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9 Things To Do If You're Being Harassed Online

Know your rights against harassment and how to fight for them.

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1. Identify your crime.

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There are various cyber offences that can be applied to the perpetrator at the time of filing a case:

• Cyber stalking is when a woman is being stealthily followed to track her movements online and/or offline. It's an intrusion of privacy where someone is tracking all your daily routines, social, and personal life. This information can be misused for various other crimes.

• Cyber pornography is the act of using cyberspace to create, display, distribute, import, or publish pornography or obscene materials, especially materials depicting children engaged in sexual acts with adults.

• Voyeurism is particularly directed at women involved in intimate acts. Recordings are usually disseminated without the knowledge or consent of the concerned women, either by strangers or by intimate partners.

• Morphing refers to an act of manipulating the original picture of a person and reloading after editing. It may involve adding naked bodies to faces or exaggerating the sizes of body parts to humiliate.

• Online trolling/bullying/blackmail/threat/intimidation is wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones or other electronic devices, by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. Since the electronic medium lends the power and strength of anonymity and limitless reach across the world, even a person who may be bullied in real life can become a bully online, despite the lack of superior physical strength or dominant position in society.

• Impersonation involves representing oneself to be a person one is not.

2. Disengage.

No matter who the suspected perpetrator is, do not engage in any further conversation, arguments or threats.

3. Immediately inform your trusted circle.

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Friends, family, colleagues — whoever you are closest to. People who love you will not judge you. They will first focus on making sure that you are safe.

4. Document any proof that you might have.

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This stands true for any abuse you might face in the online or offline world. If you have received any messages/emails/voice notes/pictures – please keep them as records for any possible criminal cases.

5. Get in touch with your nearest cyber cell.

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You can request for a lady officer to be present at the time of filing the complaint if you feel more comfortable. Keep that copy of the complaint for your reference. If you feel you are not being heard by that particular team, you can always escalate the matter to their superiors. Most cyber police officers are also available on social media.

Here's a list of cyber crime cells across India that you can get in touch with, in case of an issue.

6. The shame of abuse should always lie on the abuser.

You have nothing to be ashamed of. No abuser, rapist, or bully should get away for fear of shame. Stand up, speak up, and hand that shame back to the perpetrator. Don't pay heed to those who indulge in judgement or socially shaming you. Instead, focus on those who love and support you.

7. Abusers need to be punished for their crimes.

Don't remain silent and let a dangerous person roam free. They could target your loved ones tomorrow. You cannot allow that to happen. It is our collective responsibility to allow justice to take its route.

8. The law is on your side.

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• Cyber pornography is a criminal offence. Section 292 of the IPC deals with the offence of "obscenity". The section makes selling, distributing, publicly exhibiting, putting into circulation, taking part in or receiving profit from any business related to use of obscene objects, advertising, offering or attempting to do any act which is an offence under this section as a punishable offence.

• The IPC provision on voyeurism is complemented by section 66E of the IT Act – which makes violation of privacy by capturing, publishing or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, a punishable offence. Please note that even if these recordings/pictures were taken with permission of the woman (perhaps at a happier time in a personal relationship), she may not have given consent for its circulation. If the love affair goes wrong for example and the ex-boyfriend circulates these on web, it's an offence.

• Impersonation is a punishable offence under section 416 and section 419 in the Indian Penal Code​ which states that whoever cheats by personation shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.​​

• Morphing is a punishable offence under section 509 in the Indian Penal Code​. Several times IPC sections are applied in combination for some cases, like section 505 in the Indian Penal Code​ which states that statements conducing to public mischief​ is punishable.

Here's what lawyers have to say about cyber abuse and ways to handle it.

9. Reclaim your life.

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Trauma is an aspect of your life. It doesn't define who you are or dictate where your life goes from here. You need to reclaim your life by facing your fears and finding solutions for them. Don’t push it away hoping for it to magically heal. Don’t give anyone the power to cast a shadow on your entire existence.

Here's what you can do: Get professional help from a psychologist/psychiatrist. It helps address suppressed vulnerabilities.

Akancha is a Mumbai-based entrepreneur who has been working closely with the Indian Police on cyber awareness. She conducts workshops across the country on the subject and helps victims of cyber abuse. Having suffered a severe case of cyber stalking herself, Akancha today runs an initiative – "Akancha Against Harassment" (AAH) to educate people on cyber safety.

Schedule of upcoming workshops of AAH :

Jodhpur — August 7 (Chandra Imperial)
Jaipur — August 8 (Maharani Gayatri Devi School)
Delhi — August 9 (Delhi University)
Bhopal — august 10 (IES School And College)
Indore — August 11 (Millennium School)

All workshops are free to attend. Register here.

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