How to manage the impacts of adult cyber abuse
Adult cyber abuse can have a long-lasting impact on your sense of safety, self-esteem, mental health and physical wellbeing. The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault – you are not alone and there is help available.
There is a wide range of strategies for managing the impacts, from reporting the harmful content through to supporting your mental wellbeing. It may also be helpful to contact a counselling or support service.
On this page:
8 tips for dealing with adult cyber abuse
No one should have to experience adult cyber abuse, but knowing the most effective ways to deal with it can help you manage the impact and build your strength and resilience.
You can follow all these tips, or just the ones most relevant to your experience, even if you decide not to report the abuse.
Before you do anything else
You don’t have to cope with adult cyber abuse on your own.
Before you do anything, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted person who is not involved for support and advice. Talking about the abuse can make a big difference and it’s important that you’re not having to deal with the abuse alone. They can help you to get a fresh point of view and help you to work out what to do.
We encourage you to continue to stay connected with them for support as you deal with the situation. They may also be able to help you with the reporting process if it becomes to hard for you.
Your immediate reaction might be to make the harmful content disappear, but it is really important that you keep evidence – in case you need to report it to the service or platform, or to eSafety or the police.
Take a screenshot of the abusive messages, posts or comments, or record the webpage addresses (URLs), then put them in a file so you don’t keep seeing them. You can delete the file at any time if you decide not to report the harmful content.
Our advice on how to collect evidence will help you.
Report harmful content
Report the harmful content to the service or platform used to send, post or share it. This is often the fastest way to have the content removed. You can find reporting links for many services and platforms, including social media, online games and other apps, in The eSafety Guide.
If the harmful content is serious enough to meet the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, and the service or platform does not help, you can report it to eSafety using our online form and we will help to have it removed
You can also report the abuse to the police. This is very important if someone is threatening you or your family or friends. Find out more about getting police and legal help.
Prevent further contact
Try not to respond or hit back. People who say hurtful things often do it just to get a reaction, so if you show it worked they may do it again. Don’t give them the satisfaction – emotional reactions feed the trolls.
When you have saved evidence and reported the abuse (if you decide to), use the in-app functions to ignore, mute or block the other person or account. If they reappear under a different name, mute or block them again. The eSafety Guide has advice on key safety functions for many services and platforms, including social media, online games and other apps.
It is also a good idea to review your privacy settings to limit who can contact you and see what you are doing or where you are going. The eSafety Guide includes advice on how to update your privacy settings.
Get more help
People who have experienced adult cyber abuse can feel a range of emotions from fear to anxiety, anger and a sense of hopelessness. They may suffer trauma and ongoing depression. The impacts can be temporary, but in some cases they can last a long time.
It can be hard to reach out for help, but talking to someone else about it can make a big difference.
Telling a friend or loved one about what you are going through can help you feel heard and supported, easing the stress. Sometimes they provide a different perspective on what you have been going through, which may help you to stop feeling overwhelmed. They can also help you report an adult cyber abuse complaint to eSafety, get help from police or find legal help.
If, like lots of Australians, you feel like you do not have anyone close you can talk to about adult cyber abuse – or you want expert help – a counselling service can provide immediate, non-judgemental support and advice.
Take care of your wellbeing
Dealing with adult cyber abuse may feel overwhelming, but you can get past it. Try these tips for taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Acknowledge your feelings – you are allowed to be upset.
- Be kind to yourself – it’s not your fault that you have been abused.
- Remember your strengths. Don’t let the opinions of others define your self-worth. Remind yourself of your best qualities and attributes.
- Regularly practise self-care by making time for leisure, exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep.
- Try meditation or other relaxation techniques.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Allow yourself time to heal.
Create a safe space offline
Reduce your chance of exposure to harmful content and behaviour online. If possible, try to switch off your devices or notifications at certain times of the day. Go for a walk, catch up with a friend or read a book.
You could also set aside an internet-free space in your home. For example, keep your phone and other devices out of your bedroom at night.
Be positive online
Don’t be afraid to respond to negative comments with a positive attitude. You can set the standard for positive online behaviour by communicating with respect, tolerance and empathy.
Check our tailored advice
Depending on your situation, you may find the following advice useful:
- Image-based abuse explains what to do if someone has shared, or threatened to share, an intimate image or video without the consent of the person shown. This is sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’.
- Domestic and family violence has advice on how to deal with online abuse that is part of domestic and family violence, including cyberstalking.
- There are tailored tips for women about how to stay safe online.
- Women In The Spotlight includes information about how to manage the impacts for women who experience online abuse as part of their work.
- There is specialist advice for diverse communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex or queer people and people living with disability.
- We also have online safety advice translated into languages other than English.
Counselling and support services
Adult cyber abuse affects different people in different ways, so we have listed several options for counselling and support services.
Specialised support is also available for anyone experiencing domestic and family violence and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and people living with disability.
All ages. All issues. Phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 3pm to 12am AEST daily.
Confidential counselling, support and information for people affected by sexual abuse or domestic and family violence. Available 24/7.
Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.
Australian Human Rights Commission
Investigates and resolves complaints of discrimination and breaches of human rights, including racism and sexual discrimination. You can make a complaint no matter where you live in Australia. The service is free and impartial.
All ages. Counselling and referral for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and/or intersex. Phone counselling available from 3pm to 12am, every day. Online chat available 3pm to 12am, every day.
Report serious adult cyber abuse to eSafety
If your experience meets the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, and the service or platform does not help, you can report the harmful content to eSafety using our online form.