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Full research report

NORDREF Research Team

Christian Mogensen, Denmark –––  María Rún Bjarnadóttir & Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir, Iceland ––– Moa Bladini & Wanna Svedberg Andersson, Sweden

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A Gendered Attack is a Democratic Attack

- Preface -

Women and minorities are disproportionately targeted, victimized and scrutinized by

most, if not all, forms of online harassment. This includes targeted sexual crimes

committed via digital means and tools, digital stalking, written threats via online media,

image-sharing without consent, doxxing, gendered slurs and more. As our worlds and

everyday lives have grown increasingly digital over the last years, so has the amount of

gendered attacks gone digital. This has led to malplaced jubilee that some problems have

disappeared (they have not), that initial policies have worked (no discernible effect) or

that the foundational gender-based differences in socioeconomic and cultural perceived

qualities have been solved (still very much there). Although the issues have moved from

the physical space to the digital, they have not lessened in severity or seriousness. As

much of our democratic, social and political discourse today takes place online, any

targeted abuse or attacks set here will also undermine all of these arenas.

As women are targeted more than men in the above mentioned cases, there is also a very

real risk that they abstain from participating in digital spaces - social, political or other

settings online provide little to no respite from the attacks. Therefore, as women exit the

online arenas, they also exit the primary settings for political/cultural/social influence,

that followingly are left with a biased and thus undemocratic confluence of participants

and decision makers.

A gendered attack is a democratic attack.

The UN recognizes gender-based violence as a serious threat to the democratic societal

fundament: “violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality,

development and peace”1 and states are obliged to prevent it, both under UN and EU

laws.2.

The present research will exemplify these disproportionalities and their effect by focusing

on several separate forms of gender-based digital attacks: Sexual abuse via image-based

attacks, threats to one’s life or wellbeing, and sexual harassment (including unsolicited

genital imagery). It is of note to the research though, that the analyzed Nordic countries

all treat the three categories as illegal, but that national differences in definition, penal

code and potential punishment vary.

The research aims to both outline the severity and consequences of the abuse, but

furthermore to also provide a cursory profile of both victims and perpetrators to further

assist Nordic governments in mitigating and countering any continuation hereof.

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A Joint Nordic Effort

The present analysis is a comparative research between three Nordic countries: Iceland,

Denmark and Sweden. The Icelandic chapter is led by dr. María Rún Bjarnadóttir as lead

researcher and Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir as researcher. The Swedish part of the research

is led by Dr. Moa Bladini with Wanna Svedberg Andersson as researcher and Christian

Mogensen leads the Danish part of the research.

The research partnership is constituted by NORDREF and relies on a wide range of

organizations with collection of, and access to, data.

The project is funded by NIKK and the authors would like to acknowledge this vital

contribution to the work.

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NORDREF

The Nordic Digital Right and Equality Foundation was founded in the unprecedented year of 2020, when the Covid19 pandemic underlined how important the internet is to our economies as well as our social lives - and also how crucial it is that everyone is safe to work, play and express themselves online. Safeguarding those rights is challenging for many reasons. When it comes to digital violations, online jurisdiction can be unclear. In other cases, it's unclear if legal responsibility is with users, hosts or platforms. Law enforcement is often lacking in technical know-how, and offenders can be hard to trace. Last but not least, ignorance about digital rights can make it hard for victims to determine when they've been targeted, and in some cases even for perpetrators to know when they've crossed the line between protected speech and hate speech, to name an example. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed to ensure that the internet lives up to its potential as the breeding ground for democracy, diversity and global dialogue.

Methodology

When developing the methodology for this project, the authors discussed a qualitative

methodology like interviews with perpetrators as Hall and Hearn discuss in connection

to the limits of their research method. They suggest that „one-to-one interviews would

allow perpetrators (largely men) time and space to account for their actions in detail and

victims (largely women) to record their experiences in confidence“.3 Hall and Hearn also

raise that a contextualized study of perpetrators would contribute to a more nuanced

understanding of perpetrators and their motives. As„ […] we know little about how this

phenomenon differs for age, culture, ethnic and socio-economic groups, including

homosociality, so a study of these likely variations would be recommended.“4

In light of the ethical and practical concerns involved with vying for interviews with

perpetrators, the methodology builds on a mixed approach of qualitative and quantitative

methods that combined shed a multi-layered light on perpetrators.

The research group ended up in a three dimensional-model of data collection, with three

types of dataset in each country: one from victim/survivors from women’s shelters; one

from police reports and one from court verdict.

Perpetrators of gender-based online abuse, specifically image-based sexual abuse, threats

and sexual harassment, were mapped with regard to age, gender, relationship to the

victim and motive, using three sources of information in all participating countries:

1. Victims: The shelters we partnered with in Iceland, Sweden and Denmark collected

quantitative data from their clients using a questionnaire developed for the purposes of

this research.

2. Official records: Police data and court verdicts in cases of image-based sexual abuse,

sexual harassment and unlawful threats were gathered and analysed.

3. Perpetrators: Data sets and information collected in The Angry Internet, contributed

by our partner Christian Mogensen, will complement data findings.

The Swedish part has gone through a research ethical assessment by the Swedish Ethical

Review Authority, and is approved, see Dnr 2021-06211-01.

Theoretical Framework

The concept of the continuum of sexual violence paves way to address online

gender-based violence as violence against women.5  The concept of female fear, a fear of being exposed to sexual violence, is relevant in this context. This fear is shared by women despite their age, time and space. Women share cultural experiences and memories of sexual violence.6

 

This fear affects how women live their lives and limits their social and democratic engagement, as Elizabeth Stanko describes it: ”A silent oppression, an unspoken expectation of being a woman”7.

 

Research shows that this fear that restricts women’s lives also follows them into digital space.8

Gender based online violence mirrors and reproduces the unequal life conditions (the gender order) also in digital space.

The female fear is, argues Wendt Höjer, in itself structuring and sets limits for women’s lives. This understanding of violence against women draws on Liz Kelly’s work on the continuum of sexual violence.9 Research shows how the fear that accompanies women and restricts their lives in physical space also accompanies and delimits women’s lives in digital spaces.10

Image-based sexual abuse is a gendered harm, with many victim-survivors experiencing devastating harms because of the social and political context of the sexual double standard and online abuse of women.11 McGlynn and Rackley explain that complacency towards image-based sexual abuse can have detrimental effects on social attitudes and lead to a culture that accepts image-based sexual abuse and diminishes the consequences it can have on an individual basis. They consider this effect to appear, among other

things, in the contexts of the normalization of sexual violence, and undermining of the

notion of consent in sexual relations.12

Victims of online sexual abuse, whether it be image-based sexual abuse or other forms of sexual privacy violations, are withdrawing from the online sphere.13 Even though this retreat is symptomatic of harm on a personal level, the implications stretch further. McGlynn and Rackley warn that a lack of response to image-based sexual abuse might contribute to a culture and norms that can have a negative, long-term impact on women's participation in the online sphere.14 This can constitute a societal harm in itself, in particular, in the context of democratic discourse that increasingly takes place online.15

Furthermore as argued by Manne, the long–term implications of the sharing imagery on the internet are yet to come into light. As she suggests, this may lead to a shift in norms that will be more accepting of female nudity. Nevertheless, Manne also warns that history would suggest that less progressive attitudes will continue because misogyny and gender based discrimination persist within social structures. (Manne, 2018).

Communications with CSO

Covid19

The authors were mindful of the fact that the shelters who gathered the data for this research have enough on their plate as it is. As a rule, shelters are underfunded and understaffed compared to the scope and prevalence of gender-based violence. Also, it is arguably more pressing for a shelter worker to cater to a battered woman’s immediate physical, emotional and mental needs than to present her with a questionnaire about online abuse. As a result, utmost care was taken to address all concerns and questions

that the shelter staff had, and to ensure that the data collection for this research added as little as possible to the load already carried by the shelters. This was done by figuring out how to best incorporate the data collection into the day-to-day routines of the staff. In the shelters where a comfortable method was developed around how to present the questionnaire to clients – such as in Stígamót where each client was handed a tablet and gently encouraged to fill in the questionnaire as they waited for their counselor – far

more answers were collected.

In Sweden, 256 emails were exchanged with ROKS regarding the research, ROKS’ role in the data collection and how to best incorporate the questionnaire into the daily activities of shelter staff. This volume of emails is explained in part by the fact that ROKS is a large organization with long pipelines. Moreover, the role of contact person was repeatedly passed around, which meant that the situation had to be explained all over again to a new manager a number of times. A total of 27 zoom meetings were conducted with shelter coordinators. Nine shelters were offered a free workshop about online abuse

in the context of gender-based violence, in the hope that it would inspire shelter staff and help them to remember the questionnaire in their daily work. Only two shelters accepted this offer. Three free tablet computers were offered to the Swedish shelters to stimulate the collection of answers. Despite various efforts and repeated attempts to figure out the best way to make the collaboration work for both parties, the total amount of answers collected electronically in Sweden was 3. An additional 9 questionnaires were collected on paper format. The questionnaire was also translated into Farsi upon ROKS request. Zero

answers in Farsi were collected. In conclusion, the choice of collecting answers from  women’s shelters was more complicated than we expected. Due to the situation for the women’s shelter we are thankful for the efforts made and the answers we got, although we might not be able to make any general conclusions from the data collected.

In Iceland, 225 emails were exchanged with Stígamót, Bjarkarhlíð and Kvennaathvarfið

shelters regarding their role in the data collection and how to best incorporate the

questionnaire into the daily activities of shelter staff. Six in-person meetings were

conducted with shelter managers as well as 10-15 phone calls. All three shelters were

offered a free workshop about online abuse in the context of gender-based violence. All

three shelters accepted this offer. Four free tablet computers were offered to two out of

three shelters, when five months remained of the data collection period, and they both

accepted (the third shelter already had computers in their waiting room). After the tablets

were incorporated into the working method, the number of answers dramatically

increased, most notably at Stígamót counseling center. The total amount of answers

collected electronically in Iceland was 262.

In Denmark, 102 emails were exchanged with Dansk Kvindesamfunds Krisecentre

regarding their role in the data collection and how to best incorporate the questionnaire

into the daily activities of shelter staff. A total of 5 zoom meetings were conducted with

shelter coordinators.The shelter was offered a free workshop about online abuse in the

context of gender-based violence. The offer was accepted, but a time that suited both

parties could not be settled upon. A free tablet computer was offered to the Danish

shelters when four months remained of the data collection period, to stimulate the

collection of answers. No more answers were submitted after the delivery of the tablet.

The total amount of answers collected electronically in Denmark was 31.

The questionnaire was also translated into English and the link sent to all shelter partners

in all three countries. The total amount of answers collected in English was 2.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, particularly the surge related to the Omicron variant,

the data collection that was supposed to start on January 1st 2022 started at the end of

the month instead. To make up for it, the data collection was extended through January

2023 instead, ensuring a 12 month collection period as planned.

Covid19

One of the negative social implications of the digitisation of communication and social interactions during the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-2022 was a rise in digital manifestations of violence against women, referred to as the ‘shadow pandemic’ by the UN16. Digital forms of gender-based abuse and violence did however not start with the Covid pandemic, even if the pandemic exacerbated this form of abuse.

Online forms of gender-based violence against women not only have a negative impact on women's personal and public lives, but have been found to have wider social and societal harms17. Thus, curbing online GBV is important in the context of both individual

rights and preserving democratic foundations18.

The research focuses specifically on three forms of digital gendered abuse; image-based

sexual abuse, illegal threats and sexual harassment (including so-called dickpics). The aim of the research is to contribute to building a profile of perpetrators of online forms of gender-based violence and mapping out a picture of their motivation and their modus operandi. This is done in a bid to underpin evidence-based methods to curb the behavior through targeted prevention and/or deterrence action. This in turn should both have an impact on an individual rights level, as well as strengthening democracy and gender-equality.

