Study On Web Search Reveals Gender Based Violence Rise In Crisis

According to a study of online behaviour in four Pacific island countries, people searched more frequently for terms relating to gender-based violence (GBV) during times of crisis.

Kalyani Ganesan
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According to a recent study of online behaviour in four Pacific island countries, people searched more frequently for terms relating to gender-based violence (GBV) during times of crisis. The findings in the new report Disasters, Crises, and Violence Against Women: Evidence from Big Data Analysis and Lessons from Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Tonga should now be used to improve how survivors of gender-based violence are reached during such critical times as when the need is greatest and the support might be difficult to access.


The study revealed that searches for phrases like "abuse sexually, "beating wife," and "rape" in local languages witnessed a significant rise when people were dispersed at times of natural disasters, affected by extreme weather conditions, or confined to their homes by lockdowns or curfews. The study was done using big data analytics to quantify Google searches and social media posts between June 2020 and June 2022.

UN Study On Gender-Based Violence

The analysis also discovered that searches returned mostly webpages of service providers in other countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The study found that spikes in gender-based violence were high when two or more crises overlapped. For instance, in Kiribati, GBV rose by 164 percent in March 2021, when the island country was suffering from draughts and food insecurity because of the La Nina weather system and COVID-19 lockdowns.

In Tonga, online searches rose by 600 percent in March 2022, five weeks after the country gained an internet connection after a volcanic eruption. Thus, the study also indicated that searches surged drastically after internet connections were restored after a disruption.

The study also examines 51,870 Google searches for violence against women and girls (VAW) terms across the four countries searched by women and girls themselves. The list was formulated by the language used in related research and verified by each UN country's term for localization, both linguistic and cultural.


The research aided in confirming that environmental crises had significant gendered effects. When face-to-face surveys might be complicated, technology provides opportunities to understand women’s needs. Based on the findings of this study, UN Women continues to partner with service providers in order to expand their joint reach and support survivors of violence.

The study also looked at 500 social media posts in each country on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok posted between June 2020 and June 2021. The study was not extended to June 2022 as the results were consistent over time.

Apart from the widespread support of GBV survivors, misogyny and victim blaming were also persistent in VAW posts: 5 percent in the Solomon Islands and 30 percent in Kiribati.

In Kiribati, 30 percent of posts were linked to the use of alcohol or marijuana. 14 percent of posts in Samoa mention religion as justification for violence against women and girls, and in Tonga, 10 percent link traditional gender roles to domestic violence. Based on this, the study found that the VAW posts highlighted the cultural differences between these countries.

The study also distinguished between search terms related to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. It is also possible that the higher rate of sexual violence is due to the private nature of the issue, which discourages others from seeking information on it. The research was supported through the Building Back Better project, with support from the Australian government.

Violence against women UN Study On Gender Based Violence UN Women Study