, try a delayed response. This could mean checking in with the person being targeted or offering feedback to the person who did the harmful behavior.
Online sexual abuse can be traumatic, but there are resources available. Survivors can reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. Online chat and resources are available at hotline.rainn.org.
This April, take action to promote safety and respect online.
About Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic was established in 1974 to provide excellent health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 21,000 patients from over 220 federally recognized tribes every year. American Indians can receive a range of services, including medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, please call (405) 948-4900 or visit www.okcic.com.