In the context of domestic and family violence, cyberstalking is the use of technology to stalk or repeatedly harass a partner, ex-partner or family member.
This page is for anyone experiencing cyberstalking as part of domestic and family violence. Targeted advice is also available for adults who may be experiencing online abuse or cyberstalking from a stranger or someone else known to them.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a form of online abuse — the terms are often used interchangeably. Both may include false accusations, abusive comments, attempts to smear your reputation, threats of physical or sexual violence or repeated unwanted sexual requests. Cyberstalking may also include monitoring, identity theft and the gathering of information that may be used to threaten, embarrass or harass. Cyberstalking is often accompanied by offline stalking.
Cyberstalking can include
- Making unwanted contact by calling, emailing, texting, messaging, or sending offensive material.
- Sharing — or threatening to share — photos, videos, personal information, or anything that is humiliating or embarrassing to you.
- Posting humiliating, abusive or intimidating comments about you on social media.
- Accessing your email or social media accounts to find your personal information, track your movements, read your emails and messages, or change your passwords to lock you out of your accounts.
- Impersonating your online identity in order to harm your reputation or relationships — including creating fake social media accounts.
- Monitoring your movements using GPS technologies that are built into the operating systems of phones, tracking apps or spyware.
- Physically tracking you, following you or watching you.
Your partner or ex-partner may use cyberstalking to abuse and control you — or to try and have continuing power over your life after you have separated.
Remember, any behaviour that makes you feel unsafe is not OK, and it is not your fault.
How do you know if you are being cyberstalked?
Every situation is different. Use our ‘what are the warning signs’ checklist to learn how to recognise technology-facilitated abuse, including cyberstalking.
What can you do?
Should you be worried if you are being cyberstalked? Yes. If you are experiencing any of the behaviours listed above, it is a good idea to seek support and help right now.
If you are in immediate danger call the police now on Triple Zero (000) or contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Cyberstalking can become dangerous and can develop into physical abuse. Do not wait to report cyberstalking. The longer cyberstalking goes on, the more likely you will be emotionally drained or physically hurt.
Get help from the police
Stalking is a crime in all states and territories in Australia. If you think your partner or ex-partner is cyberstalking you, contact your local police — they can help you. Never let cyberstalking go on for too long — if you feel unsafe report the abuse to the police now. The help and support section contains useful tips on how to get help from the police. You may also be able to take out a protection order against the abusive person.
Make a safety plan
A safety plan can help you take steps to leave an abusive relationship or deal with cyberstalking from an ex-partner. Call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) and they will help you make one.
A safety plan can help you to increase your personal safety.
If you are living with the cyberstalker, for your own safety, use a public phone or a friend’s mobile to contact a support service like 1800RESPECT. Remember, if an abusive person learns that you are seeking resources and information, it is possible that their abusive behaviour may get worse. This is why a safety plan is necessary.
If you do not live with the cyberstaker or have separated, limit contact with them as much as possible. This may be difficult if you are sharing custody of children. If possible, give the cyberstalker a single clear message at the earliest possible stage that their attention is unwelcome and that you do not want any unsolicited contact from them. If they continue to contact you or post abusive material, instead of responding to their posts, messages, texts or calls, collect them as evidence.
Online safety planning as part of a broader safety plan
It is important to consider your online safety as part of a broader safety plan. eSafety can help with online safety planning:
- Use our online safety checklist to help you keep safe from cyberstalking, while you are living with an abusive partner and after you have left. It may be useful to go through this checklist with a domestic violence support worker or lawyer. There is also an online safety checklist for friends and family.
- Our social media checklist will help you think about how you can use social media more safely.
- You can also learn about how to secure your accounts and devices.
- Our online safety tips will also help you to use your device safety and secure your online accounts.
- If you have children, there is also information on keeping your children safe.
Talk to close friends and family
Use a safe phone — or a phone that the cyberstalker cannot access, such as a friend’s phone at their house — to contact your friends and family or meet them in person. Tell them what is happening so they can support you and help you to stay safe. It is vital that you stay in contact with people that can support and help you.
Common reactions to cyberstalking
Being cyberstalked can be traumatic and extremely stressful.
It is normal to experience one or more of these reactions:
- feeling confused, anxious and powerless
- feeling angry, depressed and distrustful
- feeling isolated from family and friends
- feeling that you need to watch your back all the time and are unable to have any peace
- finding it harder to remember things or get organised
- becoming super-focused and noticing and remembering everything
- being unable to ‘switch off'
- struggling to manage caring responsibilities, such as looking after children
Connect with support
Remember that the cyberstalking is not your fault. Learn more about how to get help and support.