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Police and legal help

Tech abuse covers a wide range of behaviours, many of which are crimes under Australian law and can be reported to the police. If you are experiencing tech abuse as part of domestic and family violence, local police can help. 

There are laws that can help protect you if someone is using technology to abuse, control or frighten you.

Because every situation is different it is important to get legal advice. We cannot provide legal advice, but we can provide some general points for you to consider and help you to find a lawyer or get legal advice.

If you are unsure whether you are experiencing or at risk of tech abuse, find out more about how to identify tech abuse and the warning signs.

On this page:

How can the police help?

There are laws that cover behaviours like cyberstalking, sending threatening emails, texts, or messages, installing spyware on electronic devices, cyberbullying and sharing intimate images without consent.

Laws are different in each state and territory. Your local police can help you to work out whether there are laws that may apply to the specific type of online abuse you are dealing with.

The police can help by:

  • providing information about the process of applying for a protection order
  • supporting you and your family through the court process
  • helping you to access other relevant local support services

Even if there are no specific laws the police can use for your case, you can ask them to record your complaint in a report. This means that if the tech abuse continues or gets worse, there is a history of your concerns.

Make sure you write down the police report or event number, and the name and rank of the officer you speak with in case you need it later. An event number proves you reported the abuse to the police, even if a police report is not made, and it will be important if you need to report later incidents.

Find your local police station

Contacting and preparing to go to the police

If this is not an emergency call or visit your local police station. You can also call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.

You can call the police or visit your local police station to report tech abuse – such as online abuse, threats and stalking. 

Get support from friends or family

It is helpful to take a supportive friend or family member when you go to the police. They can help by taking notes, so you can read over them later. 

Ask to speak to a specialist Domestic Violence Officer

When you visit or call your local police station or the Police Assistance Line (131 444), ask to speak to a senior police officer. Also ask if there is a specialist Domestic Violence Officer at your local station or a nearby station. These officers are very experienced at dealing with domestic and family violence issues. 

There may be a different kind of specialist police officer you can talk to:

  • If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) you can ask to speak with a Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer.
  • If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander you can ask to speak to an Aboriginal Liaison Officer.
  • If you are from an ethnic or multicultural community you can ask to speak with either an Ethnic Community Liaison Officer or a Multicultural Community Liaison Officer.

Give as much information as you can

It will be easier for the police to help if you give them as much information as you can. It may be useful to show the police evidence so they can understand exactly what happened. This could include screenshots of any abusive text or chat messages that have been sent to you or other evidence of the abuse. See our advice on collecting evidence for more information on how to document tech abuse.

Identify the key points

Think about the key points you need to tell the police, and how the evidence fits with that. Each situation is different, and tech abuse may be one of a range of abuses that you are experiencing. It is important that it is documented as part of your whole story.

Contact a lawyer

You may also wish to take a lawyer with you when you meet with the police, particularly if you have already approached the police but have not yet received the help you need. You can read more about where to get legal advice.

Keep your report or event number

Make sure you get a report or event number before you leave the police station. You can also read our advice on collecting evidence of online abuse.

Where can I get legal advice?

A lawyer or legal service can help by discussing legal options with you, including how to apply for a protection order. They can also speak to the police with you, if you need.

Women’s legal services in each Australian State and Territory provide free and confidential legal advice to women. Some States and Territories also have specialised legal services for anyone experiencing domestic violence. For a list of these legal services, go to our counselling and support services page or to 1800RESPECT’s service directory, which lists the legal services in each Australian State and Territory.

The Family Violence Law website provides a comprehensive overview of the legal framework across Australia, as well as advice and links to resources. The content is available in 23 community languages. 

Remember to use a safe phone, like a public phone or a friend’s mobile, when contacting services for help. Do not use your own mobile or home phone in case someone is tracking you or can overhear you. Take the same precautions with computers and tablets — use a computer at a public library or a friend’s computer or tablet in a safe location.
 

Protection orders

You may need legal protection if technology is being used to abuse, control or frighten you. You, or the police on your behalf, can apply for a protection order preventing the abuser from doing things that can include approaching you, contacting you, or monitoring where you go and what you do. The order can also include a condition prohibiting the abuser from publishing or distributing intimate photos or videos of you. 

Contact your local police to discuss a violence or protection order. A lawyer or legal service can also help you apply for a protection order if you need one. For more information and help to find a lawyer see legal help.

Remember that it is a crime to breach a protection order. Once you have a protection order in place, you should let the police know immediately if you think it is being breached. Make sure you keep a record of any incidents you think are breaches as this may help if evidence is required later.

Protection orders are known by different names in Australian States and Territories:

  • Australian Capital Territory — Domestic Violence Orders
  • New South Wales — Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders
  • Northern Territory — Domestic Violence Orders
  • Queensland — Domestic Violence Protection Orders
  • South Australia — Intervention Orders
  • Tasmania — Family Violence Orders
  • Victoria — Family Violence Intervention Orders
  • Western Australia — Family Violence Restraining Orders

The National Domestic Violence Order Scheme

In November 2017 the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme (NDVOS) was introduced to ensure that domestic and family violence orders are enforceable across Australia, not just within the state or territory in which they were issued. 

If a protection order was issued prior to 25 November 2017, it can be registered at any time by applying to any local court in Australia to ensure the victim is protected nationwide. It does not need to be a local court in the state or territory where the order was issued. 

If a protection order was issued on or after 25 November 2017, it will be automatically recognised nationally and no further action is required.
 

Report tech abuse

You can report tech abuse such as cyberstalking to eSafety if it meets the threshold for one of the regulatory schemes that allow us to have seriously harmful content removed.

Adult cyber abuse is online content or communication which is menacing, harassing or offensive and intended to cause serious harm to someone who is 18 or older. 

Image-based abuse is when someone shares, or threatens to share, an intimate photo or video online of you without your consent. This includes images of someone without the religious or cultural attire they usually wear in public, such as a niqab or turban.

Cyberbullying of children is when someone uses online content or communication to seriously humiliate, seriously harass, seriously intimidate, or seriously threaten a child or young person under the age of 18.

Illegal and restricted online content includes material that shows or encourages the sexual abuse of children, terrorism or other acts of extreme violence, and material which is not suitable for children, such as pornography. 

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Stay safe

If you are feeling unsafe right now, call the police on Triple Zero (000) or contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). Remember your safety is important. If an abusive person learns that you are seeking resources and information, their abusive behaviour may get worse. Learn more and connect with support.