Prime Minister urged to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls by survivors of online abuse

Rishi Sunak urged to back online Violence Against Women and Girls Code of Practice for big tech firms through Online Safety Bill.


  • Currently there is no mention of Violence Against Women and Girls in the Bill’s 260 pages.
  • Letter signed by Love Island star Sharon Gaffka and broadcasters Charlie Webster and Natasha Devon tells Prime Minister to get tough on social media sites hosting misogynistic hate and enabling gendered abuse.
  • YouGov/NSPCC survey finds overwhelming public support for action to protect women and girls from violence and harmful content online1.

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The letter to the Prime Minister from survivors of abuse

A group of survivors of child sexual abuse, gendered violence and online misogyny have urged the Prime Minister to strengthen the Online Safety Bill to protect women and girls. 

The women have written to Rishi Sunak as the legislation is debated in the House of Lords.

What the letter is calling for

The group are asking the Prime Minister to back an amendment that would force tech companies to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and ensure the risks women and girls face do not continue to go unaddressed.

The signatories include former Love Island star, Refuge Ambassador and host of Girls Know Nothing podcast Sharon Gaffka, as well as broadcaster and NSPCC Ambassador for Childhood Charlie Webster. Natasha Devon MBE, a Glitch ambassador writer, presenter and activist, has also signed.

The letter was drafted by survivors of grooming, harassment and intimate image abuse who want the Online Safety Bill to include a mandatory VAWG Code of Practice so tech companies have a legal duty to fight violence against women and girls on their sites.

The Online Safety Bill

The Prime Minister has recently spoken about his support for the Online Safety Bill as a parent who became more aware of online risks when his daughter got her own phone and previously said: "Sexual violence against women and girls should be treated as a national emergency until it has been defeated."

There is currently no mention of VAWG in the Bill’s 260 pages.

The campaigners wrote in the letter:

"Our experiences include online grooming, child sexual abuse and exploitation; intimate image abuse, blackmail, the receipt of unsolicited intimate images from men; and misogynistic abuse and threats of physical violence, including rape. VAWG online is a pervasive and growing threat that impacts too many women and girls across the UK."

The role of social media in spreading abuse

Increasing levels of gendered abuse and misogyny across social media have been typified by figures like Andrew Tate growing in prominence, largely due to aggressive algorithms helping his content go viral.

What our research shows

Our research has found that more than 80% of online grooming crimes are committed against girls2 while an IWF report this week reported that 96% of child sexual abuse images they found in 2022 involved girls3.

YouGov research commissioned by the NSPCC showed there is overwhelming public support for the Government to tackle violence against women and girls through the Online Safety Bill1.

Four in five (79%) of those polled think the Online Safety Bill should take action to protect women and girls from violence and harmful content online1.

Amendments to the Online Safety Bill

In its current form the Online Safety Bill fails to provide protections for girls and women or encourage tech platforms to tackle the way their sites contribute to sexual violence and gendered abuse.

The survivors told the Prime Minister in the letter:

"We are fighting for an online world which is safer for women and girls now and in the future. Tackling the abuse and harm women and girls experience online must be a top priority if we are going to stop the abuse and harm that we have experienced from happening to others. A (VAWG) Code of Practice will guide online services in how to tackle VAWG online, ensuring the prevention of harm is built into platforms. We urge you to take this opportunity to show girls and women that they can be themselves online – and that they deserve to do this free from violence and online abuse."

Baroness Nicky Morgan's proposed amendment

An amendment has been laid by former Culture Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan and will be debated by peers in the coming weeks.

This amendment is backed by the NSPCC, Refuge, Glitch, End Violence Against Women, 5 Rights, Carnegie UK, Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and Professors Lorna Woods and Clare McGlynn.

The amendment is also supported by Baroness Beeban Kidron, Labour’s Lord Knight and The Lord Bishop of Gloucester.

NSPCC Head of Policy Anna Edmundson said:

"Gendered violence, misogynistic hate and sexual harassment and abuse have become normalised for women and girls on social media, and they are saying enough is enough. There is no way of tackling violence against women and girls without addressing how online services are being used as a platform to target girls for harassment and abuse and to radicalise boys with sexist ideology. The Government has signalled their intention to put violence against women and girls on an equal footing with terrorism and child abuse offline but, right now, its response online falls woefully short. Today the Prime Minister can change that and indicate he stands with women and girls across the UK by committing to a mandatory Code of Conduct on Violence Against Women and Girls in the Online Safety Bill."

Jess Eagelton, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Refuge said:

"Including a VAWG Code of Practice in the Online Safety Bill would enable the online world to be safer for women and girls, and better protect them from abuse and harassment. The government has said that it considers violence against women and girls to be a ‘national threat’, but we simply do not see that being translated into online protections, and adding a VAWG Code into the Online Safety Bill is a simple step but one that has the power to improve the lives of countless women and girls."


  1. 1. Total sample size was 2,031 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22- 23 November 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+). Asked Do you think the Online Safety Bill should or should not take specific action to protect women and girls from violence and harmful content online? 79% of respondents said they should, 8% should not and 12% don't know.

  2. 2. Comparisons over time are based on data from the 41 out of 45 UK police forces who have provided data for every year from 2017/18 to 2021/22. There was an 84% increase in offences over the 4 years. There was an annual increase of 2.5% from the first full year of Covid showing that offences are remaining consistently high.

  3. 3. The IWF annual report 2022 (page 46) found 96% of criminal child abuse material they found contained images of just girls. 2% contained images of boys and girls together.