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NEWS | May 24, 2024

Department of the Navy takes aim at online abuse

By DON Office of Force Resiliency

Cyberharassment includes a broad range of behaviors that occur across digital platforms. The anonymity provided by the internet often emboldens individuals, making it easier for them to engage in abusive behavior without facing immediate consequences.

“In today's digitally connected world, the rise of cyberharassment and online abuse has become a growing societal challenge to which the military is not immune,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (ASN M&RA) Franklin R. Parker. “As technology evolves, so do the methods and avenues through which individuals can be targeted.”

The training course will equip Sailors and Marines with the foundational knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the online sphere safely. This information is key, as cyberharassment can have equally detrimental effects on an individual's mental health, well-being, and safety as other forms of harassment. Awareness and education are key to preventing and responding to the emerging problem.

“We are committed to developing a Department-wide culture of digital safety and responsibility,” said Capt. Christine O’Connell, former acting director of the DON Office of Force Resiliency. “Our Sailors and Marines communicate extensively through their cell phones and other devices. While this has expanded the opportunity for connection and support, it has also created forums for harm. This comprehensive learning module will inform Sailors and Marines of the various forms of cyberharassment, its impact on victims, and strategies for prevention.”

The interactive, 20-minute training is a tool for leaders at all levels to get familiar with technology-facilitated abuse. It illustrates the interpersonal impact of cyberharassment, how individuals can contribute to a safe online environment, and methods for reporting and intervention.

Implementation of the learning module is one of many initiatives underway to tackle the DON’s most pressing cultural challenges, rebuild institutional trust, and address the overlapping nature of harmful behaviors, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and suicide.

“In the past two years, we’ve made significant investments to advance our violence prevention capabilities and implemented several policies to improve victim response,” O’Connell said. “We removed barriers to reporting and accessing resources, became the first military department to define cyberharassment, and will continue to work with the Navy and Marine Corps to integrate curriculum on cyberharassment into future training requirements.”

In 2022, SECNAV Instruction 1610.3 was expanded to define cyberharassment and distinguish harassing behaviors, including those of a sexual nature, that occur online. Cyberharassment is defined as a form of harassment or sexual harassment occurring through or facilitated by an electronic communications system.

The Cyberharassment is Harassment training is available on the Navy eLearning management system and MarineNet.

Individuals experiencing cyberharassment are encouraged to discuss reporting options with their local equal opportunity advisor or office.