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Managing the impacts of adult cyber abuse

Adult cyber abuse can have a long-lasting impact on your sense of safety, self-esteem, mental health and physical wellbeing.

The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault – you are not alone and there is help available.

There is a wide range of strategies for managing the impacts, from reporting the harmful content through to supporting your mental wellbeing. It may also be helpful to contact a counselling or support service.

On this page:

How to report adult cyber abuse

Report the harmful content to the service or platform used to send, post or share it. This is often the fastest way to have the content removed. You can find reporting links for many services and platforms, including social media, online games and other apps, in The eSafety Guide.

 

If the content is seriously harmful and the service or platform does not help, you can report it to eSafety and we will help to have it removed.

How adult cyber abuse can affect your wellbeing

Online abuse can have negative impacts on physical or mental health. A person dealing with adult cyber abuse can feel a range of emotions – from fear to anxiety, anger and a sense of hopelessness. They may suffer trauma and ongoing depression. The impacts can be temporary, but in some cases, they can last a long time.

It's important to remember that all these feelings are normal and you’re not alone. 

Reach out for help and support

It can be hard to ask for help, but it can make a big difference to talk with someone else about what’s happened.

No one should have to experience adult cyber abuse, but knowing the most effective ways to deal with it can help you manage the impact and build your strength and resilience. You don’t have to cope with adult cyber abuse on your own.

Talk to someone you trust

Before you do anything, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted person who is not involved for support and advice. Telling a friend, family member or someone else you trust about what you are going through can help you feel heard and ease the stress. Sometimes they can give a different perspective on what you have been going through, which may help you to stop feeling overwhelmed.

We encourage you to keep staying connected with your trusted person for support as you deal with the situation. They can also help you to report adult cyber abuse, get help from police or find legal help.

Contacting a counselling and support service

If, like lots of Australians, you feel like you don’t have anyone close you can talk to about your experience with adult cyber abuse – or you want expert help – counselling and support services are available. These services can provide immediate, non-judgemental support and advice.

It’s important to find help if you’re anxious or depressed, or feel like things are getting too hard for you. Some signs you can watch out for include changes in your mood, sleep patterns, energy levels and appetite. Not feeling like socialising (or going to school or work) can also be a sign that it’s time to get more help.
 

Stay safe

Emergency help in Australia, any time of the day or night

If your life or safety is at risk and you need urgent help Triple Zero (000).

 

If you’re having thoughts about suicide or self-harm call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

You can also get help and support from one of these counselling services

Beyond Blue

All ages. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

Lifeline

All ages. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

1800RESPECT

Confidential counselling, support and information for people affected by sexual abuse or domestic and family violence. Available 24/7.

Mensline

Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

Australian Human Rights Commission

Investigates and resolves complaints of discrimination and breaches of human rights, including racism and sexual discrimination. You can make a complaint no matter where you live in Australia. The service is free and impartial.

QLife

All ages. Counselling and referral for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and/or intersex. Phone counselling and online chat available every day from 3pm to 12am.

More support services

Tips for taking care of yourself online and offline


  1. Stay socially connected

    You might feel like avoiding others when you’re feeling down or worried. But if you cut off contact with other people, it can make you feel isolated and lonely.


  2. Reclaim your space online

    It’s common to be worried about going online after a bad experience, but you have every right to be there.

    At first, you might like to only talk with people you trust. You can change your account or device settings so only friends or family can contact you.

    You can also ask friends to look out for you when you’re online, until you get your confidence back. They could join you while you’re scrolling posts or you could play a game together, or set up times with them to check in on you by direct message while you’re online.

    When you’re comfortable communicating online again, set an example for respectful online behaviour by responding to negative posts with tolerance and empathy.


  3. Create a safe space offline

    Find ways to help you limit your chances of seeing any harmful content or abusive behaviour online. You might do this by switching off your devices or notifications at certain times of the day, if you can. Go for a walk, catch up with a friend or read a book.

    You could also set aside an internet-free space in your home. For example, keep your phone and other devices out of your bedroom at night.

Explore more information

You can find more advice about how to prevent and deal with online abuse, tailored to your situation.

  • Australians of all ages have shared their stories with eSafety about how they have experienced and dealt with adult cyber abuse. It may be helpful to read these real stories and know you’re not alone in what you’re feeling.
  • There is advice in our Adult cyber abuse section for family and friends about how they can play a role in helping people who have experienced adult cyber abuse. 
  • Our Cyberbullying section explains what to do if someone has used the internet to send, post or share content that is harmful to the physical or mental health of a child or young person under 18 years of age.
  • Our Domestic and family violence advice is about how to deal with online abuse that’s part of domestic and family violence, including safety planning before taking steps to get the content removed. 
  • Our Image-based abuse section explains what to do If someone shares or threatens to share an intimate image or video of you. This includes ‘revenge porn’ and ‘sextortion’.
  • There are tailored tips for women about how to stay safe online. Women In The Spotlight includes information about how to manage the impacts for women who experience online abuse as part of their work.
  • There is specialist advice for First Nations people, LGBTIQ+ people and people living with disability.
  • We also have online safety advice translated into languages other than English.
  • Our Sports hub has advice for anyone involved in sport at any level, including resources you can share at your club.

Last updated: 23/02/2024