By posing the same research question in three Nordic countries, the authors seek to

expose potential regional differences and similarities in the profile of the perpetrator of

online gendered abuse, illustrating to what extent there may be traits or motivations that

transcend borders and national perspectives. The modes of response developed on the

basis of the research could thus contribute to a regional, or even international solution to

end online GBV.

Conclusions and findings

Across all three Nordic countries, both data, viral cases and troublesome bureaucracy

bear witness to that gendered attacks are not only prevalent, but also rooted in societal

schisms, archaic legislation and a combination of disbelief and mistrust in the systems

supposed to protect victims. All three countries exhibit a propensity to allow the

weaponization of female sexuality and identity, insofar that the data readily shows that

women are disproportionately targeted and victimized by gendered and sexualized abuse

and digital attacks.

There can be no doubt that gendered attacks are both a social and democratic issue. Nor

can it be denied that these attacks are prevalent in the Nordic countries. Yet, the data

gathering collection and cooperation with local and national police, courts and CSO have

been suffering under several societal and organizational deficits. It has been evident that

gendered violence - particularly digital gendered violence - is too underfunded of a field

to satisfactorily collect and store data, in order to support research or activism promoting

any policies or projects combating the issue.

The researchers are in agreement that when issues that challenge the egalitarian

foundation of democracy are outsourced to passionate freelancers, overworked academics

and understaffed CSOs, said foundation is in dire straits. As will be argued in detail in the

following national chapters, gaining access to the data for analysis can be, as one

researcher put it, ‘like squeezing blood from a stone’. Furthermore, we acknowledge that

solving these challenges to our democratic foundations are not done overnight - they will

require either a substantial social education, or an extremely ambitious rework of

legislative praxis and police efforts (both requiring funding and re-education). This does

entail though, that the bare access to data possibly illuminating the problems, must not be

hid behind arduous bureaucracy or unwillingness to even discuss the potentiality of the

problems existing.

Data must be made available - even when it shows things we do not wish to see.

Available & Structured Data From National Courts

Actions and 

recommendations

Available and structured data from national courts

Sorting and segmenting court verdicts with respect to digital or physical abuse,

transgressions and harassment has been an extremely taxing endeavor both for the

researchers, but furthermore also for the clerks, police officers and representatives of the

respective countries and regions. It is a paramount recommendation, to qualify and ease

any further work in this important field, that countries begin separating violations as to

the medium in which they are committed. As the method of a crime both lends itself to

understanding it, preventing it and communicating about it, it must be of utmost

importance to any political system wishing to stem these digital gendered attacks, to

clearly and readily make available how many happen, and how they were carried out. This

could be achieved with either separate penal codes, internal codes and systematization, or

any such bureaucratic update, which would allow a currently anachronistic judicial system

to understand and analyze modern crime.

Social education. Comprehensive sexual eduation.

We recognize the critical role that social education plays in combating gender violence,

particularly in the context of Nordic countries. These nations, known for their

progressive social policies, have been at the forefront of integrating comprehensive sexual

education and gender equality into their education systems. The approach taken by the

Nordic countries offers valuable insights into how social education can be effectively

utilized to combat gender violence.

Firstly, comprehensive sexual education in Nordic countries goes beyond the basics of

human biology and contraception. It encompasses a wide range of topics including

consent, healthy relationships, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This holistic

approach ensures that from a young age, individuals are equipped with the knowledge

and understanding necessary to navigate relationships respectfully and safely. By

normalizing conversations about consent and respect in sexual contexts, these education

programs lay the foundation for preventing gender-based violence.

Additionally, Nordic education systems place a strong emphasis on gender equality and

challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes. This is crucial because gender-based

violence often stems from deeply ingrained societal norms that dictate power dynamics

and roles. By educating children and young adults about gender equality, and actively

working to dismantle harmful stereotypes, these societies foster an environment where

respect and equality are the norm.

Moreover, Nordic countries have been successful in integrating these educational themes

not just in the curriculum but also in the overall school environment. Schools are seen as

key arenas for promoting gender equality and preventing violence. This involves training

teachers and school staff to recognize and address gender-based bullying and harassment,

creating safe spaces for students to discuss these issues, and implementing school-wide

policies that reflect these values.

The involvement of the wider community is also a key component. Nordic countries

often involve parents and community leaders in educational programs, ensuring that the

messages of respect, equality, and non-violence extend beyond the classroom. This

community-wide approach helps to reinforce the values taught in schools and contributes

to a broader cultural shift.

The Icelandic court data showed that an overwhelming majority of men who digitally

abused women were doing so, in order to retaliate against an ex-lover, partner or spouse,

who had ended a relationship with them, or at least a perceived relationship. This point is

also evident in the Danish data.

Finally, the impact of this comprehensive approach to social education in the Nordic

countries is evidenced by their generally low levels of gender violence and high levels of

gender equality. While no society is free from gender violence, the Nordic model

demonstrates how education can be a powerful tool in preventing such violence. By

instilling values of equality, respect, and consent from a young age and involving the

entire community in these efforts, significant strides can be made in combating gender

violence.

In conclusion, the Nordic approach to social education, with its emphasis on

comprehensive sexual education and gender equality, offers a compelling framework for

combating gender violence. This model highlights the importance of early education,

community involvement, and the challenging of traditional norms as key strategies in

creating safer, more equitable societies. As the framework exists across the countries, it

must be understood as too important to negligible one-off lessons in schools, or

something outsourced to civil society organizations. As a fundamental part of the Nordic

democratic identity and egalitarian ideology, it must be prioritized - and funded

comparatively.

Furthermore, a strong social effort in resolving some of the gendered biases could

empower more victims to report gendered crimes, for more men to understand the

severity of them, and for the process to be less traumatic. In Iceland in particular, the

conviction rate of online abuse is noteworthy. In all cases examined, there was a full or

partial conviction. Yet still, the Icelandic data also shows that very few victims (which is 

also the case in Denmark and Sweden), report such crimes to the police in the first place,

because of social biases and negative expectations about the process.

Victim Blaming

A common testimony across both Denmark, Iceland and Sweden is that victims of

gendered crimes feel a need to “convince” others of the fact that they have been the

victim of a crime. Several have said that particularly as one must report crimes as soon as

possible after they have been committed, one is in an emotionally vulnerable state when

doing so. This, in combination with the gendered perspective of herein analyzed victims

predominantly being women - women subjected to crimes by and because of their

gender, and police officers (to whom one reports crimes) historically are predominantly

men, they too often do not feel they are believed, or that their crime is taken seriously,

when reporting it. This leads to some “giving up” in the process, or even not wanting to

report the crime in the first place.

They feel that they have done wrong by being in a position in which they have been targeted.

They feel as if they are blamed for being victims.

Victim blaming in the context of gender violence is a complex and deeply ingrained issue

that manifests in various forms and settings. It refers to the tendency to question, blame,

or assign responsibility to victims of violence, rather than focusing on the perpetrator's

actions. This phenomenon is not just a social or cultural issue but also intersects with

legal, psychological, and institutional dimensions.

At its core, victim blaming is rooted in societal norms and stereotypes about gender,

sexuality, and power dynamics. These stereotypes often dictate how victims of violence,

particularly women and marginalized groups, are perceived and treated. For example,

questions about a victim's behavior, clothing, or past sexual history are frequently used to

rationalize or diminish the severity of the perpetrator's actions. This not only exacerbates

the trauma experienced by the victim but also perpetuates a culture of silence and stigma

around gender violence.

Combating victim blaming requires a multi-faceted approach. Education and awareness

are fundamental in challenging and changing societal attitudes. This involves re-educating

society to understand that the responsibility for violence lies solely with the perpetrator,

not the victim. Comprehensive education programs, starting from a young age, can play a

significant role in reshaping perceptions and attitudes towards gender violence.

The media also plays a crucial role in shaping public perception. Responsible reporting

that avoids sensationalism and respects the dignity of victims can help in altering

entrenched attitudes. Similarly, the portrayal of gender violence in entertainment and 

media should be handled with sensitivity and awareness, avoiding the perpetuation of

harmful stereotypes.

Legal and institutional reforms are equally vital. The criminal justice system often mirrors

societal biases, leading to secondary victimization of survivors during legal proceedings.

Reforming laws and procedures to be more victim-centric, ensuring sensitivity training

for law enforcement and legal professionals, and providing adequate support services for

survivors are essential steps.

Lastly, empowering victims and survivors through support networks, counseling, and

advocacy is crucial. Creating safe spaces for survivors to share their stories and seek help

can significantly reduce the stigma and isolation they face. Moreover, involving survivors

in policy-making and awareness campaigns can lend a powerful and authentic voice to the

fight against victim blaming, add valuable insights and mitigate the internalization of

survivors. -It is important to note that victim blaming can be both external (done by

society onto the victims), and in some cases internalized by the victims themselves (which

will be described further followingly). Both factors will keep victims from seeking justice,

and or speaking up after abuse.

In conclusion, victim blaming in gender violence is a deep-seated issue that demands

comprehensive societal, legal, and institutional change. By shifting attitudes, reforming

systems, and empowering survivors, we can create a more just and compassionate society

where victims are supported and believed, and violence is unequivocally condemned.

The
Do's & Don'ts Conundrum

In addition to the above-mentioned paradox of victim blaming creating more victims, the

researchers would like to include a personal anecdote, that is shared across the group, and

corroborated with several colleagues, friends, family and in national narratives:

"Women are brought up with a long list of "don'ts": Don't walk alone in the dark, don't leave your drink unattended, don't send nudes, don't feed the troll, don't wear a short

skirt, don't accept friend requests from strangers, etc. When disaster strikes and the woman is targeted by a perpetrator, this further cements the notion of self-blame with many victims, who feel that after a lifetime of being trained to avoid becoming a victim of male violence, they still failed."

Further listing, promoting and teaching any such “don’s” will only extend the chokehold

this good-natured but failed approach to gender-bias upbringing has on gender-based

violence.

Comparatively, men are brought up as ‘do’ers’. Do excel, do challenge, do fight for, do be

the best, do get the prize etc. This glorification of ‘if failing try harder and do more’, risks

leading to the man facing a rejection (perceived or actual). ‘Trying harder’ in this instance

can come glaringly close to abuse or even violence, and the perceived fear of ‘falling

masculinity’ will force the man to strengthen his efforts to winning the prize - the

woman.

Ultimately this well-meaning yet gendered advice and upbringing risks establishing an

unequal and dangerous imbalance in relationships that can go horribly awry.

Why We Need To Talk About Dickpics.

It is important to address the issue of unsolicited explicit images, commonly referred to

as "dickpics," and their impact on women both in public debates and in private

interactions. The non-consensual sharing of such images is a form of sexual harassment

and a manifestation of gender-based violence. It reflects broader societal issues regarding

consent, respect, and the objectification of women.

In the realm of public debate, the sending of unsolicited explicit images can be used as a

tool for intimidation and silencing. Women who are vocal in public forums, particularly

on topics like feminism, politics, or gender equality, often find themselves targeted by this

form of harassment. It's a tactic used to demean and belittle women, attempting to

reduce their public presence to a sexual object rather than a respected voice in the

discussion. This can have a chilling effect on women's participation in public discourse, as

the threat of receiving such images can lead to self-censorship or withdrawal from online

platforms and public spaces.

Privately, the unsolicited sending of explicit images is a violation of personal boundaries

and an act of aggression. It imposes sexuality into a non-consensual context, which can

be particularly disturbing and traumatic. Women on dating platforms or social media

frequently encounter this issue, and it contributes to an environment where their online

presence is constantly subjected to sexualization and disrespect. This behavior reflects a

broader societal problem where some men feel entitled to women's attention and bodies,

without regard for consent or mutual respect.

