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Does online gender abuse have a connection with domestic violence?

Stepping into the public eye often means attention, both good and bad. But a video released by Mamamia has shown how high-profile women and celebrities face vile attacks on social media every day.

In a video put together by Mamamia, the likes of Tracey Spicer, Sarah Harris, Mia Freedman and Lisa Wilkinson come together to read out some of the comments they’ve received from the general public on their social media accounts on a daily basis.

If you’ve ever seen the Celebrity Mean Tweets segments on Jimmy Kimmel Live! then you’d be forgiven for thinking that perhaps these mean tweets were also going to be amusing in their ridiculousness.

But, unfortunately, that’s not the case. The tweets these Australian celebrities have faced by online trolls are vile, sexually abusive in nature and deeply troubling.

“I hope your children are raped and killed, you silly c***,” says Tracey Spicer, reading out one of the comments she’s received.

“Prepare yourself for flak, death threats and insults you complete numphy,” is another. “You’re not a good person and the world would be a better place if you were dead.”

Video: tvMamamia/YouTube

There has been a lot of commentary about Twitter and why they don’t tighten their policies to stop trolls or at least create a more thorough registration process. But it seems that women are overwhelmingly the targets for such vile hate speech on social media.

As part of their reporting of abusive behaviour policy, Twitter says, “If someone has tweeted a violent threat that you feel is credible, contact law enforcement so they can accurately assess the validity of the threat. Websites do not have the ability to investigate and assess a threat, bring charges or prosecute individuals.”

While some might be able to block and ignore online trolls and then think nothing more about it, others have become affected by the taunts. Celebrity Charlotte Dawson took her own life last year, which was said to be because of her depression, coupled with the despair she felt following online troll attacks.

But rather than talking about how to deal with trolls, the conversation has turned to why is it happening in first place? And why are so many of the victims women? Is it an extension of the violence against women epidemic we currently face in Australia, with one woman dying every week in the country because of domestic violence?

“I just want as many people as possible to understand why this kind of abuse — rape threats, sexually charged threats, death threats — happens,” Mamamia editor, Kate Leaver, told the Daily Mail.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, says there are links between domestic violence and online abuse, but they’re often ignored.

Misogyny and abuse extends into the online realm, she says, and to ignore trolls as mindless and harmless is dangerous.

“It is critical that we make the link between this vicious online harassment and cyberbullying and real-life violence against women,” Neate said at a conference about tackling online abuse.

“We need to understand that this is part of a domestic violence spectrum and we have to challenge this type of misogyny because it is the backdrop that allows that violence to take place.”

What do you think should be done about online trolls? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

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