The Law, Social Media and the Victimisation of Women

Laura Bliss

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Anyone can become a victim of abuse online, but it is apparent that certain behaviours are gender specific. For instance, women are more likely to have comments aimed at them threatening rape and other forms of sexual violence. This is particularly the case for women in the public eye. For example, Gina Miller (the claimant in R (Miller) v The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768) has found herself at the centre of a campaign of online abuse. Abusive comments of sexual violence have been aimed at her. Comments like these are increasingly being used when it comes to the trolling of women online. The law of the United Kingdom has started to respond to online abuse. Legislation has been adapted to cover online behaviour. Despite this, the law’s response to serious online abuse directed at women has often seemed inadequate. For instance, Caroline Criado-Perez was subjected to extreme threats of sexual violence in 2014 via social media; several individuals were prosecuted for sending what was deemed “grossly offensive” comments. Yet, the conduct of Peter Nunn, in sending abusive messages to Ms Criado-Perez, and to the Labour MP Stella Creasey, might be thought to be more serious than the crime for which he was convicted – sending indecent, obscene or menacing messages – for which he received a six week custodial sentence. Rather, it might be thought that his actions amounted to harassment or stalking. If so, this suggests that the potential of the law to protect women from online abuse is not being used to the full. This paper will propose that women are subjected to a unique form of abuse online, where threats of sexual violence are used to intimidate women. The paper will critically evaluate the law’s response and make suggestions for how women may be better protected online.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2017
EventSocio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Annual Conference - Newcastle University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 Apr 20177 Apr 2017


ConferenceSocio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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