The research article, I’ll Show You Mine so You’ll Show Me Yours: Motivations and

Personality Variables in Photographic Exhibitionism19, posits that there’s numerous

motivations for men in sending such images, as seen in the below table.

dickpics.jpg

The cases in the present analysis suggest a motivation of either ‘Power and control’ and ‘Misogyny’, which both are statistically relevant and serious, as well as targeted uses of such imagery. They do not have the same (still non-excusable) built-in argument of

misunderstanding sexual signals (‘Partner Hunting’ or ‘Transactional Mindset’). As they are part of a social or personal conflict ‘Sexual/Personal Gratification’ seems unlikely as the primary motivator, as well as ‘Unresolved Childhood Conflict’. Thus it stands, that for the present analysis, dickpics are weaponized to target women, and from a digital distance - and potential anonymity, subject women to gendered sexual abuse.

Moreover, several data points in analyzed police cases (particularly Swedish), show that the men who had sent dickpics to others, often did it to “test the friendship”, an argument also made in some Danish examples. The impact of receiving unsolicited explicit images can be profound. It can lead to feelings of violation, disgust, and fear. For some, it can trigger anxiety or exacerbate

existing trauma. The psychological impact of this form of harassment is an area that requires more attention and understanding.

Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach. There needs to be a greater emphasis on educating individuals, especially men, about consent and respectful communication. NORDREF is meeting this need by building on the results of this

research in the Game Changer project, where material aimed at young men is being  created that identifies harmful behavior while giving examples of more constructive communication. Social media platforms and dating apps need to implement stricter policies and technological solutions to prevent the sharing of unsolicited explicit images. Legal frameworks should also recognize the non-consensual sharing of explicit images as a form of sexual harassment and provide appropriate avenues for recourse.

Furthermore, there is a need for broader cultural shifts. Society must challenge and change the norms and attitudes that underpin such behaviour. This includes dismantling the objectification of women, promoting healthy masculinity, and fostering a culture

where respect and consent are paramount.

In conclusion, the issue of unsolicited explicit images is a serious form of gender-based violence that affects women both publicly and privately. Combating it requires educational, technological, legal, and cultural changes to ensure that women can

participate in public and private spaces without fear of harassment or violation.

Denmark.

Methodology

Existing Data

As proven by digital violations experienced first hand by members of our Board, sexually

explicit material can be stolen by hackers who ransack email/social media accounts or

cloud services. Victims do not need to be famous celebrities for this to happen to them.

Sexually explicit material can be - and is increasingly - made by Generative AI technology,

as is now the case with twenty girls aged 12-17 in Spain in a high-profile case. Again, not

celebrities. As a result, it's factually incorrect that those close to the victims are the only

people who can use sexual material to harass and violate them.]

There are too few respondents confirming the gender of the perpetrator (2, male) or the

relationship to them (1 romantic, 1 professional) to note any statistical significance in

either direction. A cursory note is made that 100% of the confirmed responses indicate a

male as the perpetrator in regards to sharing sexual material without consent, which

follows initial assumptions.

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Data Collected

In Denmark the victim-based data set is collected in collaboration with Dansk Kvindesamfunds Krisecentre (National Women’s Organization’s shelters), and Stop Chikane (national organization to combat gendered harassment), via only one local unit. The questionnaires have been shared digitally and filled out on a voluntary basis, with minimal encouragement from staff. The minimal encouragement from staff was agreed as a prerequisite for the collaboration, as neither researchers nor staff wished for the primary concern of the shelters (to provide acute and immediate supportive housing for women in need) to suffer under any potentially perceived necessary reciprocation from the women.

As the research targets to support further developments of perpetrator profiles, initial research questions focused on interviewing and describing these directly. Yet as the abuse is simultaneously veiled in social taboo and societal indifference, it is ironically both a too serious and a not serious enough problem at the same time, for there to exist perpetrator profiles and databases that the researchers could utilize. Yet, the victims and the effects of the abuse and attacks are very real. This, in combination with the fact that perpetrators are less likely to cooperate with research projects such as this for obvious reasons, the researchers therefore focused on victims and their perception of the abuse and the perpetrators.

Court Data

The data from the Danish courts and police are centralized and digitized, yet not freely available to Danish citizens. The Danish Attorney General (Rigsadvokat) has provided overview statistics that have been compiled in the research group. Furthermore, the singular court cases are open to the public, but must be applied for on a per-case basis, with a motivated communication, which has resulted in a most troublesome

data-collection process for the Danish cases. The freely available Danish database for court cases, www.domsdatabasen.dk, is neither exhaustive nor complete, and holds only an unsatisfactory percentage of the full judicial history. As such, the Danish court data is not an exhaustive and complete analysis, yet it still provides valuable insights to the area on a case-by-case basis. In comparison with the Swedish database mentioned later, the Danish sadly does not offer the same comprehensive insights.

Existing Data

In Denmark digital abuse is often treated as a localized problem, often thought to only be relevant in youth circles, or for particularly exposed victim groups (politicians, celebrities etc.). As such, most collective data are focused on not general population studies but niche concerns such as mentioned above. Danish NGO, Digitalt Ansvar (Digital Responsibility), built a generalized data-set in 2020 via public polling company Epinion, which showed that out of 1.000% Danes:

- 5% were experiencing hateful comments or malicious lies regarding their person.

- 6% were experiencing sharing of private information or media (e.g. images).

- 4% were experiencing digital harassment or stalking.

- 6% were experiencing extortion, blackmail or threats.20

Danish Police have noted that in spite of a steady increase in the number of complaints about relevant digital abuse cases, there is still thought to be a very large number of unreported cases. National experts have noted that the increase in complaints does not even necessarily imply an increase in cases, but rather that more victims trust the police to “do something”21 22.

Examples of localized data would be for an example that the Danish National Crime Prevention Council (Det Kriminalpræventive Råd) found that 4% of Danish youth “often” had been shown illegally shared private photos/videos of others (that was known to be illegally obtained), 19% had experienced it “several times”, and for 17% it had happened “once”23. The same study shows that 36% of Danish primary schools have had (at least) one case of image sharing abuse within the last year, but also notes that most cases are not found

out about by teachers, as pupils often won’t share such information.

 

This researcher with country-specific knowledge notes that as digital endeavours are often thought to be predominantly for and by the youth, so is digital abuse and crimes thought to be a problem only pertaining to the same demographic.

 

One national survey (National Victum Survey, Ministry of Justice, 2022) finds, that one of the reasons for under-reporting of digital sexualized abuse and harassment (coded as “Other sexual crimes than rape”) is a fear that the police will not prosecute properly,  a feeling of personal shame, or the relation to the perpetrator.24

Another national survey (National Victum Survey key figures 2005-2022, Ministry of

Justice, 2022) finds that 0,4% of a representative population sample have received digital

threats or harassment, 0,4% have had their personal information digitally

shared/misused, and 1,3% have been subjected to “other sexualized crimes than rape”

(not necessarily digitally).25

As such, Danish public data suggests an image of a problem that is garnering concrete

and serious attention both in media and politically, but often falls between two chairs: It is

either grouped as a digital crime alongside digital theft, online fraud etc., or as a “sex

crime” in the same category as indescent exposure, rape etc., or even as an expression of

youth culture. Too seldom is it treated as the ugly result appearing in the juxtaposition of

all of the above; a gender-focused digitally committed crime and/or harassment with the

aim to harass, terrorize or threaten both the victim and their comparative demographic

group.

Data Collected

Victim Questionnaires

The data collection from victim organizations in Denmark has been tentative and

provided fewer results than hoped and expected. As the system of women’s shelters and

support systems is already extremely taxed, the research groups’ understanding is that

neither staff nor victims have had the emotional bandwidth to support the research

project, and fill out the questionnaire. The amount of answers is in no way a reflection on

a lack of severity or seriousness of the issue in Denmark, rather, it is the opposite.

Underway in the process, the women’s shelters were given a tablet by the research group,

with the explicit purpose of having the questionnaire in a readily and available format at

the shelter. This initiative did not provide any increase in responses, which stands at 31.

The research group proposes to include the answers as statistically relevant, but that their

conclusion must be aligned with, and seen in the context of, bigger national data-sets

from comparative countries in the analysis, and should not be concluded upon alone.

30 respondents have answered in Danish, and 1 in English.

All of the respondents’ answers accounted for here, have consented to have their

(anonymous) data used for the present research purpose. 29 of the respondents are women, and 2 are men.

The majority are in their 20’s (21, 68%), and the rest are teenagers (3, 9,5%), in their 30’s

(3, 9,5%) or older (4, 13%). 

Threats

16 (51,5%) respondents have been threatened with rape or grevious bodily harm, either

to themself or someone dear to them. Out of those responding positively, almost all of

the threats had been made by a man (86%).

The majority of the perpetrators were under the age of 30 (8, 57%), with fewer (5, 36%)

being older. The rest of the victims did not know the age of the perpetrator. A distinct

outlier was that 2 respondents had been harassed by perpetrators younger than 18. As the

data is collected from Danish Women’s Shelters, where users have to be of age (18 in

Denmark), this implies a decoupling of victim/perpetrator relationship, that is evident in

most other responses to the questionnaire.

Relationships between victim and perpetrator were equally shared among romantic (4,

29%), friendly (4, 29%) and none/stranger (4, 29%), whereas a few (2, 13%) had been

committed by family members.

Sexual material (received)

Fourteen (45%) respondents have been sent sexual material (either graphical or textual)

that they did not want or consent to receive. A slight majority (5, 35%) do not know if it

is the same perpetrator as for other categories, and an equal number of respondents say

that it was the same perpetrator (4, 28,5%), or that it was not (4, 28,5%) respectively.

None of the victims report that a woman sent sexual material to them, but there is an

equal share of men as perpetrators, and non-confirmed perpetrators.

An interesting figure is that none of the recipients of sexual material had a relationship to

the perpetrator. All who can confirm their relationship (5) categorize it as non-existent.

As we shall further discuss later, this posits the analysis that forwarded sexualized

material is more often than not a harassment tactic used to target victims outside of the

perpetrators immediate social circle. -Though noting that it can very well be motivated or

even organized by someone within the victims social circle. The same tendency is clearly

seen in the Icelandic data.

The preliminary conclusion that unsolicited “dickpics” are sent by strangers, supports the

notion that a non-negligible number of men send such pictures in order to impose

feelings of distress, unease and disgust with their recipients. Dickpics as such are not just

attempts at flirtation gone (very!) wrong, but also a weaponization of some men’s own

sexuality26.

Sexual material (shared w/o consent)

13 (42%) respondents have had personal sexual imagery or media shared with others

without the respondent’s consent, or have been threatened with it. More than half of

these (7, 54%) can confirm that it is the same perpetrator as in other categories, and

whilst fewer (4, 31%) do not know if it is, only 2 (15%) can deny that it is.

These numbers provide an understanding of the fact that the sharing of sexual material is

a crime and harassment strategy often done by those close to the victim, as these would

be the ones having easiest access to the material in the first place. Outliers to this theory

would be celebrities, where the general public assumes a parasocial relationship to the

celebrity and thus feel entitled to imagery should hackers or people in actual social

vicinity of them share such imagery, or to cases that garner media attention that the

victim, or at least their cases, because somewhat (in)famous for a newscycle or two.

Hate speech &
harassment.

19 (63,3%) of the respondents have received abuse and harassing language either in direct

messages (DM’s), social media communication, email or the likes. Half confirm that the

perpetrator is the same as in other categories. We make a note of the fact that women are

often targeted personally on gendered aspects of their identity or appearance (sexuality,

“sexiness”, makeup, clothing etc.) more so than men27, and therefore these numbers can

either be part of a broad stalking- and harassment-picture, or simply a sad witness to the

everyday life of a woman with a digital presence.

