“Other Box” – Blackmail

Written by: Nourhan Ismail

Author and Founder of The Other Sex Podcast

The internet has been my friend since high school; it helped me break out of my isolation and opened my eyes to the outside world, not just outside my home, but outside Egypt as well.

It increased my knowledge and helped me with my college projects, then because of it, I was hired by several companies, and it gave me the opportunity to work abroad as well. The internet has been my window to the world for over twenty years and has contributed significantly to the success of my own business, and all of my work. Because of it, I published my articles, books, and works, and I earned a lot from it, and it helped me to connect closely with everyone and everything I love.

These are the public stories I have always bragged about since learning how to navigate the digital world, which remains a significant part of my work today. Digital marketing and intellectual property protection are the foundation of my work, followed by managing my content, whether for my writing page or my relationship podcast. However, there are hidden aspects I have always hidden because, of course, it was easier to blame me than to face the truth that we – girls- are frequently subjected to digital violence and blackmail without much support from society.

A single conversation or a single photo sent to someone you trusted can lead to severe psychological battles, threats of scandal and even exploitation just because as a girl, you wouldn’t dare tell your parents about this threat in your life, because you trusted someone and sent them a private message or a photo without a hijab or even opened the camera in a conversation between you two.

Unfortunately, many girls cannot reveal what they experience in our society. Our society blames the girl for her behaviour, regardless of how she was tricked by the person who exploited or took advantage of her feelings for him, kindness, or trust in him. The society often disregards the danger, regret, and depression resulting from experiencing such psychological violence.

Sharing a photo without a hijab, or even an ordinary yet private photo, can suddenly turn into a threat of scandal or exploitation to demand more. A single private photo can lead to requests for more photos and videos, all under the threat of maintaining your reputation or facing a scandal.

The problem nowadays is that it is easy to access the account of the girl’s father or mother or the whole world around her, making scandalizing her easier than it used to be. Digital communication on all platforms has made it easier to blackmail. It also made it easier to spread news and scandals.

Sending a photo or video may cause blackmail and bargaining in the form of extortion for other requests under the threat of a scandal, whether intentional or not. Someone may resort to sending a virus link and then have the ability to access all the files on a girl’s phone, resulting in possessing complete files, not just a single photo. The danger can come not only from those we trust but, from any message we receive.

The threat may include a series of demands that a girl cannot refuse out of fear of being blamed, criticized, reproached, and punished. Unfortunately, this can lead to a form of control over her thoughts and actions until she complies with the blackmailer’s demands who is determined to exert his power over her. Eventually, she may end up either as a victim of rape,  human or organ trafficking, prostitution, or she may even commit suicide out of desperation not to be exposed.

This is not the only thing that can destroy a girl on the internet. I have noticed the amount of attacks on girls’ opinions on any issue or even a photo. The attacks start with silencing her, belittling her opinion or even attacking her and sending hurtful messages to her and her family. Sometimes, it even includes messages just for harassment!

The internet and the digital community are often unsafe because they allow everyone and anyone to comment and attack without being subject to strict censorship. This could be due to the language differences between platform rules and written content.

I recently commented on a feminist page’s post about ‘reasons for ending a relationship by the girl in different cases’, and even though the page is feminist and mainly targets girls, I found a sudden attack from men. The pathetic thing was that they all were using the word ‘’feminist’’ as if it was an insult or a curse.  This is extremely disturbing and, in my opinion, constitutes intellectual terrorism aimed to continuously undermine women’s freedom of expression and belittle their opinions.

What is more concerning is when you open your messages in the others box and find messages from unknown individuals, some offering or requesting sexual services, others insulting your opinions, or verbally harassing you just because they saw a regular photo of the girl.

The digital world is full of endless harassment, characterized by the boldness or impudence of the men who harass women, due to the absence of supervision or the certainty that there is no punishment. Men justify their transgressions on the girl’s right to post her photos or write on the internet by claiming that she allowed them to do so simply because she has an account on a platform.

Blackmail is a crime with laws that punish it. Every girl must know that even if she makes a mistake, there are laws to protect her from those who transgress not only the law but also basic human ethics and principles. Every girl should realize that it is her right to speak up and report anyone who abuses or blackmails her. By reporting, she is helping the justice system to get rid of those offenders and saving not only herself and others from falling into the same trap.

Consequently, Egyptian girls and women should beware of falling into such traps, even from close people, as it can severely affect their mental health due to the fear and anxiety from threats. It is the perpetrator who violated your rights and privacy and you only have to report him and learn how to manage your content and photos, and not hesitate to seek help before becoming deeply entangled. Offenders feel a sense of victory when they see their victims’ weakness, but reporting and trusting that someone will defend you means you are not alone in this battle.

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