Harassing, Silencing and Dismissive Attitudes Women’s and Professionals’ Experiences of Online Violence Against Women and the Help-Seeking Process in Finland
The increased use of internet and rapid technology development has created new ways to commit violence against women in online contexts. The aim of this study was to explore women’s and professionals’ experiences of online violence and help-seeking process in Finland. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four women who had experienced online violence. In addition, three professionals were interviewed who had been working with support services for the victims of online violence and further, worked to increase the public awareness and educating other professionals about the topic. Thematic analysis of the interview data showed that online violence is a continuation of gender-based violence towards women in Finland. Results indicate that online violence is supported by rapid technology development which provides new ways to commit violence against women. Online violence caused negative feelings in the women and further, had silencing effect on them. Online violence led all the women to limiting their online expression to some extent, and further drove them away from online environments. Data showed that the women seeked help from informal sources such as friends, family, and communities. Help seeking from formal sources was either nonexistent or non-successful. The findings indicate that the lack of awareness about the issue and dismissive attitudes towards the severity of online violence were the major barrier for seeking and receiving appropriate help. Therefore, further actions are needed especially in increasing the awareness about online violence against women and the help-measures in Finland.