These findings are supported by existing literature, emphasizing that women historically

have been evaluated as per their physical appearance, and men conversely on their

behavior/performance.28

A third (3, 33%) of the confirmed responses report that a woman was doing the

harassment, whereas a majority (5, 55,6%) report a man, with the rest not knowing for

sure. The ages of the perpetrators vary but a slight majority (5, 55,6%) are under the age

of 25. The predominant relation between victim and perpetrator seems to be friendly (4,

44%), and only 2 (22%) report strangers as perpetrators. The latter fact speaks to the

theory posited above, that hate speech and harassment is simply something that happens

to most women online.

Police

reporting.

20 (65%) of the respondents did not report the abuse to any authorities, yet 5 (16%)

reported it to the police, 1 (3%) to the online platform used in the abuse, and 4 (13%) to

both police and platform. The large proportion of respondents that say they have been

targeted with digital abuse and/or harassment yet who did not report it, is in no way an

indication of the attacks not having a large effect on the victims. Rather it is indicative of

victims being afraid that the police will not be able to handle the case, either by technical

ineptitude, gendered biases internally in the police, or other reasons. Some victims also

fear further repercussions from the perpetrator if they choose to report them. These

points shall be further elaborated in the present paper.

Five (50%) of the reported cases have not reached their conclusion, as of the time of the victims’ response, yet none of the respondents say that the case outcome was that they found fitting or just. A single respondent does not know the outcome of the case.

Respondents’ comments

Lastly in the questionnaires, respondents had the option to include details or elaborations to their answers. A few are included in the present analysis, yet all are read and a part of the research team’s understanding of this problem, as it persists on a social scale. (Responses here have been anonymized and re-written to protect respondents)

“The police are too slow to do their job. I reported this in [more than six months prior to the questionnaire], and they have neither called nor written. It was like they didn’t care about what I told them. Maybe I am not the only one with such an experience with the police. He just sent the pictures to my youngest daughter. The police still haven’t reacted.”

“My partner suddenly took out their phone during sex in a somewhat public place, and even though I didn’t want it, I couldn’t tell them no. We broke up not long thereafter, and I asked him to delete all such stuff. He called me two years later while drunk, and told me that he still had the material, and although he said he hadn’t shown it to anyone, it made me feel unsafe. Maybe he has more videos than I know of.”

“My then boyfriend was the one harassing me. He pretended to be someone else.”

“A buyer whom I didn’t know got my personal information off of Facebook Marketplace, as we were buying/selling, and started using it to harass me.”

Photoroom-20240612_130125__01.png

Preliminary
Profile of
Danish
Perpetrators. 

These findings suggest a cursory national profile of perpetrators of the analyzed crimes

as falling into one of two categories, both of which are predominantly male and in or

around their 20’s.

One suggested profile of the perpetrator is that of the malicious stranger, who does not

have a direct or concrete relationship to his victim, but either engages via social media

platforms, or pure coincidence. His targeting will typically be one-of, and not transgress

abuse categories, and as such suggest a higher propensity for doing a certain thing for his

own gratitude, rather than to obtain a concrete goal. The method of abuse or harassment

is the goal of it in itself, so to speak.

The alternative profile is the relational abuser, who does have a direct (at least perceived)

relationship with the victim. This will most likely be or have been romantic in nature, but

could subsequently be professional or even platonic. Victims who indicated a relationship

to their abuser, also reported that the abuse and harassment spanned multiple categories,

and as such can be understood as tools employed in order to reach a goal, rather than

being the goal in itself. This overarching goal can either be re-kindling or reigniting a

relationship, silencing certain behavior or opinions, or to enact a form of revenge on the

victim.

Although both categories of perpetrators would be greatly mitigated by an increase in

both social awareness of gender-based violence, and the technology facilitating it, solving

the former “only” requires humans to change their actions, whereas the latter would need

for digital media platforms to change their design and legal frameworks. -Which of the

two can be achieved the fastest is sadly outside the scope of the present analysis.

We note however, that as digital platforms and GBV alike only serve a (“)higher(“) goal -

to target, abuse and deplatform women, should some technology change, perpetrators

would be highly motivated to find other platforms and digital tools that would support

their abuse. Especially perpetrators of the latter category (relational abuser) can thus only be stopped

by:

- Their own volition.

Which in cases of stalking, harassment and targeted GBV-statistics rarely

happens.

- By the police.

Which as explained above by victims, can feel like a very distant possibility.

- By obtaining their goal.

As the goal very often can be hurting the victim, this is not an advisable

strategy.

Judicial Analysis

In the analyzed timeframe for the Danish judicial data (2018-2022 both included)29 there

has been an increase in both reports and convictions for the three sections of the penal

code this report pertains to, §§ 232, 264d and 266 respectively. These are covering the

most relevant examples of digital sexual violence, to this study. Namely:

§232

Anyone who, through indecent conduct, violates modesty, is punished with a fine or imprisonment up to 2 years or, if the act is committed against a child under 15 years, with a fine or imprisonment up to 4 years.

§264d

With a fine or imprisonment up to 6 months, a person is punished who unlawfully discloses messages or images concerning another person's private affairs or otherwise images of the person in question under circumstances that can evidently be expected to be kept away from the wider public. The provision also applies where the message or image pertains to a deceased person.

Subsection 2. If there are particularly aggravating circumstances, considering the nature and extent of the information or disclosure, or the number of affected individuals, the penalty can increase to imprisonment up to 3 years.

§266

Anyone who, in a manner likely to induce serious fear for one's own or another's life, health, or welfare, threatens to commit a criminal act, is punished with a fine or imprisonment up to 2 years.

Reports – Total

Judicial Analysis
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.11.13.png

Convictions – Total

Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.11.34.png
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.30.09.png
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.30.27.png
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.34.11.png
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.36.12.png
Screenshot 2024-05-21 at 17.37.00.png

The comparatively high conviction rate of gendered violence bears evidence that once

reported these crimes are taken seriously, and to a somewhat satisfactory degree lead to a

conviction in Denmark. As evidenced by the questionnaires this can be a challenge

though. Anecdotal and case-based narratives from Danish press shows that a large

number of especially women feel turned away by local police, when initially wanting to

report gendered crimes (both the paragraphs mentioned in the present analysis, and rape,

domestic violence and more).303132 A large number of victims cite expected “victim

blaming” as the reason for giving up on any initial reporting, thus omitting themselves

from the emotional labor and distress of convincing someone of their victimhood.

The umbrella effect.

Overall the data suggest a steady increase in reports and percentile convictions. The year 2019 seems to be an outlier in quantitative metrics, as there is both a sharp increase 2018-2019, and a less but still significant decrease 2019-2020, particularly §264d. One possible solution for this outlier-effect of 2019 could be that given Denmark’s relatively small size, one single case could offset any linear expectancies of the statistics.

In 2018 one of the biggest cases of digital sexual abuse aired in Denmark, and the convictions carried well into 2019 (and 2020 subsequently). “The Umbrella Case33” was a year-long case and trial wherein two victims (1 male and 1 female, both aged 15) in 2015 had videos of a sexual encounter at a party shared without their consent. Danish Police

cooperated with Europol, Facebook (now Meta) and other parties to unravel all of the pathways the video had been shared through. In the end, the police ended up charging more than 1.000 young people in Denmark per §264d, and obtained convictions in most cases. Comparative to the statistics above, such singular but monumental cases can risk skewing data sets, as is expected to be the case presently.

Canal Cruise

Danish Police Data

Supplementary Danish Perspectives

The police data requested was requested from Anklagemyndigheden (Public Attorney),

who specified the requested number of case files, to further be requested in effect from

regional police offices. Some cases were available via the Danish Court Digitization

Project (Domsdatabasen.dk), and were collected per responding case numbers from the

initial overview from Anklagemyndigheden.

Sadly, only a few of Denmark’s regional police were forthcoming in regards to requested

case files. An ongoing conversation to collect and analyze more case files is, as per the

day of publication, still underway, and will be attached separately.

Some of the declines were based on protection of those involved in the cases - both

perpetrators and victims. This in spite of a written testimony that no personal

information, personally referring information or the like, would be shared or publicized.

As is, the case files have informed the rest of the analysis and provide unique perspectives

as to the nature, motivation and possible prevention of any such future abuse and crime.

The preliminarily attained data shows:

- More than 90% male perpetrators, between the ages of 16 and 54.

- Harassment done via many different platforms, although Snapchat is prevalent in

regards to both threats and sexual harassment.

- The relationship between perpetrator and victim is more often than not romantic,

or has been. Both fully consummated relationships, past and present, and some

with only one party being interested in pursuing it, where the motivation would

then often be vengeance.

- Most cases with a guilty conviction have a relatively mild sentencing, mostly

suspended sentencing.

- Most cases are in the system for an extremely long time, several over two years.

Supplementary perspectives

The research group has prioritized access to former Danish surveys and analysis on

comparative topics, namely The Angry Internet (Mogensen & Rand, Center for Digital

Youth Care, 2020), and data from Vi Kommer og Dræber Dig (Mogensen, on behalf of

LAUD TV, 2022).

The Angry Internet

The Angry Internet sought to identify and understand the motivations, extent and

ideology of online misogyny from international digital forums, but specific to Nordic

users. The results and the full study was published by Center for Digital Youth Care in

2020, and is freely available online34.

In order to assess the scope of the issue of online misogyny in the Nordic countries, data

was gathered both qualitatively and quantitatively through multiple methods: field

observations, interviews with experts, quantitative extent analysis (Twitter, 4Chan &

(sub)Reddits), focus groups, and expert advisory groups.

One of the data sets from the study identifies the prevalence and nature of some of the

misogynistic phrases used on the forums. The authors note that the users employ such 

language both from a misogynistic perspective - to belittle and vilify women, but also to

“prove allegiance” to the in-group.

Broadly the data suggests that the by far most used category of derogatory terminology

about women is sexualized content. Phrases and words depicting women (both

individuals and as a gender) as overly promiscuous (which internally to such forums is

understood as being very bad), or not promiscuous enough (which, ironically is

understood as equally bad) are used more than any other category.

Generally there is a mindset of “punishing” or shaming women for their sexuality (or lack

thereof), and attaining and subsequent sharing of their intimate media content, is an oft

discussed and much lauded strategy for such. Either to reaffirm the “fact” that “women are

too slutty, and they shouldn’t be!” or to enforce a perspective of “she isn’t acting slutty enough, we

deserve her sluttiness!”.

In the analyzed data, women are on a whole objectified and treated as something the

forum users have a right to, or should be “awarded” if societal duties (education, job,

values) are satisfactory. As such, the womens’ sexuality becomes a currency which the

users can appraise and manipulate by (trying to) control how often it is used.

This data lends credence to the earlier suggested perpetrator profile of the malicious

stranger, as the forum users would very seldomly know the women in question, but rather

randomly have seen their social media profiles, or come in contact with their identity

through different means. Some would also target celebrities in a parasocial

misunderstanding of having a “right” to their sexuality.

A counter narrative

In opposition to the above proposed theory of digitally enabled malicious strangers, would

be one of perpetrators already with an established relationship, or means of

communication, with their victim then choosing to employ digital means to harass said

victim. As the gathered evidence in the present report suggests, a substantial amount of

the analyzed verdicts support this profile, as the partners or romantically interested

individuals, make up the majority of the perpetrators across all three countries. -Even if

one excludes data from shelters, where victims exclusively have an established

relationship with at least one of their perpetrators, it stands to reason that digitalization of

harassment is at least sometimes a conscious strategy, and not only an opportunistic one.

