Peace Corps hosts another successful Sexual Assault Awareness Month Online Webinar
“Staying Safe Online During Lockdown” is the theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
The goal of SAAM is for individuals and organizations globally, to raise public awareness about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse and educate communities on how to prevent them. Peace Corps Vanuatu has a special designated team who takes charge of SAAM activities every year.
The one-hour online webinar was broadcasted live on the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) Facebook page, Television Blong Vanuatu (TBV) as well as on Radio Vanuatu. The seven panelists are experts in their respective fields. They include Dr. Jeffrey Karae, Cyber Security Consultant at Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO); Sergeant Rayndol Ala, Community Liaison Officer at the Vanuatu Police Force Cybercrime Unit; Mrs. Miriam Bule, Senior Counselor & Counsellor Manager from the Vanuatu Women’s Center; Ms Tristelle Karae, National Child Social Welfare Coordinator at the Department of Community Services; Mr. Jackson Miake, Director of Vanuatu Internet Governance Forum; Mr. Peter Napuwat, National Mental Health Coordinator at the Ministry of Health; and last but not the least, Mr. Stevenson Liu, President of Media Association Vanuatu (MAV) at VBTC. The discussions were moderated by Peace Corps Vanuatu’s very own Safety Security Manager, Mrs. Judy Williau.
Prior to the online webinar, VBTC hosted a “Talk Back Show” on the SAAM theme and a majority of callers acknowledged that online abuse is indeed an increasing issue in communities across Vanuatu, especially during the recent lockdown. A good number of questions discussed by the panelists was extracted from this “Talk Back Show”.
To highlight a few, one of the questions asked was “What is online abuse?” Mr. Miake in his response, stated that online abuse is harassment that happens over the internet. It may be sending an inappropriate text message to someone that caused them to feel unhappy or unsafe. Supplementary to this, Dr. Karae added the four platforms where online abuse can occur. These are namely: use of internet, social media, online gaming and mobile device. He went on to highlight that a majority of reported cases happen over social media.
Another question was “What are some forms of sexual abuse that happen online?” Mrs. Bule said “On average the Vanuatu Women’s Center sees 2 to 4 online abuse related cases per month, particularly during the lockdown period. An example of online sexual abuse reported was when a couple got separated or was stranded overseas or on another island in Vanuatu because of travel restrictions. And when the partner requests for money, the other partner will request that he/she performs sexual activities online before the transaction takes place.”
Overall the panelists spoke on some of the impacts online abuse can have on an individual, they also provided practical ways on how parents can help keep their children safe online, who are typically targeted for online abuse and who are the typical online abusers? The webinar ended with panelists sharing their contacts for when victims need to be referred for professional support and counselling. These are the Vanuatu Women’s Center which can be reached via their toll-free number; 161 and also the Mind Care Clinic via telephone 22512 or VOIP 1081.
In closing, the issue of online abuse is an issue that affects our entire country and we can only build safer online spaces when we work together. Peace Corps Vanuatu thank each panelist who contributed to the webinar with their expert advice and also to VBTC for co-hosting this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It looks forward to collaborating with them in April 2023.