Combatting online sexual harassment

“Prevention of sexual harassment primarily begins with raising the level of awareness of members of the UP community.”

This was the remark of UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor Edgardo Carlo L. Vistan II at the Cybersecurity Talk Against Sexual Harassment and Launch of the Advocacy Sticker Campaign in Public Spaces (Cybersecurity Talk), an event of the UPD Office of Anti-Sexual Harassment (OASH).

Vistan, in his video message, said the reported sexual harassment offenses in the past years, including complaints that were formally filed at OASH, involved the use of information and communication technology most especially through various social media platforms.

Screenshot of Vistan’s video message.

“Some individuals were unaware of the cybersecurity risks associated with online interactions and social media platforms and have limited knowledge on how to respond to online threats, including sexual harassments,” Vistan said.

Cybersecurity Talk was held on Dec. 5 at the Alcantara Hall of the Student Union Building. It aimed to share information on how to combat online sexual harassment through cybersecurity and to encourage the attendees to be active in fighting sexual harassment.

In attendance were UPD students and volunteers of the Barangay UP Campus Family and Community Healing Center.

Jose Paolo Bernardo, information technology officer at the UPD University Computer Center, outlined seven dos and don’ts in online interactions.

“First, don’t just click links. Check the URL since some sites may contain malware which can hack personal accounts. Next, use multi-factor authentication. It can be a one-time PIN [personal identification number] which can be sent via email or text message. This can also be done through an authenticator application or security keys. Number three is do not overshare. Oversharing of information can be against you since your information can be used for identity theft, robbing, or even stalking,” Bernardo shared.

(From left) Bernardo, De Luna, Lectura, and Tubio.   Photo by Jerald DJ. Caranza, UPDIO

He also advised to “Always update contact details, especially recovery options. Updating recovery options ensure that you regain access to your account if ever something happens. Also use passwords. Create strong passwords and change them every three months. Use [a] password manager if necessary.”

Bernardo’s last two tips were to check one’s online account status “to be sure if some individuals are trying to access your social media or other online accounts,” and to seek help from authorities and professionals and even one’s friends “if you experienced cyberattack.”

To encourage attendees in the prevention of sexual harassment, Leizel Lectura, chief administrative officer of the UPD Human Resource Development Office, endorsed the use of Safecity, a website and mobile application project of the Red Dot Foundation.

“Bakit po natin isinusulong ito? Kasi kung mananatiling invisible at hindi natin ipahahayag o tutulungang malaman ang totoong mukha o datos, hindi talaga natin matutugunan iyong mga problemang kinakaharap natin,” Lectura said. She is a volunteer program manager of the Safecity Project in Philippines.

According to its website, Safecity is a platform launched in December 2012 that “crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. The data, which may be anonymous, get aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The idea is to make the data useful for individuals, local communities, and local administration to identify factors that cause behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.”

The Red Dot Foundation Group, composed of Red Dot Foundation Global (USA) and Red Dot Foundation (India), works at the intersection of gender, technology, communications, data, and urban planning. Safecity is its flagship program.

“Ito nga po ang sabi. ‘Sexual violence is an entire spectrum of abuse. Extreme underreporting makes the problem invisible.’ Tama ba? Totoo di ba? Without taking action, the lack of visible consequences undermines our ability to protect individuals from experiencing harm,” Lectura explained.

From these observations, Lectura recommended the conduct of “capacity-building for women and communities nationwide in all sectors and institutions, leadership and competencies training to sustain the initiatives, and decision-making spaces where there is proper collaboration and partnership among women, men, young men, and other individuals.”

Safecity Project volunteer Karl Guillermo Cesar Tubio demonstrated how the website and mobile application work by showing ways of how data are entered, how these are validated, and how the data can be accessed.

The event organizers, resource speakers, and attendees. Photo by Jerald DJ. Caranza, UPDIO

In closing, OASH Coordinator Teresa Paula S. De Luna thanked all the resource persons and attendees and invited everyone to visit OASH.

“Bumisita rin sana kayo sa OASH kasi part din kami ng community. At sana po kung pupunta kayo sa OASH ay hindi lang para magreklamo kundi para mag-volunteer din sa conduct ng aming training at seminars. And lastly, mag-download kayo ng Safecity app,” De Luna said.

OASH also released its latest advocacy sticker with the message “Ang mga taga-UP ay palaban! Huwag ninyo kaming subukan! #NoToSexualHarassment.”

Lectura posting the OASH advocacy sticker on the door of the University Food Service. Photo by Jerald DJ. Caranza, UPDIO

The symbolic posting of stickers was done at the offices of the University Student Council, University Food Service, and Philippine Collegian.

Cybersecurity Talk was done in observance of the national annual 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12.