Deconstructing Online GBV

About this learning activity

This activity takes the participants through a case study of an incident of online gender-based violence, and gets them to discuss the different aspects of the case study.

Learning objective this activity responds to

  • an understanding of the forms of online gender-based violence (online GBV) and its impacts on the survivors and their communities
  • an understanding of the continuum of violence from the offline and the online spheres, and the power structures that allow it
  • ideas, strategies and actions about the ways in which online GBV, especially in their contexts, can be addressed

Who is this activity for?

This activity fits for different levels of experience in women´s rights and technology.

Time required

About 1 hour / case study

Resources needed for this activity

  • flip chart paper / white board
  • markers
  • index cards to list down different aspects of the case study that need to be stressed

Alternatively, the trainer / facilitator can prepare a presentation.


The trainer / facilitator begins by describing the incident to be deconstructed, writing down the following details on individual index cards and posting them on a wall:

  • name of the survivor + gender + social class + race + educational attainment + any other identity markers
  • country where she is from + if there are laws that could protect her
  • the initial incidence of online violence
  • where the incidence happened
  • if you can, name of the initial aggressor /s + some details, if it´s important in the case study
  • if the aggressor / s cannot be named, write down some details about them: their online handles, etc.
  • relation between survivor and aggressor

Then open it up for discussion by asking the participants the following questions:

  • who else should be responsible here aside from the perpetrator?
  • who is the community around her? how do you think they could have responded?
  • what her possible responses to the situation?
  • how do you think this incident affected her? (impact)

List down the responses on individual index cards and post them on the wall.

Then divulge more details to the case study, and marking details that the participants have already guessed, and writing down more details on individual index cards:

  • how did the case escalate
  • how did the case spill into the survivor´s offline life
  • how did the community respond
  • what other spaces reinforced the initial incident of violence
  • who else got involved

Then open the discussion up again by asking the following questions:

  • what recourse does the survivor have?
  • what laws can protect her in her country?
  • what other impact will this have on her based on where she is from, what she does, what social class she belongs to, what country she is in?
  • what should happen to the initial aggressor/s? who can make that happen?
  • what should happen to the other aggressor, including the ones that extended and escalated the incident?
  • what is the responsibility of those who own and run where the incident happened?
  • who else is responsible in this scenario? what is their responsibility?
  • how could the women´s rights movements respond to this?

List down the responses of the participants per question in individual index cards and post them on the wall.

At the end of this, there will be a gallery on the wall that shows the different aspects to the case study of online GBV.

To synthesise, reinforce the following:

  • the connection and continuum of online and offline violence
  • the complexity on online GBV: the varied stakeholders, both negative and positive
  • reinforce the systems and structures that facilitate online GBV as well as those that might be avenues for redress and mitigation

Facilitator preparation notes

Additional resources

Sample Case Study: Selena´s Case

Initial exposition

Selena is in her final year of college. She attends college in Manila, Philippines, but she heads back to her province in Angeles every chance she gets to visit her parents and her younger siblings. In order to augment her limited funds for her studies, she is a part-time barista at a local coffee shop.

On one trip home, she comes to upset parents. They accuse her of abusing her freedom in Manila and using her looks to meet foreign men. They slut-shame her, and threaten to cut-off their support, stop dating foreign men online — and causing them problems.

Selena does not use any kind of dating app — she´s too busy with school and work. And she already has a boyfriend.

After hours of her parents shouting at her, she finally gets a picture of what happened:

Yesterday, Heinz from Germany knocked on her parents´ door, demanding to see Selena. He brought with him copies of conversations that he has had with Selena, and the pictures that she has shared with him. He had implied that he and Selena have engaged in cyber-sex. Apparently, he had sent Selena money so she could start applying for a German visa so she can visit him. When she did not get a visa, he had then sent her money to purchase a ticket s they can meet up in Bangkok, where they can be together without her conservatives watching their every move. She did not show up, Heinz had tried getting in touch with her but she was unresponsive. So he felt he had no choice but pay her parents a visit. They denied him entrance and threatened to call the authorities, if he kept on insisting to see Selena.

Heinz had left, angry.

Sounds like a con gone wrong.

Problem: Selena is not aware of any of this. She has never talked to any Heinz. She has not received any money from him. She was not in a long-distance relationship with anyone.

It looks like Selena´s pictures and identity to cat-fish Heinz.

(Cat-fishing is when someone takes screen-grabs of someone´s photos online, and creates accounts in their name in order to con other people. Sometimes, the real name of a person is attached to the fake account, but there have been cases where the photos are attached to fake names.)


In response to the incident, Selena had removed all her photos from all her social media accounts, and had sent a message to the dating app that the account with her picture was a fake one that some people had used to swindle a German user.

She and her family have not heard back from Heinz. He seemed to have left Angeles after her parents tuned him away.

One day, at school, a few of her male classmates start heckling her, calling her a slut and a swindler, saying that it´s a shame that a pretty girl like her would use her looks that way. One of Selena´s friends show her a Facebook page called, ¨Selena is a Slut Swindler¨. In that page, Heinz recounts what ¨Selena¨ had done to him — with screen caps of their conversations, her pictures, and audio recordings of their cyber-sex sessions.

The page has trended, and has received a lot of likes and followers.

What can Selena do?

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