August 16, 2017 - Comments Off on The Cyber Harassment Helpline Expands its Operations
The Digital Rights Foundation is expanding the services of the Cyber Harassment Helpline. As of August 19, 2017, the helpline will be operational throughout the week, including on Saturday and Sunday. The helpline support team will be taking the calls from 9 AM to 5 PM. The expansion wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our friends at Digital Defenders Program. The helpline has also signed an MoU with Ahung, and also with Lo Bono Law, which is specifically geared towards providing low cost, high quality legal services to clients unable to bear the high cost of legal representation in courts of Sindh.
The Cyber Harassment Helpline is the region’s first dedicated helpline for cases of online harassment and violence. It was established in December 2016 to help the victims and survivors of online harassment with their ordeal. The services of the helpline are confidential,gender-sensitive and completely free-of-cost. The Support Team comprises of the trained lawyers, digital security experts, and qualified psychologists who assist the callers according to their needs.
The helpline, as it is no secret, was started with limited resources and on a very urgent basis to extend support to the people who didn’t know who to turn to when they fall victim to any kind of abuse online. In all honesty, the team didn’t expect a lot of calls when the service was launched. But to our surprise, just in the first week of its launch, the team answered 10 genuine calls daily on average. We were humbled by the response, but also deeply worried with the stories and experiences our callers shared with us. By the time the helpline completed its 6 months of operations, we had received over 700 calls, out of which 63% were from women while 37% callers were men.
The six month report of the Cyber Harassment Helpline also outlines the psychological impact that online violence leaves on the survivors of harassment. According to the report, 19% of the callers experienced insecurity, 17% went through depression, 16% suffered chronic stress, and 15% experienced disturbed sleep.
It was then when we realised that online harassment needs to be taken seriously on governmental level as well, in the corridors of the parliament and public offices. The DRF is constantly pushing for policy reforms within cyber crime wings of Federal Investigation Agency, pushing the concerned official to address the complaints referred to the FIA and take immediate action against the perpetrators of online harassment.
Moreover, a strong support system is extremely crucial when someone experiences harassment, be it online or offline. It’s important that the people around the victim refrain from victim blaming, and the least they should do is to believe them when they express their ordeal. If you or someone you know is going through an unpleasant situation online, please call us immediately on the toll-free number 0800-39393 everyday from 9 AM to 5 PM, 7 days a week, or email us at [email protected]. For more information on the helpline and its policies, click here.