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For friends and family

Family and friends play a really important role in helping anyone who is experiencing tech abuse as part of domestic and family violence. 

eSafety has legal powers to help protect people who live in Australia from the most serious online abuse and harmful content. This includes content posted publicly or communicated through an online or electronic service or platform, including social media, games, chat apps, emails, messages (including SMS), forums and websites. Find out more about how eSafety can have seriously harmful content removed.

Support that is unconditional, focuses on their safety and what they are experiencing, is the most helpful, both in the short and long term.

Common reactions to online abuse, threats and cyberstalking

Being abused, threatened and cyberstalked is traumatic and extremely stressful, and reactions can vary. It is normal for your friend or family member to experience one or more of these reactions, such as feeling:

  • confused, anxious and powerless
  • angry, depressed and distrustful
  • isolated from family and friends
  • embarrassed, ashamed or guilty
  • worthless
  • like they are watching their back all the time and are unable to have any peace

They may find it harder to:

  • remember things
  • get organised
  • manage caring responsibilities

They could also:

  • become super-focused and notice and remembering everything
  • be unable to ‘switch off’

The most important thing to remember is that the abuse is not their fault. People experiencing abuse need support and encouragement. 

What can you do?

You can make a huge difference to any friend or family member who is experiencing, or has experienced, domestic or family violence. Just being there for them helps. But it is important to ensure your own safety first. 

It is a fact that the most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is when they leave.

If the person you are worried about lives with an abusive partner, or has an abusive ex, help them contact 1800Respect (1800 737 732) for safety planning before you do anything else. This is critical for their safety. At the same time, understand that people need to seek help when they are ready.

It can be difficult to understand why your friend or family member does not immediately leave their abusive partner, or once they have left, why they did not seek help and leave earlier. Avoid underestimating what they are going through and how difficult it is to experience ongoing abuse from a partner or family member. Remember that they have no control over the abuser’s behaviour — and that the abuse can continue long after they have separated.

Support that is unconditional and does not blame them is the most helpful.

Here are some things you can do to reassure and support them:

  • Be there for them — let them talk about what they are going through and how it makes them feel. Respect their experiences and understand that they know their situation better than anyone else.
  • Remind them that they have done nothing wrong — it is not their fault that they are in this situation. Tell them you understand what they are going through and are there for them.
  • Support them to choose the next step that is right for them — refer them to help and support, online safety planning and police and legal help on this website.

Remember, intimate partner abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, socio-economic status, family background, culture and sexuality. It is also far more common that you might imagine. For more information, visit our page on how to identify tech abuse.

Additional resources

The following resources can help you support a friend or family member who is experiencing technology-facilitated abuse as part of domestic and family violence:

See our ‘how to’ video library for step-by-step online safety advice.