As no substantial data from perpetrators on their motivations exists, we can only posit

guesses as to the reason for digitizing harassment as suggested above. As an

overwhelming majority of the responses of the questionnaire for the present projects

indicate, digital harassment is seldom met with satisfactory response from neither 

platforms nor local police. To a large degree, it is therefore a crime that many - both

victims and perpetrators - think to be done without consequence for the perpetrator.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable albeit impossible to prove, to think, that some

perpetrators choose digital means of harassment to inflict harm on their victim, as they

risk very few repercussions this way - compared to physical harassment and violence.

The conviction rates included earlier are higher in digital cases than in physical cases,

which posits that cases that do go to trial are duly tried. The victims’ dissatisfaction with

the case handling thus suggests that many cases are not investigated properly, and

therefore never see trial. Only those that come with very strong evidence, or have a

“lucky” pick of investigator, do.

Vi kommer og dræber dig!

In the TV-series, Vi kommer og dræber dig! (We’re going to kill you!), several Danish women

(politicians, cultural figures etc.), shared their story of being targeted with gendered abuse.

Most of the content targeting the women was sexualized in nature, and although the

series focused on finding the specific perpetrators, both a qualitative and a quantitative

approach to different (smaller) sets of data was analyzed by the host and other experts.

In one instance, a very broad selection of Danish politicians and media personalities was

asked to share any imagery, texts or the likes they had received, because of their public

persona. A large number of women (no men) had received images of strangers’ genitalia

(exclusively from men). The text accompanying these images was analyzed, and provided

a few interesting points:

None of the image senders knew their victims; all of the text was either greetings (“Hello.

What do you think of this one?”), or sexual questions (“I have this much penis. Do you want to have

sex?” or “Is this enough penis for you to want to have sex with me?”), suggesting that those

sending unsolicited dick-pics seldom know their victim. -Most likely, one could note,

because such image-based communication would instantly end any existing relation.

Another subset of data analyzed for ‘Vi kommer og dræber dig!’, was texts (social media,

emails, notes etc.) the same general group of recipients as above had received, though

noting that a select subset hereof received more and more specific than others. These

texts included threats to the recipients themselves, but also their families, social circles,

organizations etc. The initial analysis found that most of the texts were connected and

were all but proven to stem from the same (group of) perpetrators via linguistic and

stylistic analysis. 

These threats were also accompanied by derogatory and gendered abusive terminology

and phrasings, which also lend evidence to supporting a profile of the perpetrator(s).

Namely, it was evident that the focal points included the victims’:

- Perceived “sexiness”

- Sexuality (be it either too overt, too distant (if i.e. homosexual)

- Age (either too old to “deserve” spotlight, or too young to be taken serious)

- Education level (either too high “to understand the real world”, or too low to

understand the “relevant” theories)

- Race (if the women were anything but 100% caucasian this was a derogatory

point)

This subset of the data and perpetrators are much more aligned with the (parasocial

subset of the) relational abuser profile, mentioned earlier. As there is not a relation from the

victim to the perpetrator, yet a perceived or imagined one from the perpetrator to the

victim, the parasocial aspect is important to include. This is not a case of vindictive abuse

from a spurned lover, although it might feel as such to the perpetrator.

During the initial analysis for ‘Vi kommer og dræber dig’, the working theory was that the

motivation for the abuse primarily was political, as the victims to varying degrees were

engaged in egalitarian work or activism in Denmark, and that the hate speech targeting

them more often than not had extremely gendered or referential connotations.

It is proven several times over, that ‘gender equality’ or ‘racial equality’ are two of the

most “explosive” topics for women and minorities to work in, with regards to receiving

hate speech, abuse or being targeted through other malicious digital activity35.

Notes

It should be of no surprise to any interested parties of this research, that digital

developments in general move faster than bureaucracy. Particularly in the later years

where social media platforms have spearheaded mind-boggling technical leaps and

bounds, whereas the judicial system in Denmark more or less have stayed the same.

Isolated this is not a dangerous or harmful asynchronicity, yet it underlines a fundamental

difficulty in segmenting and analyzing data from the Danish system: Often, one simply

does not know what a given penal code is being used for.

the angry internet.jpg

Gendered Violence and Harassment is Not Taken Seriously

In Denmark, several cases and situations highlight issues related to gendered harassment

not being taken seriously, reflecting deeper societal challenges in addressing gender

equality and violence.

The Nordic Paradox: Denmark, despite its high ranking in gender equality, faces

significant issues with gender violence. Danish women have reported the highest levels of

physical, sexual, and psychological violence in the EU. In 2014, the EU’s Fundamental

Rights Agency revealed that 52% of Danish women experienced physical and/or sexual

violence since the age of 15, the highest in the EU. The Danish media initially ignored

and even rejected these findings, attempting to close the debate on the issue .36

Challenges in the Military: In the Danish army, there have been issues of harassment

faced by women. The consensus culture in Danish society, which often justifies actions

deemed "well-intentioned," leads to a tolerance of sexual harassment in some cases. This

reflects a broader issue where the evolution of customs and attitudes towards gender

equality is lagging behind legal advancements .37

Legal and Governmental Responses: Efforts have been made to address these issues,

including the establishment of a Gender Equality Office in the Faroe Islands in 2019 and

amendments to the penal code regarding sexual assault. Denmark has also passed a new

rape law based on the criterion of consent. However, challenges remain in ensuring

employer responsibility in cases of sexual harassment and in effectively addressing online

harassment against women .38

#MeToo Movement's Influence: The #MeToo movement has been significant in

Denmark, with widespread debate since 2017 - and the reinvigoration in 2020. The

Danish Institute for Human Rights has urged the government to take more

comprehensive measures to hold employers accountable for sexual harassment, not only

by executives but also by colleagues and customers .39

Domestic Violence is prevalent in Denmark: A research project in forensic medicine

from 2019, shows that more than 50% of femicides in Denmark are committed by the

partner. Over 25 years, 300 of 536 femicides were committed by the respective partners.

Comparatively, only 79 out of a total 881 men were killed by their respective partners.

(Most prevalent male relation was gangs).40 Data from the Danish Ministry of Justice

show that almost 21% of all killings in Denmark 2017-2021, are partner killings, almost

exclusively with female victims. In a majority of the cases, the murder is prefaced by

physical violence, different forms of harassment or stalking41. This further establishes the

present report as a potentially preventive tool for future work.

National sources:

www.straffelov.dk

www.domsdatabasen.dk

www.danskedomstole.dk

37

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Iceland

Icelandic Perspective on Research Questions.

Existing data

The National Commissioner for the Icelandic Police annually commissions an annual

survey measuring the prevalence of violence in Icelandic society and trust to the police.

From the survey exploring the state of play in 2021, just under 1% of the population had

been victim of image based sexual abuse, and 2,1% had been threatened to have their

intimate images disclosed without consent. The majority of the victims were women in

the age of 18 – 35. When asked about their relationship to the perpetrator, nearly 40% of

the cases involved former spouse, 37,5% a person the victim had only had sexually

intimate relations with online, 30% had had sexual relations with the victim but did not

have a friendship or another form of social connection with the perpetrator and in 22%

of the cases the perpetrator was friends with the victim. Only 15% of the cases involved a

perpetrator that was a stranger or unknown to the victim. The violation had much or

severe impact on 74% of the victims, compared to 59% of those threatened with image

based sexual abuse.42

Data collected

Victim Reports

Interviewing perpetrators comes with significant restraints. To find interviewees there

would have had to have been an access point. During the time of the project

development the only program providing support and rehabilitation for perpetrators of

sexual abuse was available for young offenders as a part of the Child Protection Services.

The ethical and practical challenges involved in accessing this group were deemed too

high for this project. Further, the dataset would have been impacted by the fact that the

three comparative countries do not have a uniform rehabilitation program for the young

offenders and there would be a risk of contamination. At the time, there were no

rehabilitation programs available for adult perpetrators in Iceland, although this has been

made available since 2022.43

The data set from victims is collected in collaboration with three domestic partners:

Stígamót,44 the leading support centre for victims of sexual abuse in Iceland, the womens

shelter Kvennaathvarfið45 and the family justice center Bjarkarhlíð.46 All partners have a 

strong profile as a place for victims of abuse to find support and advice. Even if the

Bjarkarhlíð family justice center has a police officer on site, victims do not have to press

charges and can seek support and advice regarding their cases without any pressure to

lodge a formal complaint or press criminal charges.

The three organizations have different mandates and target audiences while all are

focused on supporting victims of sexual and gender-based abuse. By partnering with all

three organizations, the data collection should mirror victims that have different

pathways into the support system available to them, and create a dataset that is

measurable against the data from the formal criminal justice system.

The information from victims was gathered through questionnaires presented by the staff

of the partners as a form of their intake procedure. The questionnaires were distributed

to the partners on paper by the researcher, and were also made available online through

Google forms. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, particularly the surge related to the

Omicron variant, the domestic partners of Stígamót, Kvennaathvarfið and Bjarkarhlíð

paused their in-person services and offered services via telephone and internet only for a

few months in late 2021 to early 2022. This caused a delay, so the data collection that was

supposed to start on January 1st 2022 started at the end of the month instead. To make

up for it, the data collection was extended through January 2023 instead, ensuring a 12

month collection period as planned. The questions in the questionnaire described the

issues pertaining to the relevant legal provisions without a direct mention of the Penal

Code.

The uptake of responses started slowly and roughly half way through the data collection

period, in September 2022, the partners were provided with tablets in the hope that filling

out a digital questionnaire would be a more attractive and accessible way for clients to

partake in the research than filling out a paper form. Also, it solved privacy and safety

issues, because creating a protocol around the filing and storage of filled-out paper

questionnaires had proven to be a challenge. Furthermore, a presentation was given to

the staff of all three shelters, educating them on gendered forms of digital abuse and how

it belongs to the continuum of gender-based violence. Following this, the uptake of the

questionnaire improved significantly.

Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 18.28.41.png

In total there were 262 answers provided. In addition, four forms were opened but not

filled out. The respondents age was from 17 - 70 and the overwhelming majority were

women. The largest number of responses came through Stígamót, Center for Survivors

of Sexual Violence, 112 in total. Both Stígamót and Bjarkarhlíð offer their services to all

genders, while Kvennaathvarfið is only available to women.

Totals

The total number of respondents was 266, with 246 women, 12 men, and 4 non-binary.

The age of respondents varying from 17 to 70, with a relevant declining prevalence

peaking around 20 years of age.

41

Totals

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More than half of the Icelandic respondents have received threats to their own health,

those closest to them, or their belongings:

Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 18.48.14.png

Out of the 138 positive responses, 116 indicate that a man threatened them, 13 by a

woman and 1 by a non-binary, whereas the rest (8) do not know.

The most prevalent age group of perpetrators are the 18-25 year olds (36), followed by

31-40 and 41-50 (both 23), and 26-30 (22), whereas the 51-60 year olds only account for

relatively few of the perpetrators (14).

Thus, both in regards to victims and perpetrators, we notice a downward trends from a

peak in the early 20’s.

Many victims did not know exactly who the perpetrator was, but out of those who did

(128), a majority had been targeted by a former or current partner (75), some by a friend

or social acquaintance (20), fewer by strangers (18) and family members, including

step-family (15).

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A substantial overweight (201 of 267) of the total respondents have received sexual

imagery or texts without requesting or consenting to receive such.

Out of these 201, 74 have been digitally abused or targeted otherwise by the same

perpetrator. 98 are sure they have not, and 25 are not sure.

96 received such content from male perpetrators, whilst only 3 received such from

women, and only 1 from a non-binary person. The rest did not answer this question.

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Again, a significant number of the digital image abuse is done by younger men, with a

sharp decline concerning those from 50 and older.

An overwhelming amount of this kind of digital abuse was done by strangers. Out of 98

who knew the relation to the abuser, 57 of the cases were done by strangers, 20 by friends

or acquaintances, 11 by coworkers (incl. education and projects), only 8 by former or

current romantic partners, and 2 by other categories (professional relations - teacher,

police etc.)

