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New Research About Online Harms in Rural Communities Revealed

New Research About Online Harms in Rural Communities Revealed

As part of SWGfL, our Revenge Porn Helpline team have undertaken new research across Scotland to understand the experiences of women in rural Scotland who have been affected by online harm and abuse. Funded by the Scottish Government Delivering Equally Safe Fund, Revenge Porn Helpline Practitioners, Kate Worthington and Izzy Petherick, supported research in Scotland to understand more about this under-researched concern.

Following an extensive research period and undertaking interviews and surveys, SWGfL and the Revenge Porn Helpline have released ‘"Remote Realities: Exploring Online Harm and Abuse in the Context of Rural Scottish Women" written by Dr. Stephen Dolan at the University of Edinburgh, to detail their findings and explore the impact of online abuse in rural communities.

Access the Report

Key Findings

The report considers the unique challenges faced by women in rural areas who have experienced online abuse. With support and contributions from service providers across Scotland, the report considers the experiences and testimonies of those supporting women who have faced harm or abuse online.

The research found key challenges faced by rural Scottish women looking to find support, including:

  • Reporting restrictions
  • Limited service reach
  • Financial limitations
  • Uneven levels of training and awareness.
  • Expectations and realities

The report revealed a near-unanimous consensus on the experiences of rural Scottish women facing online abuse. Despite technological limitations, rural women were just as likely to experience online harm as their urban counterparts, including intimate image abuse, harassment, bullying, threatening messages, stalking, and image sharing in private groups.

However, unique challenges were found to limit rural women from seeking support or justice. These challenges included reporting restrictions due to the close-knit nature of rural communities, limited service reach with fewer support options, financial limitations affecting both service providers and victims, uneven training among professionals, and a gap between expectations and the reality of law enforcement capabilities.

Existing studies on rurality and abuse have been found to support these findings, demonstrating the particular difficulties living in rural settings can have on victims.

Need for Further Research

Given the clear challenges highlighted by the sample of experts within the report, further research within the subject is urgently recommended to improve services and support already in place.  Understanding the nuances across different Scottish rural communities, such as the Islands compared to the Highlands, is considered essential for tailoring effective services, support, and outreach for rural women facing online abuse.

Kate Worthington, Senior Helpline Practitioner at the Revenge Porn Helpline states:

“We are proud to launch this exploratory research on the critical issue of online harm and abuse faced by rural Scottish women, a group often overlooked by mainstream society. This study sheds light on the unique challenges these women encounter, emphasising the need for tailored support and resources to address their specific circumstances and find solutions to breakdown key barriers to ensure all women in Scotland are equally supported.

We extend our gratitude to the Scottish Government Delivering Equally Safe Fund for their support in making this research possible. Together, we strive for a safer and more supportive online environment for all women in the UK.”

Accessing Support

Whilst further research is needed to help ensure local support services and law enforcement can appropriately support rural women, services such as our Helpline and Report Harmful Content can ensure that women and men across the UK have a place to report intimate image abuse and harmful content online.

For more information about the support available for anyone affected by intimate image abuse in Scotland, our website provides information about the law, support services, and legal and informative advice available specifically for Scotland.

Access support for intimate image abuse in Scotland

Any adult affected by intimate image abuse in the UK can get in touch with our Helpline by calling 0345 6000 459 or emailing Alongside this, anyone over the age of 13 and living in the UK can use Report Harmful Content to find out how to make a report to social media platforms, or access further advice and support.

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