Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: advice for women experiencing domestic violence

The need for physical distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic means that Australian women experiencing domestic and family violence are at increased risk.

For women who are living in an abusive relationship or have recently separated, being forced to remain in one place for an extended time can be frightening.

Connecting online is essential while many of us are at home, but it’s important to be aware of potential risks with the technology.
If you are experiencing domestic or family violence the following advice may help you to continue safely using your devices and accounts during this difficult time.

Find another device

If someone else has access to your device or you think they can get past your privacy and security settings, check for any other devices you could use, either in your home or at a friend’s or neighbour’s place, so that you can get help when you need it. 

If you think your device has spyware on it, be careful about how and where you use it

Check the warning signs and be very careful about using your current phone to seek help. Leave the phone at home or put it in a different room if you are having a conversation that you need to keep private, such as with a frontline worker or someone else that you trust. 

Set up a new or separate email account

Setting up a new, safe email account will enable you to communicate with others that you trust.

Change the passwords or passcodes on all your accounts, devices and emails

Don’t use names of people, important dates or anything that you think the abuser will know. Try to use words and number combinations that only you could know and remember. If you are worried that you will forget them, tell a trusted friend who can keep the details safe.

Use different passwords for different online accounts

For your safety, set up different passwords for each device or account wherever possible. This will prevent the abuser accessing all your content if they manage to log in to one of them. You can use a password manager to help you manage multiple passwords on different accounts.

Increase the security of your accounts

  • Change your security questions to ones that only you know the answers to.
  • Sign in and out of your accounts each time you use them. 
  • Always use two factor authentication for extra security.

Learn more about how to secure your accounts in the eSafety Women video library

Use the private browser on your device

When searching online, and especially when looking for information about how to get help, use private or ‘incognito’ browsing mode.

Keep your location private

Check the privacy settings to make sure you have disabled the location services on all the devices and platforms you use, including social media accounts. Also, avoid social media tagging and ask your trusted friends and family not to post anything that might let people know where you are. 

Bluetooth technology can be used to track your location, to share files and to pair with other devices like headphones. If you are concerned that your device may have spyware on it, or that your abuser maybe monitoring or stalking you, turn Bluetooth off.

You don’t have to deal with this alone

Direct access to support services may be affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we know that agencies are rapidly adapting and developing new ways to deliver essential services for clients. Many have online options. Help is still available.

Remember: keep talking to your support networks, to friends and family you can trust. It’s very important to find those moments to connect, even if you are physically far apart.

You are the best judge of your own situation, and you will know what is likely to make the abuse worse. Only follow the tips in this fact sheet if you are confident they won’t increase your risk.

At all times play it safe, and take good care. 

Staying safe

If you are in Australia and you feel unsafe right now, call the police on Triple Zero (000) or contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).