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Violence Against Women on the Internet

Campus Sexual Assault Policies
(opens: 4.16.02)
(opens: 4.23.02)
Sex Trafficking
(opens: 4.30.02)
The Internet as a Site of Resistance
(opens: 5.7.02)
(opens: 5.14.02)
NOTE: Modules will launch by 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern time on the date listed.


The Internet as an Organizing Tool


In the past three modules, we have looked at serious social problems involving violence against women and the role of the Internet in perpetuating it. In this Module, we will turn the tables and explore the power of the Internet as an organizing tool to fight violence against women.

The Internet has become a critically important form of media. News dissemination through the Internet is unprecedented. Never before has news been distributed so widely and instantaneously as it is currently on the web.

All of us have had experience with Internet activism in some way. Friends send emails asking us to sign petitions; news services inform us of something important happening in the field; or a political organization tells us about some impending crisis, like an environmental group updating its listserve on the possibility of drilling for oil in Alaskan nature reserves.

In the field of women's advocacy, a terrific and indispensable source of news is women's enews.


Women's enews, however, does not always supply an avenue for activism, even when it presents its "Outrage of the Week" feature articles. A news medium connected with an activist component would be particularly useful in harnessing the organizational potential of the Internet to fight male violence against women.

With the idea of internet organizing in mind, let's revisit some of the issues raised in the first three Modules. First, we'll look at organizing to prevent and address rape on campuses. Then, we briefly look at organizing against the dissemination of pornography (including child pornography) on the Internet. Finally, we look at some work that has been done to stop sex trafficking on the Internet. At the end of this, we consider a site that engages in stalking of women for men and will discuss what we can do to address it.


In the first Module, we looked at sexual assault on campuses. It is obvious that this is a huge problem-one that universities seem to have a difficult time addressing. Activists have used various methods on the Internet to unite forces against rape on campuses.

Sexual assault survivors, educators, and activists have harnessed the Internet to help break the cultural silence around issues of sexual assault. By grossly underreporting and egregiously misrepresenting news of rape cases and other incidents of domestic and partner violence, mainstream media have further isolated and sometimes traumatized victims while failing to educate the public about the magnitude and pervasiveness of such violence. (For a brief discussion of how newspapers can unfairly report rape cases, see Several websites combat this media problem by providing space for survivors of rape and sexual assault to post testimonials of their abuse, thereby validating survivors' voices and offering readers personal experiences that often debunk the myths about rape that we looked at in the first module. A superb example of one such website is, a relatively new site that collects and posts survivors' testimonials and provides links and advice for hosting a Take Back the Night event and launching other activist projects. Grrl Activistas, a website started and maintained by a group of survivors who met online, is a global non-profit campaign network that works to eliminate misrepresentations of sexual assault in media, government, and educational institutions ( The Rape Blog ( maintains a log of sexual violence related stories from in the media (and sometimes throws in a refreshing bit of sardonic commentary).

In addition to publicizing personal experiences and undermining cultural myths, activist websites provide support resources for victims of assault and preventative action ideas and projects for budding activists. The Vday website, which has been collecting "Success Stories" for over a year, provides a good cyber-center of testimonials, news, assault resources, and anti-violence activism opportunities ( The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network ( lists the steps that victims should take after an assault and locates counseling centers in every zip code.

The National Crime Prevention Council's website also has a section devoted to preventing sexual assault in your community (


Some men's groups are active on the web in stopping violence against women. This is particularly promising, and we invite you to peruse their sites, sign up to participate, and join their efforts to help teach other men that violence against women is cowardly, not "manly."

The following links are examples of men's groups that have websites devoted to combating sexual assault. These websites represent some of the examples of connections and communities that the Internet can facilitate. Many of the websites link to each other revealing the communities of advocates and activists that the Internet can help sustain. These websites also showcase the Internet's function as a clearinghouse for information. (Men for Change website. Men For Change is a Canadian group "dedicated towards promoting positive masculinity and ending sexism and violence." Men For Change also links to numerous other websites in Canada and in the United States.) (Men Can Stop Rape - was the Men's Rape Prevention Project. MCSR provides resources to universities, agencies, and organizations to address sexual assault. They offer trainings and outreach programs.) (MSV's website offers numerous articles about male entitlement, sexual assault, domestic violence, and the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.) (Jackson Katz's website contains information on his video Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity and offers information about his Mentors in Violence Prevention Program.) (Tulane Men Against Rape website) (University of Rochester's Men Against Sexual Assault website) (Haverford College's Men Against Sexual Assault and Rape website. MASAR's website details its on-campus campaigns to raise awareness about sexual assault.) (National Organization for Men Against Sexism)



The Internet has functioned as a medium where advocates for children have gathered to respond to the problem of child pornography. Activists have used the Internet as a medium for creating coalitions of advocates and for reporting child pornography to officials. These links represent just some of the many groups that are devoted to combating this problem. (ACPO is devoted to stopping the exploitation of children on the Internet. They focus on preventing the spread of child pornography and on educating organizations and law enforcement on combating child pornography.) (A website that encourages the reporting of websites containing child pornography.) (The FBI's website devoted to child pornography.) (Another website for reporting child pornography.)

Furthermore, the Court's recent virtual child pornography decision suggests another arena where online activism might prove extremely important. To read about responses to the Court's decision, see:

The Internet was also used as a way of forming a coalition of activists when thousands of Internet users protested Yahoo's decision to sell pornography. In December 2000, Yahoo created an online store devoted to selling pornographic videos and DVDs. Just a few months later after receiving over 100,000 emails from Internet users, Yahoo decided to remove the portion of its website that sold pornography and to stop accepting advertisements from pornographic websites. In May 2001, Yahoo decided to make it more difficult to find sexually explicit chatrooms and online clubs. Click here for an article about Yahoo's decision.


One of the unique aspects of sex trafficking is how easy it would be to track down the traffickers through the information given over the Internet. By seizing, for example, the Internet files of a trafficker, law enforcement could easily track the people who used the services through their credit card information. One example of a site being disabled was examined in Module Three called "Welcome to the Rape Camp." That site was taken down by Thai authorities after complaints received.

Thanks in part to a strong Internet presence, in recent years the anti-trafficking movement has attracted the attention of major donors, government organizations, and the media. In an effort to eliminate the trade in women and children and take back the Web from the sex industry, anti-trafficking organizations, sex workers rights groups, government agencies, and international bodies have made available information about the scope and dimensions of the problem. Their campaigns seek to raise awareness of typical trafficking patterns and abusive practices in the sex industry among both women and children at risk of being trafficked and the general public. Click here for an annotated list of groups. To date, most of these websites offer a wealth of information about trafficking, but aside from soliciting donations, they fail to offer concrete suggestions for action.


Consider the following site:

Please read through the site. Then, discuss any potential problems you see with this site.


What might we do to about this site? Can they legally engage in stalking? Can the Internet be used to perpetuate blatantly illegal activities? What can law enforcement do about this? Does the woman have any rights in this situation?

Think creatively about your solution to this problem. We will consider implementing a strategy suggested by the participants-so here is a chance to do something concrete and meaningful. Good luck!

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