Sexual violence, harassment and social media

Punts on the river, painted different colours of the rainbow

Although there is much more to do, there is a change of culture in the University

On 13 July 2016 I spoke at Social Media and Student Accommodation, a one day workshop focussing on how and when to use social media as an aid to promoting and providing successful student accommodation. This was organised by the student housing charity Unipol.

  • My slides are available as a low-res PDF;
  • The references talked about in the presentation are also available [PDF].

What happens when it all goes wrong? Cyberbullying, harassment, abuse and inappropriate content

Why is ‘cyber’ redacted? It is a distraction. We’re talking about harassment; social media and online channels are just one of the locations or platforms on which harassment and worse takes place. My presentation then goes on to talk about:

How online harassment occurs?

  • Hacked account
  • Recommendations for every user of social media (including students)
  • Outreach and Public Engagement (and is the University doing enough to support staff, academics, and students – especially early career academics, or students?)
  • Over-sharing
  • Harassment and sexual violence

The institutional response

Student-led campaigns in Oxford e.g.:

Flyer to advertise First Response App

The First Response app developed by It Happens Here and Code4Rights, funded by the University’s IT Innovation Fund

  • Sexual consent discussions led by students
  • Oxford University Students Union’s ‘It Happens Here
  • Good Lad workshops
  • An online campaign called #consentiseverything shows that support is available for those who have experienced sexual abuse and rape, including: Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre; Thames Valley Police; and Oxford University Students Union. They use a YouTube film about a cup of tea as a way of explaining consent! This even made it on to TV as a feature in a positive light on ‘Russell Howard’s Good News’.
  • The Digital Wildfire project supporting computing students’ work on identifying and monitoring provocative social media content e.g. rumour or inflammatory posts; Competitions for students to raise awareness of a digital life, and the implications of oversharing etc.
  • First Response‘ app, coded by women in Oxford: First Response can be localised by updating the app with region-specific information, or by doing the whole process with Code4Rights (i.e. brainstorming, teaching women to code, producing a new app).

Oxford University campaigns include:

  1. Please don’t contact me (cease and desist).
  2. If that does not resolve it – someone with a level of authority in the college of the perpetrator takes action, maybe following the line that the behaviour is covered under such-and-such section of the policy.
  3. The anti-harassment order against individual from the police.


  • Equality and Diversity Unit: Caroline Kennedy
  • First Response app: Eden Tanner
  • IT Services: Ylva Berglund Prytz, IT Services IT Innovation Fund; Jane Littlehales, IT Services Communications Office; Sergio Navarro Valverde, OxCERT
  • Oxford Internet Institute: Sarah Wilkin
  • UCISA: Anna Matthews, UCISA
  • University of York: Sara Perry, The Gender and Digital Culture project,
  • University of Sussex: Alison Phipps and Elsie Whittington Centre for Gender Studies ‘Sexual harassment and violence in higher education

Image credit

Posted in Social media | Tagged | Leave a comment

Leave a Reply