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Law catches up to internet troll: sends message to men who threaten women online

July 29 2016 By Joanna Cooney, Media Officer, Our Watch

The decision to convict Zane Alchin for ‘vile’ online rape threats towards a young woman is a small step towards making the internet a safer place for women, says Our Watch and girls’ rights organisation Plan International Australia.

Today Mr Alchin was sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond after he made graphic and sexually explicit threats via Facebook toward a young woman in 2015.

“To many people this will seem like a slap on the wrist, but this judgment still shows trolls and bullies they cannot hide behind a screen. Violence and abuse is never ok, whether it be online or offline,” Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Mary Barry said.

“Young Australian women are regularly exposed to harassment, violence and intimidation online, so although this is a light sentence, it’s still a relief to see the court acknowledge this kind of behaviour not only won’t be tolerated, but it is also a crime.”

Ms Barry commended the woman and her friends for their campaign, Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced, which was developed in response to Alchin’s harassment, and has petitioned to tighten laws around online sexual violence.

“The single biggest risk factor for being a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence is being female. You only need to look at news from the past few months to see how violence and rape culture flourish online,” Ms Barry said.

“Sickeningly, only yesterday we hear that a five-year-old girl was the target of online rape threats, all because these trolls didn’t like what her mother – a prominent columnist – had to say.”

The ‘Blokes Advice’ Facebook page, and the Australian National University students’ creepshot-sharing page are more sexist, disrespectful, and aggressive incidents made public recently, she said.

The frequency of these reports demonstrates the prevalence of online harassment, and is supported by recent research from Plan International Australia and Our Watch.

According to this research, 70 per cent of Australian girls aged 15-19 believe online harassment and bullying is endemic, and receiving unwanted and uninvited sexually explicit content online is now common.

“The majority of the girls and young women we surveyed cop online abuse every single day. Yet only one in three said they would report the abuse. We wonder if this is because young women don’t feel supported by the legal system,” Siobhan McCann, Policy and Engagement Manager at Plan International, said.

“We had hoped today’s ruling would send a message that abusing women in the digital space is just as legitimate a crime as abuse on the street or at home. But we hope trolls will take note that they can still be charged and tried for it.

“But clearly, there is more work to be done”.

Ms Barry said she was disappointed that such sexist and violent attitudes are still expressed, but was encouraged to see so many people speak out against this.

“As long as women and girls are seen as less equal than men and boys, violence against women will continue,” she said.

“We need to ensure young people grow into adults whose relationships are safe, respectful and equal, on and offline. This is why Our Watch’s work on respectful relationships education in schools, which addresses online bullying and harassment, is so vital.”

“Through Respectful Relationships Education, and Our Watch’s digital youth program The Line, we can give children and young people the skills to reject aggressive behaviour and discrimination”, Ms Barry said.

Media contact

For enquiries or further information: 
Our Watch: Joanna Cooney, 0423 049 322, joanna.cooney@ourwatch.org.au 
Plan International Australia: Jane Gardner, 0438 130 905, jane.gardner@plan.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch 

Our Watch’s (previously the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children) purpose is to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.
Our Watch was conceived of and brought into existence in 2013 by the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria. The Northern Territory, South Australian, Tasmanian, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory governments have also since become members of the organisation.
Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.

About Plan International Australia

Plan International Australia is one of the world’s oldest and largest child rights development agencies. We work in over 70 countries around the world to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice. Plan’s flagship ‘Because I am a Girl Campaign’ is working to create a world that values girls, promotes their rights and ends injustice.