Advances in technology and the use of social media have led to an increase in technology-assisted violence and abuse.
Social media, texting, email, and surveillance devices can be used by domestic violence perpetrators as methods and tools to stalk, harass, and abuse their victims. This results in the victims of this type of abuse feeling like they are unable to escape their abusers.
It is important to recognise abuse through means of technology and understand what you can do to stop it.
What is technology facilitated abuse?
Technology facilitated abuse can take many forms, such as:
- abusive messages or calls
- account take overs – where someone accesses your online accounts and locks you out of them
- image-based abuse – when someone shares or threatens to share an intimate image of you without your consent
- fake social media accounts – when fake accounts are being used to harass you or post negative comments about you online
- being tracked through a phone or device – when tracking techniques or spyware are used to see where you are
What is online abuse?
This type of abuse includes using social media, games or other forums to make:
- abusive, degrading, or hateful comments directed at someone
- threats of physical or sexual violence against a person
- repeated or unwanted sexual requests directed at someone
Accessing a person’s email or social media account to gather information or impersonate them is also considered online abuse. There have been cases where abusers have set up fake social media accounts in another person’s name in order to harass or humiliate them.
Sharing, or threatening to share, intimate images of a person is considered image-based abuse.
Spreading lies or malicious rumours about a person through social media is another form of online abuse.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is also a form of online abuse and these terms are often used interchangeably. It may include:
- false accusations
- abusive comments
- attempts to smear someone’s reputation
- threats of physical or sexual violence or repeated unwanted sexual requests
Stalking a person through their social media accounts, calling, and texting them can amount to cyberstalking and is often accompanied by real life stalking.
What is image based abuse?
Image-based abuse is also referred to as ‘revenge porn’ and occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images or videos of a person are shared, or threatened to be shared, without that person’s consent or permission.
Image-based abuse can be used to control someone through:
- threats to share intimate images unless a person does what an abuser requests
- pressure to send intimate images against someone’s will
- intimate, nude or sexual images that have been taken without someone’s permission that are then used to threaten and harass
Images can include real, photo shopped and drawn pictures and videos.
What to do if you are experiencing online abuse
The most important thing to do is to develop a safety plan and to plan for your online safety before requesting the removal of any abusive images.
A safety plan involves steps to help someone leave an abusive relationship or deal with image-based abuse from an ex-partner.
If you would like to develop a safety plan, you can call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for assistance and advice. For your safety, you should use a public or friend’s phone to make the call so that the abusive person cannot track your call history.
Online safety planning
Online safety plans (OSPs) can assist people to deal with image-based abuse as part of an encompassing safety plan.
eSafety can help with OSP by:
- The use of the online safety checklist to help you keep people safe, while living with and after leaving an abusive partner. You can request to go through this checklist with a domestic violence support worker or lawyer.
- The social media checklist is available to help think about how people can use social media more safely.
- People can also learn about how to make their accounts and devices more secure.
For more information on how to stay safe online, see the esafety commissioner website.
Although technology has its benefits, it also provides opportunities to be used to abuse or threaten people as part of domestic, family and general violence. It can also be used to stalk victims on- and offline.
There are tools to combat online abuse and help people stay safe, such as OSPs that help adults and children stay connected and prevent abusers from locating them through social media and their online accounts and devices.
If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 4322 0251 or email [email protected].