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Online abuse

In the context of domestic and family violence, online abuse covers a range of behaviours an abusive person can use to control, frighten or humiliate their partner, ex-partner or family using technology. 

This page is for anyone experiencing online abuse as part of domestic and family violence.

Targeted advice is also available for kids, young people, parents or adults who may be experiencing or trying to deal with online abuse.

What is online abuse?

Online abuse includes using social media, games or other forums to make:

  • abusive, degrading or hateful comments about a person
  • threats of physical or sexual violence to a person
  • repeated or unwanted sexual requests to a person

Abusive behaviours also include

  • Constantly checking on a person through their social media activity or by calling and texting them. Read more about cyberstalking.
  • Accessing a person’s email or social media account to discover information about them or to impersonate them. In most cases, abusers are able to gain access to accounts through passwords that are saved on shared devices, or because they know the password or it is easy to guess.
  • Setting up fake social media accounts in another person’s name in order to harass or humiliate them. In some cases, abusers may use an account in the name of a child or a friend in order to keep a close watch on their target. This is known as proxy abuse.
  • Sharing, or threatening to share, intimate images of a person. Read more about image-based abuse.
  • Spreading lies or malicious rumours about a person.

Online abuse can be scary and very upsetting. Make sure you take care of yourself. If you can, tell friends and family what is happening as they can support you. Consider getting professional support, especially if you think about the abuse a lot and the abuse is affecting your life. Learn more about how to reach out for help and emotional support.

What can you do about online abuse?

Every situation is different. Use our ‘what are the warning signs’ checklist to learn how to recognise technology-facilitated abuse, including online abuse.

Staying safe

If you are in Australia and 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.

Manage online abuse

How to safely address online abuse depends on your relationship with the abuser. Is the abuser your partner or ex-partner? 

Secure your accounts and devices

It is a good idea to change the passwords on all your online accounts and to turn off location-sharing on your devices. 

Learn more about how to secure your accounts and devices.

Tips for managing your social media

It is a good idea to use your social media accounts safely and think carefully about what you post online. This is particularly important if you have concerns about your own safety — whether online or offline.

  • Read our social media checklist to help you think about how you can use social media more safely and stay connected to friends and family. 
  • The eSafety Guide also includes advice on privacy settings and online safety centres for individual social media services.

Connect with support

Remember that the online abuse is not your fault. Learn more about how to get help and support.