Imagine being the victim of online abuse and being ostracized and ignored by family, friends, law enforcement officials and society in general. Also imagine not knowing of any organisation you could turn to for help or what legal remedies exist to provide you with justice in your situation. This has been the plight of many individuals across Barbados, particularly young women. Recognising the unique situation of such individuals and a need to provide them with a voice to be heard, registered charity No! to Online Abuse and Harassment (NOAH) was born.
NOAH is the brainchild of Ms. Ashell Forde, its president and one of its founding members, who saw the irresponsible use of the internet and social media, particularly amongst the nation’s youth, as a growing concern. NOAH’s work is hinged on the key principles of Empathy, Justice, Awareness and Empowerment. The value of having a safe space where victims feel welcomed and understood cannot be underestimated. The awareness that there is a safe space for victims, eases much of their anxiety as online abuse can cause confusion and mistrust since sometimes the victim is unsure of the perpetrator. Given the stigma attached to some types of online abuse abuse such as revenge porn, victims need a judgement free space built on empathy. Justice is at the core of NOAH’s work, although the organisation is not a law enforcement agency, it seeks to connect victims with resource personnel within the judicial and legal community where they can better seek justice for the crimes committed against them.
In addition, one vital component often missing in facilitating victims’ recovery from any form of abuse and harassment is counselling. NOAH realizes the need for counselling and seeks to assist victims with receiving the therapy needed. Awareness is also an integral component of NOAH’s work and is used as a tool to help prevent future occurrences of online abuse. The more our internet users know about personal cybersecurity the better equipped they are in protecting themselves. In addition, persons who unfortunately have become victims are taught how to be proactive and contact sites to have damaging content removed.
NOAH’s work is undertaken by a team of committed volunteers who bring specific skills sets from their various professional backgrounds and are members of the global non-profit organization, the Internet Society (ISOC) which also has a local chapter in Barbados. Recognising that greater resources were needed to make NOAH’s work more effective, the team applied for a ‘Beyond the Net Funding Grant’ from the Internet Society, through its Barbados Chapter. The Grant Proposal was aptly titled Project C.A.R.E – Combating Online Abuse through Research and Education.
The goals and Objectives of Project C.A.R.E include:
- Research: To address the lack of research on gender based online abuse in Barbados
- Awareness: To raise awareness and sensitivity among the general population of Barbados
- Education: Engage law enforcement in order to improve victims’ experiences and increase prosecutions
The NOAH team in collaboration with the UN Women Multi Country (Caribbean) Office launched Project C.A.R.E in October 2017. During her featured presentation, acknowledging that there is a paucity of research and statistics available on the effects of online abuse and harassment throughout the Caribbean, UN Women MCO Representative Ms. M Alison McClean pledged the agency’s support and commitment to the important work of NOAH.
Having recognised the seriousness of purpose, passion and commitment of the NOAH Team, UN Women has agreed to fund the research component of Project C.A.R.E which is being undertaken by DB Research Services led by Mr. Unri Babb. The need for evidenced-based interventions cannot be underscored enough and for this reason the services provided by DB Research Services are of tremendous benefit to NOAH’s work. The team at DB Research Services has been outstanding with its technical expertise and high quality training provided to research assistants for the research work being undertaken for Project C.A.R.E. We are pleased to partner with this highly professional and experienced company which is not only focused on the delivery of a high quality service but also in supporting the mission of NOAH and advancing the important work our organisation is undertaking.