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Out of 263 respondents, 25% (66) have had their own sexual imagery shared without

consent, and 13% (34) have been threatened with it. From a total of 110 for whom this

kind of digital abuse has been relevant, only 23 are sure that the perpetrator has not

committed other digital abuse against them. 61 are sure that the perpetrator has done so,

and 13 are unsure. Out of those who know, almost all of these attacks or threats thereof,

were done by a man (23), and only 1 by a woman.

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Again, a significant number of the digital image abuse is done by younger men, with a sharp decline the older the perpetrator gets. Most such abuse was done by current or former romantic partners (12 out of 24 known relationships), some by friends (5), fewer by strangers (4), and only 2 by colleagues, where a single one (1) was carried out by a professional relation (police, teacher etc.).

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Almost two thirds (161) of the total (257) respondents did not report the transgressions

and abuse to the police. 32 reported it to the police, and few either reported it to both the

platform and the police (6), or only to the platform (4). For 50 respondent police wasn’t

relevant (typically because of vague or irrelevant penal codes), and 4 declined to answer.

Out of those that did report it to either the police or the platform, the outcomes were as

follow:

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It is of note, that very few (6 out of 42) respondents feel that their report concluded in a

fair handling and result for the perpetrator.

Of miscellaneous notes from the respondents, some were:

“Those who did this don’t think it was wrong.”

“I have received a lot of violence online, both sexual and non-sexual, from people I've known, been acquaintances, and people I've never met. It started as soon as I started using the internet as a teenager. Unsolicited and unwelcome nudges from grown men and women. Often people my parents' age, older and younger. I am neuter but am AFAB (ASSIGNED FEMALE AT BIRTH) Born female. I have not been threatened that my photos would be published, but former partners who abused me and I do not trust and are afraid of me. I can't believe they have been deleted. I also know many people who have illegally published pictures of underage and overage people and I have seen people hide pictures of people that I know on an Icelandic site that is designed to upload pictures of people when others ask for them and pictures of minors are often requested but it is not possible to track people on this site as the site encrypts and hides names, locations and anything that could lead to people being found and punished.

There was also a stranger who sent me a snap that he was going to rape me and would like my mom to watch.”

“The violence was very comprehensive and involved online seduction, sexual harassment, sexual coercion, emotional abuse and more. I never met the man who abused me in person.”

“Not enough was done.”

 

“For a while when I was younger around 16-18 there were used bikini pictures of girls my age that were photoshopped to look like nudes and spread around the internet...I'm one of those girls that was shared.”

“There are a lot of guys sending nudity/cock pics out of the blue.”

 

“This has caused a lot of anxiety, sadness and always being on the lookout and looking around.”

“It's good that there is an increased awareness of digital violence.”

“A lot about occupational violence. Not much talked about and hard to get help for, especially as a woman. Most of my friends have experienced sexual content being sent to them and girls were not taught that it is not okay and that it is violence.

Some of the reported violence occurred through video games (more than one manifestation of functional violence).

More than one perpetrator in most questions, it would have been nice to have a choice of more than one. (for example with unsolicited nude photos). Haven't heard of any girls who haven't been sent unsolicited nudes. There was no online safety education for my age group.”

“This is difficult for women, as they are not taken seriously in the judicial system.”

 

“I have received unsolicited nude photos from men of all ages more times than I can count.”

 

"I am a man and I have experienced both prejudice and lack of understanding from people who have taken my case, the standard image is that men use violence, not women!”

 

“My phone has been taken from me and I have been shown a penis picture that was taken on it when it was returned. (police harassed me over the phone when I first reported a perpetrator, named me, retracted my story and told my parents not to stand by me, etc. - this was on phone calls)

Only one perpetrator is assumed, often there are many more”

Threats
Sexual Harassment
Image-based Abuse
Gendered Hate Speech

Discussion About the Victim Reported Data.

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The victim’s reports show the vast majority of victims are female and in nearly all cases,

the perpetrators are male. This finding may be affected by where the data was collected,

as the Women's Shelter is not open to adult male victims. On the other hand, both

Stígamót and Bjarkarhlíð offer their services to people of all genders. The gendered

picture the findings paint matches other data on digital- and other forms of GBV both

on a domestic and global scale.

The victim data analysis shows that the different forms of abuse have different types of

perpetrators and that their relationship to the victims seems to impact the form of abuse

reported.

Threats

Some half of respondents have been victims of threats. Drawing on the victims responses

the profile of the perpetrator of online threats online is male, aged 18 – 50 years, but

often is a minor under the age of 18. He threatens women that he has been in a romantic

relationship with or a woman that considers him a friend or an acquaintance. In the data

collected from Bjarkarhlíð Family Justice Center, nearly 90% of the respondents had a

personal or romantic relationship with the perpetrator.

Sexual Harassment

75% of the responders have been exposed to digital forms of sexual harassment. The

harasser is male, and hardly ever knows the women he is sending the sexual images or

texts to. The victims assess him to be in the age bracket of 18 – 50 years old. In the data

collected from Bjarkarhlíð Family Justice Center, nearly 60% of the respondents that had

been exposed to digital forms of sexual harassment did not have any relationship to the

perpetrator.

Sexual Privacy/Image-based Abuse

Just under half of the respondents have been victim of image based sexual abuse, and

some 12% have been threatened to have their images shared without consent. The

perpetrator is male and usually in the age bracket of 18 – 40 years. In a majority of

instances, he will have had a romantic relationship with the woman he is victimizing. The

data from the Kvennaathvarfið Women's Shelter shows that the perpetrator has a

personal or romantic relationship with the victim in most cases, and that this is not the

only form of digital abuse the victim has suffered from the perpetrator in question.

Abusive Discourse/Gendered Hate Speech

Some 60% of respondents have experienced this. The perpetrator is male, under the age

of 40 and is either friendly with the woman or has no connection to her at all.

When the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim has been close, either

romantic, friendly or family, the digital abuse is more likely to take the form of threats or

violations of sexual privacy through sharing of intimate images without consent. The

intimate nature of the violations can be a reflection of the relationship between the

parties, but it also creates an elevated notion of harm for the victim as there is not only

an invasion and violation of their rights, but also of trust that may have been established

in their relationship with the perpetrator.

When the perpetrator is a stranger or an acquaintance, the digital abuse is more likely to

take the form of unwanted sexual communication, such as sending pictures of male

genitalia or pornographic images, digital sexual harassment and misogynist speech. This

may be a reflection of a culturally casual, or normalized, attitude towards sexual

harassment of women in the public sphere that McGlynn et. al. describe as a societal

harm inflicted by misogyny.47

Irrespective of the nature of the digital abuse, the victims share a commonality of

refraining from reporting the abuse to the police or relevant platforms. Of the ones

responding to the questionnaire through Stígamót, 11,6% seek formal assistance.

Police Data

From 2021 the National Commissioner for the Icelandic Police has quarterly published

data about sexual violence and abuse cases reported to the police, as well as data about

intimate partner violence.48 The data reflects the types of violations, the gender and the

age of victims and perpetrators. The data for the first half of 2023 indicates a rise in

digital sexual abuse, and that more victims in the 51+ age bracket are reporting violations

than before.49 Women are victims in the vast majority of violations classified as likely to

be digital sexual abuse, and men are perpetrators. From 2021 to 2023 there is a sharp

decline in reported cases of violations of Art. 209 regarding decency, but that is likely

explained with the changes to the legal framework, when in 2021 a specific provision

aimed at protecting sexual privacy was introduced.50 The white paper underpinning the

legislative amendments on sexual privacy includes a judicial case analysis that points to

this development described in the police statistics as the introduction of a new legal

provision would lead to fewer cases being tested under the decency clause.51

Summarizing the existing data available in Iceland there are strong similarities in their

findings, indicating a gendered picture of victims and partly perpetrators of digital forms

of gender-based abuse. The vast majority of the victims are female, and to the extent that

the perpetrator is known, the majority of them are male. In cases of digital forms of

sexual abuse, or violations of women’s sexual privacy, they have had a sexual, romantic or

friendly relations with their perpetrator in 85% of the cases.

The police data requested for this research particularly was requested from the statistical

unit of the National Commissioner for the Icelandic Police through direct collection of 

the centralized police data system (LÖKE). This includes all cases relating to the five

penal code clauses applied to digital gendered abuse irrespective of the nature of the case.

Due to the police guidelines for logging cases in the system, the results included both

formal and informal complaints, bookings and note verbales resulting in a very large

dataset of over 5600 cases. Further, the dataset did not allow for a distinction of cases of

a digital nature and other cases that do not have a digital component, nor for a gendered

disaggregation leading to a mass of cases without any connection to the research

framework being included in the dataset. In order to analyze the data, each case would

have had to be accessed and evaluated manually in the police system, and logged in a

separate datasheet if relevant to the research. Due to the sheer amount of data, there was

not an opportunity to examine all of the cases manually. Thus the data analysis was

conducted with a randomized sample from the full dataset of cases regarding the same

clauses of the penal code addressed in the judicial analysis of the research.

Out of the 5681 cases found in the official police data program, 57 cases were randomly

selected and examined. The timeframe of the dataset was 1 January 2017 - 1 October

2023. Out of the 57 cases examined 10 had a digital aspect relating to the forms of abuse

examined. The perpetrator was male in all of the cases, and the victim was female in all

but one case. In two cases there were more than one female victims. In all cases there was

a personal relationship between the parties, either romantic or family relations, and 4 out

of 10 revolved around a breakup of a romantic relationship between the parties.

Judicial Analysis

The judicial analysis builds on cases available through the public court findings database

available online.52 While the general rule is that all judicial findings in Iceland shall be

published, the Judicial Administration rules on public access to court findings allow for

exceptions to this, in line with constitutional protection of rights to privacy. Further, the

rules allow for district courts to assess and decide, both on a categorical and case-by-case

basis, to not publish a court finding online.53 During data collection for the judicial

analysis, the researcher requested access to all findings involving the relevant clauses from

registrars of all the Icelandic district courts. One out of nine District Courts responded

positively and after removing all personally identifiable and referrable information, made

the relevant findings available. In light of this, the judicial analysis does not include an

exhaustive analysis of the Icelandic case law.

The acts described under the four classifications derived from the victim analysis can all

be applied to cases of intimate partner violence under Art. 218b. Abusive

discourse/misogyny is not addressed in the general penal code, thus no provision

specifically refers to the acts. There is however well established case law that highlights

that in the context of domestic abuse this will be considered under the domestic abuse

provision in Art. 218b. Further, there are examples from court findings where abusive

gendered discourse is qualified under Art. 209 on decency. Thus, the judicial analysis is

focused around the relevant articles in the General Penal Code.

Screenshot 2024-06-06 at 20.32_edited.jp

A key finding throughout the police data is that there is an almost exclusive male perpetrator to female victim-perspective in the cases. Furthermore, there is an extremely high conviction rate, when the cases reach court.Addendum 1 contains per code-specified data.Discussion About Judicial AnalysisThe judicial data is in line with other data on sexual violence and digital abuse, the perpetrators are men and the victims are women. Different forms of violations are perpetrated depending on the nature of the relationship between the parties, both in the legal response and framing, as well in the normative understanding. The relationship between the parties has a substantial impact on both triggering a response from the legal system as well as the nature of the protection afforded by the law. This is particularly evident in the case of child victims of adult perpetrators and within the framing of domestic violence.

 

Threats and violations of sexual privacy are more related to intimate or romantic relationships, while indecency and sexual harassment have a less targeted nature with less connection between the parties. The conviction rate is noteworthy. In all cases examined, there was a full or partial conviction regarding the acts of online abuse.

