About online and technology assisted abuse

This factsheet explains what online and technology assisted abuse is and what some of the impacts can be. If you have experienced online or technology assisted abuse, there is support available for you.

What is online and technology assisted abuse?

Technology assisted abuse is the use of technology - including the internet, social media, mobile phones, computers, and surveillance devices - to abuse a person.

Online and technology assisted abuse can include stalking, harassment, coercion, humiliation, and intimidation.

Behaviours that we would refer to as online or technology assisted abuse include:

  • sending unsolicited sexual images or materials
  • taking and distributing sexual images without consent
    (or threatening to do so)
  • creating and distributing non-consensual pornography
  • creating and distributing fake pornography using someone’s likeness
  • cyberstalking
  • grooming
  • doxxing - posting someone’s personal, identifying details online without their consent

This list is not exhaustive. It is common to feel confused about what has happened to you and seeking specialist support or talking to a trusted person can be helpful.

Online abuse is a significant and growing problem, and you may have heard several terms and phrases used to refer to some of these behaviours, including ‘dick pics’, ‘upskirting’, and ‘revenge porn’.

Online and technology assisted abuse is never, ever your fault. A person who commits abuse is responsible for their own behaviour.

How common is online and technology assisted abuse?

Research has shown that the use of technology to perpetrate abuse - especially against women - is a rapidly growing and very serious problem.

While it is hard to put an exact figure on how common it is to experience online and technology assisted abuse, recent research by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) revealed that 1 in 2 Australian adults has experienced at least one incident of technology-assisted abuse victimisation. 62% of victim-survivors said the abuse was perpetrated by a man.

In 2022, a survey conducted in the UK reported that 79% of 13-21 year old girls and young women had experienced online harms in the previous year.

What is the impact of online and technology assisted abuse?

Every victim-survivor reacts differently to online and technology assisted abuse. There is no one ‘normal’ response. There is no right or wrong way to feel, think or behave.

However, like every other form of abuse, there are a range of responses that are common. These include, but are not limited to:

  • shock/disbelief
  • fear
  • anger
  • shame
  • guilt/self-blame
  • numbness
  • worry/anxiety about the future

Online abuse is frequently carried out by a partner or ex-partner who may have had access to images or videos that were taken consensually at the time. If these images are later used or distributed without consent, it can lead to a sense of betrayal, fear about longer-term impacts on life and work, and trauma related physical and psychological responses including anxiety, depression, insomnia and panic attacks.

Where to get more information?

You don’t have to go through this alone. There is support available to you if you have been a victim of online or technology assisted abuse.

If you have been impacted by image-based abuse - when intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed, or threatened to be distributed without your consent - this can be reported to the eSafety Commissioner
(www.esafety.gov.au). The Commission will help get the material removed as quickly as possible and take action against the person who posted, or threatened to post, an intimate image without consent.

The eSafety Commission website also contains a huge amount of information about online safety and technology facilitated abuse including an eSafety hub for women, a  First Nations eSafety hub, and a Diverse Communities eSafety hub that includes information about LGBTQIA+ communities, people with disabilities, and culturally and linguistically diverse people.

ANROWS (www.anrows.org.au) has a section on its website focused on technology-assisted abuse research.

Beira’s Place (www.beirasplace.org.uk) is a UK-based support organisation and its website contains useful resources about online abuse and harassment.  

Reaching out for support can be an important way to help you work through the trauma you have experienced.   Healing is possible and everyone does this in their own way and at their own pace. Despite your trauma, you also have your own resources and strengths that can also help you recover from the impacts of sexual violence.

Online and technology assisted abuse

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