As we spend more time indoors and relating with others online, this leaves individuals potentially more prone to experiencing harassment online. Harassment is when an individual receives a personal threat from another individual. The threat may be towards a person’s; physical features, sexual orientation, gender, sexuality, political beliefs, religion beliefs amongst others.
When an individual experiences harassment, he experiences a situation in which he has no control over, as another person is imposing oneself on the individual. The humiliation which a victim of harassment experiences is quite high, as the individual is being singled out because of a part of one’s identity. When one’s identity gets ridiculed it can lead to a lack of self-esteem, increased isolation, feelings of anxiety, and weight issues amongst others. Therefore, harassment needs to be taken seriously as the repercussions may be dire. Many individuals who experience harassment refrain from taking action due to the fear of repercussions which may stem from reporting the harassment. This leaves the individuals at a greater risk of loneliness, isolation and repeated abuse.
Harassment occurs online either through social media platforms, and through the use of email amongst others. Hence, since communicating online is currently dominating the way in which we interact due to the pandemic, this leaves the potential for individuals to experience harassment. The important thing is to remember that something can be done in terms of action. Reporting to the police would be recommended and they will prosecute as harassment is a criminal act. There is a specialised unit within the Maltese Police Force which tackle cybercrime issues, in which online harassment falls within their remit.
Addressing the practical issue of reporting is the first step to feeling empowered in order to process the experience of being harassed. If one continues to feel low and experiences difficulty in their mental wellbeing. It would be important to process these feelings and experiences with a mental health professional.