 

Interestingly, all three sources of data collected in Iceland; from the victim questionnaires to the judicial findings and the police data, reveal the same pattern when it comes to the relationship between the perpetrator and his victim(s). Threats and violations of sexualprivacy are most often committed by a partner or ex-partner of the victim. Acts of sexual harassment, gendered slurs and indecency on the other hand are more often committed by someone less known to the victim or a perfect stranger, revealing that these crimes are less targeted in their nature.

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Sweden

Vicim Survivor Reports.

There were only 9 + 3 (digital) answers collected, despite the hard work to collect

answers from several women’s shelters. The small amount doesn’t give any results that are

generalizable, but can be read as an example of the situation for a few Swedish women

that have been exposed to gender-based online violence.

The questionnaire was framed around two of the four crimes, i.e. sexual harassment in

two versions (dick pics or other nude images and various forms of sexually degrading

name-calling (slut, whore etc.) and unlawful threats. Unlawful breach of privacy was not

included in the questionnaire, although the unlawful threat of spreading nude images etc.

was.

One of the participants had not been subject to any of the forms of online violence we

had included in the survey. A majority had been targeted by more than one, often three of

the types of crimes included. In one case there were different perpetrators for the crimes,

but the rest of the victims/survivors answered that the same perpetrator committed all

types of crimes. Nota bene that the women’s shelter aims to help and protect women that

are exposed to violence (intimate partner violence) and this affects the answers about the

digital violence targeting these women.

The rest of the persons that reported that they had been targeted by online gender-based

violence, 78 % (7) of them were known to the victim/survivor and all of them were male,

and 22 % (2) were strangers.

Out of the known perpetrators, about 70% were engaged with the victim/survivor in a

romantic relationship, 14% were another family member and 14% were colleagues or

schoolmates. In 60% of cases where the perpetrator was the victim’s partner (romantic

relation), he exposed her to all three crimes included in the survey, whereas in 40% of

cases, he committed two out of three crimes against his partner. All of them included

unlawful threats.

Police data.

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We requested 150 police reports, with accompanying interviews/hearings with the

victim/survivor and the suspects, in cases that were closed (without prosecution). All of

the material pertained to the offences of 1) unlawful threats, 2) sexual harassment and 3)

unlawful breach of privacy. We requested 50 reports for each offense, committed in the

same geographical area covered by the three courts of appeal we used as a basis for court

verdicts, see below under section 5.2.3. regarding the limitations in time – we included

crimes committed during the years 2018-2022.

As a first step, the police that helped us to collect the reports searched for reports on the

following crime codes:

Olaga hot: 9432, 9433, 9434, 9435

Sexuellt ofredande: 9691, 9692, 9693, 9694

Olaga integritetsintrång: 9448, 9449, 9450, 9451

The first search for unlawful breach of privacy with the above mentioned crime codes

were combined with the words “video”, “image” “photo/photography” [”video, film,

bild, foto/fotografi”] and resulted in over 1000 reports. A new search adding the words

“nude”, “naked”, “intercourse” and “sex”, [”naken, nakna, samlag, sex” ] resulted in

about 800 reports. An attempt was made to narrow down the amount of reports by a

new search with the following words: “hämndporr” [revenge porn] and “revenge”. This

resulted in only 4 matches. As a second step, instead, the police that assisted us went

through the cases manually to find the reports that included hearings with the suspect

and the victim/survivor. We received 50 reports.

The police systems could only identify reports from 2019-2022, and we used the

following words to find relevant reports: “hämndporr” [revenge porn] “dick pics”, “olaga

hot om sexuellt våld eller kränkning” [unlawful threat of sexual violence or

violation/insult]. The reports are not complete with hearings in all cases.

When searching for olaga hot [unlawful threat]: threats of sexual violence or violations,

the following words were used: (knulla” [fuck], “våldta” [rape (verb)], “våldtäkt” [rape]

(offence)) – we received 50 reports.

When searching for sexuellt ofredande [sexual harassment]: threats of sexual violence or

violations, the following words were used: dick pics. We received 41 reports, as that is

what was found.

Going through the data, there were a few police reports that are not included in the

analysis, as some were not committed online, or constituted another crime than the one

included, or were committed against a minor [under the age of 15].

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Results

Nota bene – police reports are only representing what has been reported to the police as

crimes. These are not necessarily stating facts or real events.

Below is a table of statistics from all the police reports included in this study. The next

sections are divided in three, one for each offense, with a description of the results in

sum followed by a separate table with statistics for each crime.

The table shows that the offender of online sexual violence, in terms of the three

offences identified, is male (at least 8/10) and is in the vast majority of the cases between

20 and 40 years old. The offender of unlawful breach of privacy, i.e. sharing nude pictures

of someone without consent is younger, including also a large group under 20 years.

Often the offender of unlawful threat and unlawful breach of privacy [sharing nude

pictures of someone without consent] is a former partner (20-50+ %) and the offense is

quite often taking place during or after a separation (20-40 %). But he is also relatively

often the victim/survivor’s current partner or acquaintance, and it happens in a conflict

sparked by jealousy. Not so seldom the threats are taking place due to economical

disputes, or as a response from the perpetrator after being dismissed by the victim when

having expressed some kind of interest in her. Sexual harassment, on the other hand, is

most often committed by a stranger or someone the victim/survivor just met on a dating

app (70 %). The most common situation for sending dick pics are just in the middle of a

conversation (30 %) or without any previous contact (+50%).

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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is most often perpetrated in the form of sending unwanted dick pics

[picture of the penis] or nude images or movies with sexual content to the

victim/survivor. The majority of known perpetrators are male, circa 8 of 10. The

perpetrators are relatively young, between 20-50 years old with an overrepresentation of

under 40 year-olds, very few are older. That said, there is a lack of knowledge about a

large group of the perpetrators reported to the police.

The relations between perpetrator and victim varies, the largest group is actually strangers

or unknown when reporting to the police (50+%). The second largest group comprises

people that got in contact with the victim through dating apps (17,5%) and acquaintances

come in third place (15%). The rest are ex-partners, schoolmates (current and former),

clients at work and neighbors.

The situation in which the offender decides to send dick pics or other images or movies

with sexual content is most often in the middle of a casual chat conversation, with no

previous notice. In other cases, it happens without any previous contact at all, the

offender just sends the image/movie. Other situations that can precede the offense is

when the offender possibly got offended in some way, as part of harassment at work,

when the victim replies to/publishes a sales advert on a social media platform

(marketplace at Facebook), by ex-partners or as a reaction to someone else’s dick pic.

The crimes were most commonly committed via Snapchat and Facebook/Messenger,

followed by regular messages (SMS) on mobile phones, Instagram, WhatsApp and email.

In some cases there is no information about the platform in the report.

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Unlawful Threats

The majority of perpetrators are male [91%], but there are also females among them

[10%]. Most of them committed the crime in relation to complicated

relationships/break-ups/jealousy.

The perpetrators represent all ages from 20-50, with an overrepresentation of under 40

year-olds. Also, several perpetrators are unknown, or their age is unknown.

The relations between perpetrator and victim vary, the largest group is ex-partner

(ranging from short relationships to many years of marriage). Other relations are also

represented, such as partners of former partners, schoolmates and former schoolmates,

other acquaintances (through common friends, social life, business et cetera), friends and

unknown or strangers.

The situation in which the offenses occurred included separation, jealousy, other

conflicts, and several of them involved money transactions in different ways. In addition,

several cases involved the perpetrator having shown an interest in the victim, who

dismissed him. A small part includes no known or understandable motive for the offense

at all. Finally, some include situations where the victim has reported the perpetrator for

previous crimes.

The crimes were largely committed via Facebook/Messenger and regular messages (SMS)

on mobile phones, followed by Instagram, Snapchat and email. In a few cases, the crime

was committed on Azar, in the voice chat of a video game, on Skype and on WhatsApp.

Relatively often, the unlawful threats were combined with other forms of repeated sexual

harassment. Some of these repeated harassments were taking place during a long period

of time.

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Unlawful Breach of Privacy

The majority of perpetrators for the crime of unlawful breach of privacy [sharing images

or movies with sexual content of someone without their consent] are male (about 8/10),

but there are also females among them (2/10). This group of perpetrators is the

youngest, represented mainly by 20-40 year-olds, although a few are as old as 70. A few

perpetrators are unknown, or their age is unknown.

A majority of the crimes were committed by a partner/ex-partner in relation to a

separation (6/10), due to complicated relations/break ups/jealousy. That said, a relatively

large part of the crimes are committed by acquaintances as well as friends, and seem to be carried out “randomly, just for fun, or it simply happened”. Many of these crimes are also combined with, or have been preceded by, a previous crime when the offender or

someone else – unlawfully and without knowledge of the victim – has taken pictures or

recorded her nude or in an intimate situation.

Other situations in which the offense occurred vary from conflicts, between friends,

partners or others. Some involve money transactions in different ways. In addition, there

are cases where the perpetrator has shown an interest in the victim who has dismissed his

advances, a case where a neighbor was too annoyed by the victim’s sex life, and where the offender had impersonated the victim with her name and pictures to create a porn

account and make money. A small part includes no known or understandable motive for

the offense at all. Finally, a part includes situations where the victim has reported the

perpetrator for previous crimes.

The vast majority of the crimes were committed on Snapchat, followed by Instagram and

Facebook/Messenger, regular messages (SMS) on mobile phones, various pornsites,

WhatsApp, Tiktok, and a few cases where the platform is unknown in the police report.

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Judicial Analysis

Data and Methods

We collected court verdicts from three out of six Courts of Appeal in Sweden, i.e. Svea

Hovrätt, Hovrätten för Övre Norrland and Hovrätten över Skåne och Blekinge, with a

geographic range from north to south of Sweden, from rural areas to the largest cities. 

We asked the courts to send us all court verdicts from the years 2018-2022 that included

the following offenses with crime scene online (see definition of online above under

section on common methodology):

Sexuellt ofredande ch. 6 § 10 BrB [Swedish Criminal Code (SCC)] [sexual harassment]

A person who, in cases other than those referred to earlier in this chapter,

exposes himself or herself to another person in a way that is likely to cause

discomfort or otherwise, by words or actions, harasses a person in a way that is

likely to violate the person's sexual integrity, shall be sentenced for sexual

harassment to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years.54

Olaga hot ch. 4 § 5 BrB [unlawful threat]

A person who threatens another person with a criminal offense in a way

that is likely to cause the threatened person serious fear for his or her own or

another person's safety, property, freedom or peace, shall be sentenced for

unlawful threat to a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years.55

and

Olaga integritetsintrång ch. 4 § 6 c BrB [unlawful breach of privacy]

Anyone who invades another person's privacy by disseminating a

1. an image or other information about someone's sex life,

2. an image or other information about someone's state of health,

3. an image or other information that someone has been subjected to an offense

involving an attack on the person, freedom or peace,

4. an image of someone in a very vulnerable situation; or

5. an image of someone's fully or partially naked body is, if the dissemination is

likely to cause serious harm to the person to whom the image or information

relates, sentenced for unlawful invasion of privacy to a fine or imprisonment for a

maximum of two years.56

54 Den som, i annat fall än som avses förut i detta kapitel, blottar sig för någon annan på

ett sätt som är ägnat att väcka obehag eller annars genom ord eller handlande ofredar en

person på ett sätt som är ägnat att kränka personens sexuella integritet döms för sexuellt

ofredande till böter eller fängelse i högst två år.

55 Den som hotar någon annan med brottslig gärning på ett sätt som är ägnat att hos den

hotade framkalla allvarlig rädsla för egen eller annans säkerhet till person, egendom, frihet

eller frid, döms för olaga hot till böter eller fängelse i högst två år.

