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As blanket of technology engulfs the entire world, Violence Against Women also finds new ways to deepen its roots. Misuse of latest information and communication technologies has given rise to what is called e-VAW (Electronic Violence Against Women). In order to protect yourself from falling victim to e-VAW, it is important to understand its various forms and what you could do to stop harassers from invading your cyber or mobile spaces.

Following are couple of most common categories of e-VAW and basic tips to avoid falling into the trap:

Cyber Stalking: 

Ever felt someone following you all the time or got scared by the thought of a stranger following you down the alley?  What if someone decides to follow everything that you do online (often without you not knowing about it)?  Stalking done online is referred to as Cyber Stalking. It is not just intimidating but may also lead to some serious consequences if the stalker comes to know about your actual day-to-day life just by following your online life.

From many of us, it has almost become a second nature to update Facebook and other social networking statuses while moving to our dream house or tweet about everything we do. However, feeding narcissism can make it very easy for a stalker to get even minute details about our lives. So, don’t get surprised next time you see your stalker waving at you just when you are having daily cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop.

In order to avoid giving your stalker what s/he is looking try these tips:

  • Think twice before updating your Facebook status.  Is what you want to update something that you would shout in a hall full of hundreds of people (some of whom you don’t even know yet they are ‘friends’ on Facebook)?

  • Don’t take Twitter’s “What’s happening?” literally.  It’s just a website and not your mom whom you want to update minute by minute exactly about what’s happening in your life.

  • Avoid broadcasting your location. Why would you want to tell the world (and your stalker) that you are having pani puri at Nimco and then plan to go to Gelato Affair MAHS for ice-cream?

  • Use location broad-casting apps such as Foursquare carefully unless you want to tell the entire world about where your office and home is.

  • Avoid putting your direct contact-numbers and residential address online.

Cyber or Mobile Phone Harassment:

From pesky calls and dozens of text and online messages often from unknown people, forcing you to ‘fraindsheep with them’, to abusive chats and emails threatening you of kidnapping – all come under  Cyber or Mobile Phone Harassment.  Harassment offline or online is not only torturous but may also lead to actual harm to the victim in some cases. In order to minimize the risk of Cyber or Mobile Phone harassment or combat it if need be, consider these steps:

  • Make it a point to check ‘Privacy Settings’ immediately after creating any account or using any service online.

  • Tweak your new and existing accounts to keep strict privacy settings. Whenever possible, share personal information only with friends (real friends whom you trust, not the cyber friends). For e.g. on Facebook, go to Home  Privacy Settings and explore.  On Facebook, you can keep your Facebook friends in different lists and then control visibility of your data based on those lists. For instance you can set Default Privacy to Custom  Friends (Hide from Met Online Lists)  to by default hide all data you post from the list of people you have met online and befriended on Facebook. Mix and match to see what fits best.

  • Had fun during a great holiday trip to Maldives and can’t wait to share pictures with your friends on Facebook?   Go ahead do so but take some time out to watermark your pictures before you upload them online.  Watermarking is to mark your picture with a symbol or text so its chances of getting misused could be minimized.

  • Clicking pictures and shooting videos on cell-phones is fun but don’t keep them in your cell-phones forever.  Download all personal pictures and videos to a safe location on your personal computer regularly, deleting them from your phone.  If your phones gets lost or is snatched with all your personal pictures and videos in it, imagine the damage it can cause.  Same rule applies when you go to sell your cell-phone. Remove all personal content before selling it.

  • Sick of missed calls, romantic poetry filled text messages or abusive phone calls?  Get in touch with your Telco and inquire about the options to block calls and messages from any particular number.   Also explore your handsets as some handsets also come with an option to block communication for any particular number.

  • Avoid underestimating the harasser. If s/he is threatening you of serious consequences, seek help from a credible governmental or non-governmental organization. CPLC is one, TakeBackTheTech ( is another.

  • Keep your primary email address clean. Do not use it for everything you do online from shopping to commenting on news sites and playing games.  Keep it just for what it – receiving personal and important emails.  You can create a social email id to use for all other activities online.

  • Harassment is often done by creating fake Facebook/Twitter profiles and posting obnoxious content using them.  In case you spot your fake account on Facebook or Twitter, report immediately. Ask all your friends to report it too and it will be taken down by Facebook/Twitter admin in sometime.

There are many more forms of e-VAW as well, however, the basic lesson to privacy and security online is simple:  take control of technology by exploring it and understanding the ways you can use it safely.  Also apply all those rules of security online that your apply offline. Remember what you were taught as a child?  Do not befriend strangers or at least do not share your entire life with them.

Happy and safe browsing!'

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