How rape culture is hurting women in tech

On the heels of a spate of rapes, a growing number of tech companies are taking steps to combat it. 

The problem has been largely overlooked in the public eye, and is largely ignored in the tech community.

But, according to researchers at Stanford University, it is happening, and they want to change that.

In a new report, they found that rape culture and the ways that it affects women are at the root of an alarming rise in cyberbullying, harassment and rape complaints in the technology industry.

The Stanford study, titled The Rape Culture Effect, was released this week at the Women’s Tech Summit, an annual conference in San Francisco that aims to encourage women to work in the fields of technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. 

In a blog post published on Wednesday, researchers at the Stanford Women’s Center, who work to address rape culture issues in the workplace, said that the rise in online harassment and sexual assault was partly the result of the increased use of “inappropriate online conduct and behavior that encourages rape and sexual violence.”

“The use of inappropriate online conduct to commit and sustain sexual assault and harassment is increasing, particularly among women in technology,” they wrote.

“These behaviors are increasingly seen as ‘normal,’ which reinforces a toxic work environment for women.”

The report noted that online harassment, rape and rape-related incidents are often ignored by tech companies, despite having the potential to hurt people and the workplace.

The report also noted that rape threats are on the rise, and it’s been estimated that there are about 4,000 rape-based threats every day. 

“As technology continues to evolve, we must continue to invest in ways to help victims and to educate the community about the importance of reporting rape and other violent crimes to prevent further harm,” said Laura McGehee, co-director of the Stanford Center for the Study of Women in Technology, in a statement.

“As technology evolves, the impact of this culture on women’s lives will be a significant and evolving topic in the coming years.”

The Stanford researchers said that many women are reluctant to report or confront their attackers, but they have the power to change their minds.

For instance, the report found that more than 1 in 5 women who report a rape said they were uncomfortable reporting it because of the potential repercussions. 

A 2015 study by the Stanford Research Institute found that only 9% of rape victims reported the incident to a police officer.

The researchers said they believe that because the majority of women do not report rape, and because they are reluctant or not comfortable with sharing their experiences, many women have to turn to social media and the internet to report the crime.

“Women have been told by their peers and colleagues that reporting rape is a dirty word, and that there is no recourse for reporting rape if the perpetrator has a history of violence or is violent,” the researchers wrote. 

For those who don’t report, there is an opportunity for perpetrators to remain anonymous.

“If victims of rape are not willing to speak out about their experience, the risk of retaliation, including physical violence, becomes much more likely,” the report said. 

Despite the increased visibility of cyberbullies and harassment, the researchers said there are still many misconceptions about rape culture.

“Some of the misconceptions about cyberbulling are pervasive and even common,” the Stanford researchers wrote, “including that women who are sexually harassed are not being taken seriously.

While this is often true, it’s also important to remember that it is not true that the majority (or even most) of women who experience cyberbullening are harassed or do not want to be harassed.” 

“The prevalence of cyberstalking and harassment has been on the increase over the past several years, and many of these reports are often reported to police, or even to law enforcement, without ever being investigated or prosecuted,” they continued.

“In addition, the vast majority of victims who report cyberstalkers do so anonymously.”

The report found many victims of cybersex harassment do not tell anyone, and some do not believe that they will be believed.

“We know from research and social science research that when a victim is unable to trust her partner or someone else, the only way to reduce the risk is to report it to law-enforcement authorities,” the authors wrote.

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