Council reveals they have received online threats including rape, beheading and electrocution

The town hall has vowed to stand up to cyber abuse against women after the full extent of online hate was revealed in an emotive speech by a Wigan councillor.

Friday, 20th April 2018, 11:05 am
Updated Friday, 20th April 2018, 11:11 am
In a six-month-period last year, female MPs from all parties were sent more than 25,000 abusive messages on Twitter

At this week’s full council meeting, Coun Paula Wakefield, labour representative for Astley Mosley Common, received a standing ovation for her motion against social media abuse aimed at women.

In her statement she detailed some of the terrifying threats that she has witnessed on social media aimed at women in the public eye.

“Some of the posts I have seen aimed at women are horrific,” she said. “I have seen on social media threats of being hung, shot, punched in the throat, beheading, public beheading, live electrocution, rape, lesbians being called paedophiles and threats to slit a women’s throat.

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Paula Wakefield

“The effect of this type of abuse should not be underestimated and brushed off as harmless banter. Just imagine the physiological impact of reading someone’s graphic thoughts about raping or murdering you.

“And the more diverse you are the more abuse you face. If you are BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic), lesbian, bisexual, transgender or disabled you are more likely to experience targeted abuse.

“We are trying to inspire younger generations of women to aim high, to become politicians and women in public positions but how are we supposed to encourage them when they can see how women in public positions are targeted.”

Coun Wakefield came to the stand armed with shocking statistics about the level of abuse that women receive, including the fact that 50 per cent of girls have reported instances of online bullying.

Paula Wakefield

She also revealed that in a six-month-period last year, female MPs from all parties were sent more than 25,000 abusive messages on Twitter. The statistics, gathered by Amnesty International also showed that and that one in 20 tweets these MPs received were abusive and 60 per cent of these were from men.

Coun Joanne Marshall, who seconded the motion, described how she herself had been targeted by online trolls.

“I will not be called a victim,” she said. “But I have had threats to burn my house down and of physical violence. What was worse was the threats aimed at my children. These were posted by people who are parents themselves.”

Despite mentioning hatred aimed at women, Coun Wakefield made it clear that the council should not tolerate abuse towards anyone. However, Coun Debbie Fairhurst felt that the motion should be changed to include men. “It’s not just women subjected to this kind of abuse,” she said.

This comment garnered attention from fellow independent councillors, George Fairhurst and Bob Brierly, who opted to back an amendment to the motion.

Coun George Fairhurst, said: “It shouldn’t just mention women. What about us poor chaps? I agree that the wording needs changing.”

While Coun Brierly added: “Men do get bullied online and they also get bullied on emails.” But the majority agreed that the motion should stay as it was intended, to bring the focus onto abuse against women.

A staunch supporter of the motion, Coun David Keir Stitt opposed the amendment, saying that anyone “incapable” of speaking out on this issue for women is showing “cowardice”. The motion was passed unanimously.