Many people are under the impression that they can hide behind their keyboard and computer screen and get away with anything. In recent years, reports of online sexual harassment, assault, and cyberbullying have increased. Victims can be adults or children of all backgrounds and incomes.
According to a study released by the Pew Research Center in 2021, around 33 percent of women and 11 percent of men who are 35 and under have been sexually harassed online. While this is alarming, women are more likely to report their online sexual harassment when compared to men, but the rates for reporting this type of behavior are still very low (16 percent vs. 5 percent).
You should never feel like you need to give up the convenience of modern-day technology and internet when someone is sexually harassing you online. Instead, you should know your rights and understand the digital landscape.
What is online sexual harassment?
Online sexual harassment is any type of unwanted sexual misconduct that occurs over the internet. This usually happens when a person is targeted by another person. For example, the individual may spread sexual information about them or continuously harass them in a sexual manner, making them feel uncomfortable, paranoid, worried, nervous, and more. While online sexual harassment is very similar to in-person sexual harassment, the difference is that you cannot physically see or hear the individual committing the acts unless they are on a videocam or microphone.
Examples of online sexual harassment
There are many different forms of online sexual harassment. However, some forms are more common than others, such as:
- Threatening sexual violence
- Internet stalking someone
- Harassing someone due to their sexual orientation or sex
- Sending pornographic images or videos
- Bullying someone sexually
- Talking about sex and making unwanted sexual references
- Exploiting minors for sex
- Revenge pornography
What does California’s laws say about online sexual harassment?
California Code 653.1-2 explains that any person who causes someone to fear for their own or their family’s safety:
by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.
This includes the internet, cell phones, computers, or any other electronic device.
How can I prove that I was sexually harassed or bullied online?
If you are sexually harassed or bullied online, the first thing you need to do is gather all the evidence you have and make sure it is stored somewhere safe and secure. You will need significant evidence that proves that you were sexually harassed online, which can be emails, social media posts, photos, videos, comments, tweets, or instant messages. However, it is crucial that you save a screenshot of this evidence as quickly as possible because certain social media posts can be deleted. For example, an individual can delete any of their posts from Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and more. In addition, if the harassment occurred on your own posts and you want to delete them to avoid looking at them, you should make sure that you save a copy or screenshot of the post and the harassment for evidence.
When you are collecting evidence of the online sexual harassment, make sure you include the following:
- The name or screen name of the individual harassing you
- Their email address, phone number, or any other visible information
- Their social media handle or URL
- Screenshots of every harassment message, photo, post, or video
- Any conversations you have with the individual
If some of the information that you need has already been deleted, begin taking notes from memory about the online sexual harassment. Make sure you include the date, the time, and any important information that you remember, such as their name, screen name, email, social media handle, what was said, etc.
Is it possible to obtain a restraining order for online sexual harassment in Los Angeles?
The entire state of California gives online sexual harassment victims the ability to request a civil harassment restraining order. This type of restraining order ensures that a person other than your spouse, ex-partner, or a family member cannot:
- Contact you
- Harass you
- Stalk you
- Threaten you
- Harm you
- Be near you
- Own or have a gun or ammunition
You can file for a civil harassment restraining order in Los Angeles by filling out a few forms for the California Courts in which you will describe the online harassment that you experienced.
Can workplace sexual harassment occur online?
Workplace sexual harassment can also occur online. As a matter of fact, since more companies are using internet service for their employees to get their daily duties done, more and more people are being sexually harassed online by their coworkers, managers, supervisors, and even customers. This type of sexual harassment can occur on company websites, message and forum boards, email, chat rooms, and various social media sites.
Taylor & Ring takes online sexual harassment, bullying, and assault cases very seriously. Therefore, if you recently experienced a situation online that made you feel frightened or uncomfortable, please get in touch with our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys immediately. We not only offer exceptional legal advice, but we also provide emotional support during these traumatic times. Our team will make sure that you always feel heard when you are speaking and that you know and understand your rights and the legal options you can pursue. Contact us to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.