Study: 1 in 5 Women Personally Encounter Sexual Harassment on Social Media

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Survey Unveils 40% of Women Have Experienced or Witnessed Sexual Harassment on Social Media Platforms

Key Discoveries:

A significant 20.8% of women have personally encountered sexual harassment on social media. Approximately 39.7% of women have either experienced or witnessed sexual harassment on social media. 57% of female social media users who faced sexual harassment reported encountering it on Facebook and Facebook Messenger. Out of the women who experienced harassment, 79% received unwelcome messages and/or sexual comments. Around 68.2% of the surveyed 3000 women using social media believe that social media companies inadequately protect users.

Introduction & Survey Objective

Leading mobile phone price comparison website, SellCell, recently conducted a survey on online sexual harassment of women through social media platforms. The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of SellCell, aimed to explore the prevalence of sexual harassment experienced by women and the extent to which they have witnessed such incidents.

Main Findings

(Note: The survey questions and answers contain sensitive content)

Out of the 3000 UK women who actively use social media and participated in the survey, 40% reported experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment on social media platforms or apps. Among the 3000 respondents, 21% personally encountered sexual harassment on social media platforms or apps. Of the 624 respondents who experienced sexual harassment, 57% stated that it occurred on Facebook or Facebook Messenger. 79% of those who faced harassment online received unwelcome sexual comments or messages. 76% of women who encountered sexual harassment on social platforms or apps took action by blocking the offender(s). 32% of victims reported long-term effects such as feelings of violation and/or intimidation. Among the 2342 women who had not experienced sexual harassment on social media, 69% attributed their avoidance to being selective in accepting friend requests or choosing who to follow. 68.2% of the 3000 surveyed female social media users believe that social media platforms do not do enough to protect people from online sexual harassment.

Summary of Survey Questions

SellCell and OnePoll asked 3000 UK women who use social media the following questions regarding sexual harassment through social media platforms or apps. Please note that some questions and answers in this survey contain sensitive and/or sexual content.

Question 1) How would you describe your experience of sexual harassment through a social media platform/app?

In response to the question about their experience of sexual harassment through social media, 39.7% (1190) of the respondents stated that they had either personally experienced or witnessed sexual harassment online on social media platforms or apps. Out of the 3000 respondents, 20.8% (624) reported personally experiencing sexual harassment on a social media platform or app. Thus, the majority (79.2%) of respondents had not encountered sexual harassment while using a social media platform or app.

Question 2) (If you have never personally experienced sexual harassment through a social media platform or app) Why do you believe you have avoided personal experiences of sexual harassment on social media? [Select all that apply]

Of the 2342 women who had not experienced sexual harassment, 69% (1605) attributed it to being selective in accepting friend requests or following others. 42% of respondents kept their social media accounts private to avoid harassment, while 41% refrained from sharing personal information due to mistrust in platform safety measures. 32% used social media solely for news and activities rather than socializing, and 5% used social media exclusively for work or business purposes.

Question 3) (If you have personally experienced sexual harassment through a social media platform or app) Which social media platforms/apps have you personally experienced sexual harassment on? [Select all that apply]

Among the 624 women who experienced sexual harassment, 57% indicated that Facebook and/or Facebook Messenger were the platforms or apps where they were most likely to be harassed. 37% of those 624 mentioned Instagram as the app or platform, while 26% reported dating apps like Tinder or Hinge as the sources of sexual harassment. Additionally, 4% of respondents who faced online sexual harassment encountered offenders on LinkedIn, a platform designed for professional networking.

Question 4) (If you have personally experienced sexual harassment through a social media platform or app) What types of sexual harassment have you personally experienced on social media platforms/apps? [Select all that apply]

The majority (79%) of those who experienced sexual harassment on social media received unwelcome sexual comments or messages. 59% of victims stated that friend requests or invitations from strangers made them feel uncomfortable. 48% of those who encountered offenders reported receiving pornographic photos or videos. 9% of victims experienced threats of sexual violence.

Question 5) (If you have personally experienced sexual harassment through a social media platform or app) When you experienced sexual harassment on social media, did you report it or take any action? [Select all that apply]

Out of the 624 women who experienced sexual harassment, 76% took action by blocking the individual who harassed them. 42% of respondents reported the offender to the respective social media app or platform. 5% escalated the matter to the police, while unfortunately, 11% did not take any action as they believed the platform, app, or police would not act against the offender.

Question 6) (If you have personally experienced sexual harassment through a social media platform or app) What long-term effects have you experienced as a result of the online sexual harassment? [Select all that apply]

Among the women who experienced sexual harassment, 32% reported feeling violated and/or intimidated. 21% mentioned that the harassment made them doubt their personal appearance, and 19% suffered from anxiety as a result. The sexual harassment affected 10% of victims’ intimate relationships and caused career setbacks for 3% of respondents.

Question 7) (All respondents) How would you describe your experience of sexual harassment through a social media platform/app?

Out of the 3000 women surveyed, an overwhelming majority of 68.2% (2045 women) believe that social media companies are not doing enough to address sexual harassment on their platforms or applications. Only 7.8% of respondents think social media companies are adequately addressing the issue, while 24.0% were unsure about the level of protection provided by these companies.

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