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DOJ reveals alarming stats of women harassed and stalked online

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 3, 2024//

U.S. Department of Justice submitted photo

DOJ reveals alarming stats of women harassed and stalked online

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 3, 2024//

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Disconcerting statistics were released Monday by the Department of Justice about the number of women who are harassed and stalked online.

“Unfortunately, the statistics speak for themselves: about one in three women under the age of 35 are stalked or harassed online. The rate of victimization is even greater for individuals who identify as LGBTQI+,” said U.S. Department of Justice Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

The comment was made during opening remarks on Monday at the End Violence Against Women International Annual Conference in San Diego.

Hidaglo noted April 1 was the start of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

“On this first day of April, it is also an important opportunity to commemorate the start of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, or SAAM,” Hidaglo said.

According to Hidago, although “there have been significant paradigm shifts in society’s perceptions of these crimes and our responses to them, however, as you undoubtedly know, we still have much further to go.”

“All of you here today have worked tirelessly to bring these issues out of the shadows, support survivors and hold offenders accountable,” said Hidaglo.

Hidaglo said the theme of this year’s conference is “Cycle of Justice,” which is “intended to underscore that justice is a step-by-step process for victims and survivors.”

“How each person responds along the way – from law enforcement officers and investigators to health care personnel to victim advocates and courtroom officials – is critical to how, or if, justice is served for that victim or survivor,” she said.

According to Hidaglo, to date, the organization has received more than $10.5 billion in grants. Grantees include local, state, territorial and Tribal governments, courts, community-based organizations, educational institutions, state, territorial and Tribal coalitions and more across all U.S. states, territories and many Tribal nations.

Hidaglo said the group provides funding to bolster local communities’ capacity to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking through grant programs that encourage partnerships between the criminal and civil justice system, advocates, community-based organizations and other system and community partners.

The OVW issued a solicitation for a new grant program that was created in the Violence Against Women Act in 2022, the Local Law Enforcement Grants for Enforcement of Cybercrimes Program, which will provide training and support to state, Tribal and local law enforcement, prosecutors and judicial personnel that assist victims of cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, Hidaglo said.

The dating app Bumble worked closely with Virginia lawmakers to make it illegal to send unsolicited “intimate images,” reported ABC7 in 2022.

Pursuant to Virginia law, any person 18 years of age or older will face civil penalties if they send unwanted sexual images to another adult who has not consented to (or has expressly forbidden) receiving such images, electronically.

The law says violators will be “liable to the recipient of the intimate image for actual damages or $500, whichever is greater, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and costs.”

According to an OVW 2020 congressional report obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal,  in 1994 Congress first enacted VAWA to improve the nation’s criminal justice response to violence against women, ensure services for victims, and create informed policy on the issue (Violence Against Women Act of 1994).

According to the report, grant-funded lawyers, paralegals and specially appointed advocates provide legal services to victims. Grantees provided legal services to an average of 496 victims every six months in 2020.

Over the past three years, funding for the national program has increased by more than 30%.

“In just the past fiscal year OVW has distributed over $630 million — the highest amount we’ve ever awarded. In 2024, we are also implementing new grant programs – part of a continued expansion due mostly to the 2022 reauthorization of VAWA,” she said.

Hidaglo noted, “we are also funding programs that provide additional pathways to justice, safety and healing.”


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