Combating online relationship abuse requires multipronged approach

A majority of younger adults and approximately four in ten adults in the U.S. have experienced online harassment

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The Violence Against Women Act, which President Biden reauthorized last week, should lead to significant strides in combating online abuse including cyberstalking and the nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images, but leaders should explore additional opportunities to reduce the odds that online relationship abuse occurs in the first place through preventative education, rather than just providing redress for victims, according to One Love.

"While it’s a crime to pull your pants down in the streets — a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or jail time — there was nothing stopping anyone from exposing themselves in your DMs, texts, or even via AirDrop, a disturbing trend," Bumble said.

In 2018, a representative study of its users found one in three women reported receiving unsolicited lewd photos, otherwise known as cyberflashing, with 96% not happy to receive them, per their website

President Joe Biden responds to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Washington. "He’s a war criminal," Biden said as he left the event to mark the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

President Joe Biden responds to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Washington. "He’s a war criminal," Biden said as he left the event to mark the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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So the dating app got to work.

In 2018, they initiated artificial intelligence technology called Private Detector to automatically blur nude images so the recipient can decide first if they want to see them, Bumble said on their website

Then the leadership team worked in their home state of Texas to eventually pass House Bill 2789, which became law September 1, 2019, to make electronic transmission of sexually inappropriate material a Class C misdemeanor in Texas when the recipient has not consented, according to Bumble.

"Crimes conducted online are just the beginning of a dangerous cycle of abuse and harassment," said Payton Iheme, Bumble’s head of public policy for the Americas, and Christian Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women.

They are now advocating every state to criminalize cyberflashing, using the Texas legislation as a model, Marie Claire reports. 

The Bumble Trading Inc. logo on a smartphone arranged in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021

The Bumble Trading Inc. logo on a smartphone arranged in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images )

And it’s working: Similar bills have been introduced in New York, Wisconsin and California. In Virginia, the state General Assembly recently unanimously passed a bill that would make the sending of sexually explicit photos without consent a civil infraction and is awaiting the governor for his signature, according to Marie Claire.

A majority of younger adults and approximately four in ten adults in the U.S. have experienced online harassment, defined as offensive name-calling, embarrassing someone on purpose, stalking, threats that someone will hurt the recipient and sexual or sustained harassment, according to Pew Research Center

"For so many years, domestic violence was treated as something within a family or within a home, but we know that our homes are the building blocks of our communities. Problems in them should not be ignored as personal because their implications for our community and our society are far-reaching," said Katie Hood, chief executive officer of One Love Foundation

Hood told Fox News it starts with our youth: "It’s important to have open and explicit conversations with your children about the fact that it is more likely than unlikely that at some point, someone will send them, or will ask them to send, sexually explicit images online."

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She notes people should protect against relationship abuse by knowing the 10 signs of unhealthy relationships

The Logo of videotelephony product FaceTime is displayed on a smartphone on December 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. 

The Logo of videotelephony product FaceTime is displayed on a smartphone on December 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

These include: intensity, like when someone incessantly texts or communicates with their partner via Facetime and possessiveness, such as when people watch their partners’ behaviors online to where they "micro manage their significant other's online activity – dictating who they can be friends with, what pictures they can post, etc."

The Biden administration launched a 2022 multinational initiative with Denmark, Australia, the United Kingdom and Sweden to" … align countries, international organizations, and civil society to better prioritize, understand, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence," the White House press statement said.

The more parents prepare their children that sending explicit photos could happen and have an open dialogue with them, the more parents can help "… avoid the instinct to keep it secret or to feel shamed," Hood added.

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"The world, and by extension the Internet, isn’t safe for women, but it’s worse for those living at intersections of identity. As we spend more time than ever before online, we have to act to protect the most marginalized and vulnerable from violence," Iheme and Nunes said.