This handbook was created as part of the National Forum on the Prevention of Cyber Sexual Abuse (NFPCSA), a grant project funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and hosted by Tufts University. The Forum sought to foster a community of academic library workers, strengthen their understanding of the socio-technical landscape of digital violence, and empower them to take action against it at college campuses throughout the United States.
By “digital violence,” we refer to actions or words that inflict harm through the misuse of digital technologies and tools such as computers, smartphones, and Internet of Things devices. There are many forms of digital violence, including more severe forms that constitute abuse or harassment. Throughout this handbook, we use the term “digital violence” as an umbrella term to describe this array of harmful behavior, including but not limited to:
non-consensual intimate image distribution;
Digital violence can—and often does—occur hand-in-hand with physical violence. Although these forms of violence may differ in the ways they are inflicted, they share much in common:
This violence is often gender- and race-based, and disproportionately affects marginalized groups.
The person doing harm may be a total stranger or someone the survivor knows.
Survivors face victim blaming and shaming due to societal rape culture, internalized misogyny, racism, transphobia, and homophobia.
Prevention cannot be guaranteed. Violence that does occur is never the survivor’s fault.
Digital violence has been on the rise since the beginning of the global pandemic and pivot to remote life. It impacts all communities, but individuals in emerging adulthood, aged 18-29, are most commonly victimized by online abuse.
As experts in digital literacy, library workers are uniquely positioned to join the vast and growing community of people engaged in preventing digital violence. We hope that digital literacy can help raise awareness of these issues and make our campuses safer. We also acknowledge that building digital literacy places the responsibility for harm reduction on survivors themselves. Digital violence is not an individual problem, and can’t be solved with individual solutions. It’s structural and cultural in nature and will persist unless there are structural and cultural changes. This is an unjust reality, and we advocate for the eventual shift of this burden from the shoulders of survivors to society at large.
We worked with experts in many disciplines, including social work, student services, survivor advocacy, law, sociology, and Title IX, to ensure that this guide is as comprehensive as possible and trauma-informed in its approach. However, some content may be activating or triggering for readers. As you read, please check in with yourself periodically, and step away if you feel overwhelmed.
Walker, Paige, Adam Jazairi, and Chelcie Rowell, eds. Digital Literacy Against Digital Violence: A Handbook for Library Workers. 2022. https://nfpcsa.pubpub.org/handbook.