56 Den som gör intrång i någon annans privatliv genom att sprida

1. bild på eller annan uppgift om någons sexualliv, 

We received approximately 850 court verdicts that included the three offenses, committed

both on- and offline (the courts’ digital archive system could not sort out digital crimes,

i.e. when the crime took place online) so the first step was to sort out the relevant court

verdicts with regard to 1) crime scene, 2) gender of the victim/survivor, 3) age of the

victim (over 18 years) and 4) the sexual character of the crime. Below follows a

description of the data from each court.

Svea Hovrätt

Collected data: all court verdicts in cases of sexuellt ofredande [sexual harassment], olaga

hot [unlawful threat] and olaga integritetsintrång [unlawful breach of privacy] from the

years 2018-2022.

We received about 550 [559] court verdicts from Svea hovrätt of which most were not

relevant (offline, against a minor or not gender-based violence). Out of those, 229

involved sexual harassment of which 15 were included in the analysis (as they fell within

the scope of the study: online, female victim/survivor who was over 18 years old and

threat against sexual integrity); 327 unlawful threats of which about 5 were included

(online, over 18 years old and threat against sexual integrity) and 3 court verdicts

concerning unlawful breach of privacy, all included in the analysis).

Hovrätten för Övre Norrland

Includes all court verdicts in cases of sexuellt ofredande [sexual harassment], olaga hot

[unlawful threat] and olaga integritetsintrång [unlawful breach of privacy] from the years

2018-2022.

We received about 100 [104] court verdicts, none of them concerned olaga

integritetsintrång [unlawful breach against privacy]. 80 concerned unlawful threats of

which 7 were of relevance for our study (due to the criterion – online, gender of

victim/survivor, age of victim and gender-based violence). 24 concerned sexual

harassment of which none were relevant to include in our study.

2. bild på eller annan uppgift om någons hälsotillstånd,

3. bild på eller annan uppgift om att någon utsatts för ett brott som innefattar ett

angrepp mot person, frihet eller frid,

4. bild på någon som befinner sig i en mycket utsatt situation, eller

5. bild på någons helt eller delvis nakna kropp

döms, om spridningen är ägnad att medföra allvarlig skada för den som bilden eller

uppgiften rör, för olaga integritetsintrång till böter eller fängelse i högst två år.

Hovrätten för Skåne och Blekinge

Includes all court verdicts in cases of sexuellt ofredande [sexual harassment], olaga hot

[unlawful threat] and olaga integritetsintrång [unlawful breach of privacy] from the years

2018-2022.

We received about 200 [198] court verdicts from Hovrätten för Skåne och Blekinge of

which most were not relevant (due to the criterion – online, gender of victim/survivor,

age of victim and gender-based violence). Out of those, 56 involved sexual harassment of

which 2 were included in the analysis (due to criterion on relevance); 140 unlawful threats

of which about 7 were included (matching the criterion of taking place online, against a

victim over the age of 18 and including threat against sexual integrity). Two court verdicts

concerned unlawful breach of privacy, both were included in the analysis.

When sorting the relevant/irrelevant verdicts, we used the following aspects:

- Crime scene: only crimes committed online

- Relation: only crimes where the victim/survivor was a girl/woman

- Victim’s age: only included crimes where the victim/survivor was an adult, i.e. 18

years and older.

- Content of the threat: only included crimes with character of gender-based

violence, i.e. sexual violence and sexual harassment etc. (threat of violence, murder,

damage of property et cetera left out)

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Sexual Harassment

Gender of the perpetrator: The perpetrators are all male in the data collected.

Age of the perpetrator: A majority under 30 years, but men between the ages of 15-60

are represented.

Relation between the offender and victim/survivor: A vast majority are acquainted, such

as friends, colleagues or schoolmates, neighbors, relatives as well as ex-partners.

Situation/motive for the offense: The former partners’ offenses seem directly related to

the separation. In other cases it tends to be explained with motives such as “just joking”

or “just for fun”, taking the opportunity or testing the relationship, or “crossing the

friendship border” as the most common situations. Regarding the latter, this description

is made by the victim/survivor. The data did not offer any information about the view

of the offender.

Platform: Snapchat is the most common scene of the crime, together with

i-messages/sms, followed by Facebook and Instagram. Tinder and other undefined social

media platforms were also used to commit acts of sexual harassment online.

Note: it was quite common that the same individual, whose offense was motivated with

“crossing the border of friendship” or “testing the relationship”, victimized several

women.

Unlawful Threats

This crime category also involves a very low number of relevant cases. The legal

definition changed on the 1st of January 2019 to include threats against sexual integrity.

The vast majority of cases collected were irrelevant and included physical threats against

life and health, often by use of weapons or similar.

Gender of the perpetrator: The crimes were committed by male offenders (10/10).

Age of the perpetrator: These offenses were committed by persons between 20-59 years,

the majority by young offenders under the age of 20 years. Thereto men in all ages

between 20-59 years are represented (although none between 50-60 years in the data

collected).

Relation between the offender and victim/survivor: The largest group was made up of

partners or ex-partners (varying from short relationships to many years of marriage and

common children). This was followed by acquaintances such as schoolmates, and the last

category were unknown/strangers.

Situation/motive for the offense: The ex-partners’ offenses seem directly related to the

separation, and in some cases to conflicts about the custody of common children. All of

the analyzed cases contain different types of conflict, that revolve for example around the

victim having contact with the offender’s girlfriend, or an acquaintance that refuses to

participate in committing crimes. Finally, in some verdicts, it was not possible to extract

either the situation nor the motive.

Platform: In the court verdicts included in the study, Snapchat and messages/sms were

the most common platform used to unlawfully threaten someone. There were also

verdicts that included no information on the platform used.

Note: In the cases where the offender is an ex-partner, the threats (and other violations)

were often repeated in various forms and through different media/on different

platforms.

Unlawful Breach of Privacy

This crime category also involves a very low number of relevant cases. On the other

hand, that is an interesting result in itself, that these offenses lead as rarely to trial

compared to the police report and dark figures. Also, it is worth noting that the law

entered into force on the 1st of January 2018, so it is a relatively new crime.

Gender of the perpetrator: The crimes are to a vast majority committed by male

offenders, although a small number are female (around 1/8).

Age of the perpetrator: Young offenders are overrepresented, with a majority of

offenders being under 20 years of age. The rest are between 20-40 years.

Relation between the offender and victim/survivor: A vast majority are ex-partners, but

acquaintances are also represented, who know the victim from school/work or through

common friends. One case involved the ex’s current partner.

Situation/motive for the offense: The former partners’ offenses seem related to the

separation, but it is not always clear. Quite often (in the very few cases collected), it tends

to be motivated as “just for fun”, taking the opportunity or simply sharing images at

random of others in intimate situations/almost nude, or the like.

Platform: Snapchat and porn sites are the most common scene of the crime, followed by

Instagram.

Note: it was quite common that the same offender victimized several women, particularly

those who motivated their actions as “crossing the border of friendship” or “testing the

relationship”. Moreover, several offenders seemed to motivate their actions as “just

randomly” or ”just for fun”.

Findings

As the amount of answers collected from participants through the women’s shelter

organization ROKS, we cannot draw any generalizable conclusions about the

perpetrators from the data. What we did notice was that most perpetrators were partners,

ex-partners or relatives to the victim, which is logical as the women seek shelter from

abusive relationships. In addition, most of these partners and relatives have used not only

one but several of these forms of digital violence against the victim/survivor, which also

is in line with intimate partner violence, or repeated violence in other relationships. All of

them included unlawful threats.

Police Reports

The collected police reports offered a picture of the perpetrator of online gender-based

violence in more detail, compared to the other forms of data collected in this report.

Please note that police reports only represent the crimes reported, which seem to be a

large amount compared to the court cases (verdicts). Some of the crimes included in this

study were introduced into Swedish law in 2018 (unlawful breach of privacy) and 2019

respectively (unlawful threat of sexual nature) which might explain why there were no

reports from the year of 2018. As the first searches for reports concerning the crime

unlawful breach of privacy generated a large amount of reports, more than 1000 suggest

that this offense, despite being relatively new, is known and hence reported to the police.

Despite this, there seems to be a very low amount that makes it all the way to court, see

next section on court verdicts.

The perpetrator of gender-based violence online reported to police is most often a man.

If the crime is an unlawful privacy breach, i.e. spreading intimate images or movies, the

perpetrator is female in 2/10 cases. The perpetrator of sexual harassment is quite often 

unknown. The perpetrator is between 20-50 years and if he unlawfully threatens the

victim/survivor he is often a former partner, but if he is sending her dick pics he might

be a stranger or someone she met on a dating app. The perpetrator that spreads images is

most often someone she knows, through work, school, or friends.

The sexual harasser is most often sending the dick pic as the first contact, without any

previous conversation, or in the middle of a conversation without any notice about what

is coming. The threats and spreading of images are often taking place during separations,

or due to jealousy, or if the perpetrator has been dismissed by the victim/survivor. But

the unlawful threat might also be used in financial disputes, and the perpetrator

whospreads images does it just randomly or for fun. Unlawful threats are often carried

out repeatedly and during a longer period of time.

Judicial Analysis

The Swedish criminal legislation went through a reform in 2018-19 in order to update the

legislation to include crimes committed online, including various forms of crimes

infringing sexual integrity. The data set from the police reports shows a large amount of

cases reported, but the data set from the courts are scarce. We asked for all verdicts

concerning the three crimes from three out of six Courts of Appeal from the last 5 years,

and received almost 1000 court verdicts. Almost all of them fell outside the scope of this

study, showing that the reported cases obviously do not make it all the way to court. The

vast majority are closed before prosecution. The challenges with digital crimes and

evidence are known, one factor being the anonymity of the perpetrator. In the cases

included in this study, a majority of the perpetrators were known to the victim/survivor.

There are of course other factors to add to this, but it could be relevant to highlight the

pattern of a low prosecution rate in cases of sexual violence in general.

Gender: The Swedish perpetrator of online gender-based violence in court is most often

a male. Mainly men are prosecuted for unlawful threat and the largest group of female

perpetrators is found in cases of unlawful breach of privacy, but here they only make up

1/10 of the total sum.

Age: The average perpetrator tends to be younger, with a large number of perpetrators

belonging to a numerically small group - being under the age of 20. -We do not find it

likely that any perpetrators of such cases as analyzed here could be under the age of 15.

Therefore the <20 group covers only 5 years, whereas the other groups cover 10.

Surprisingly, there is not a linear decline in perpetrators, which else would have suggested

that digital crimes are youth crimes. Instead there is a fairly stable representation of all

ages, including up to 70, in the analyzed data.

Relation and situation: The sexual harasser is often someone that knows the

victim/survivor from work or school or some other friendly relation, but he can also be a

neighbor or someone the victim met on a social media platform, f. ex. dating apps. He

could also be a former partner. The latter carries out the offense in relation to the

separation, the other perpetrators seem to have more vague motives, that seems to be

randomly “just for fun“, testing the relation or just “crossing the friendship border”,

possibly to explore what the possible effect is. Unlawful threats are most often

committed by a perpetrator that has or had a romantic relationship with the

victim/survivor. The relationship could vary from very short to many years of marriage

and common children. But the offender could also be someone familiar, such as school

mates etc. and a few unknown. A majority of the cases seem to take place during some

kind of conflict, if not a separation or custody dispute, it could be other types of

conflicts. Note that the former partner regularly combined the threats with other forms

of repeated harassment or threats.

The perpetrator of unlawful breach of privacy were all known to the victim/survivor.

Either a former partner, or acquainted through school, work or common friends. Some

of the latter seem to commit the crime as a spontaneous act, spreading images just

randomly or just for fun.

Addendum 1

Icelandic Police Data

Threats

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Addendum 2

Icelandic Shelter Data

Stígamót Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence

The number of respondents was 122, 111 women, 8 men, 3 non-binary. The youngest

respondent was 17 and the oldest 60. Their answers were as follows:

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