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Adult cyber abuse

Adult cyber abuse is when the internet is used to send, post or share content that is harmful to the physical or mental health of someone who is 18 or older.

eSafety helps all Australians prevent and deal with adult cyber abuse and its impacts. We do this through providing information, education and resources, as well as investigating the most serious cases of abuse.

On this page you will find:

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“My ex used my phone to stalk me and kept sending messages saying that I couldn’t hide from him.”
“When I posted about being sexually harassed some men said it was just flirting. They threatened to show me what sexual harassment really looked like.”
“A random person started messaging me with racist and homophobic comments and they posted my home address on social media.”
Each of these people has experienced serious adult cyber abuse.

That's when someone who's 18 or older is targeted with severely abusive online content that's intended to cause them serious physical or mental harm.
“I felt scared.”
They may be targeted because of how they look, where they’re from, their religion, gender, disability, political beliefs, or sexuality.
It might be a post, a comment, a meme, a message, an email or even a chat in a game. 
It could be sent to the person targeted or it might be about them.
“I felt trapped.”

They may be harassed using a phone or anything else connected to the internet.
Someone may share their personal details or encourage others to pile on the abuse.
Any adult can be targeted by anyone at any time.
“I felt alone.”
The Online Safety Act gives eSafety broad powers to help all Australians have safer and more positive experiences online.
If you're dealing with serious adult cyber abuse, we can help you.

Start by saving information. 
Even though you might want to get rid of anything bad don't delete it or block anyone yet, because you may need it as proof.
Just keep it and follow these steps.
First, collect any evidence by taking a screenshot and noting the web address or URL.
It's also good to include the account name, profile, and online service provider as well as the date and time of the abuse.
Then report it to the online service provider that was used to post or send the content.
They have a responsibility to help you.

If you don't hear back, contact us here at esafety.gov.au.
We can direct the person responsible and the service provider to remove seriously harmful content quickly.
“Thanks to eSafety, I got my life back.”
“I have support.”
“I feel safe again.”
To find out more about adult cyber abuse, how to report it, and tips for staying safe online, visit esafety.gov.au.

WATCH NOW: How eSafety can help you deal with adult cyber abuse

Serious online abuse can happen to anyone at any time, but eSafety is here to help. Find out about some typical experiences and the steps you can take to deal with harmful content.

Do you feel unsafe right now?

If you are in Australia and in immediate danger or at risk of harm call triple zero (000).

Contact your local police on 131 444 if there are threats to your safety or threats to your friends or family members.

What is adult cyber abuse?

Adult cyber abuse is when someone sends seriously harmful content to a person who is 18 or older, or posts or shares harmful content about them, using an online or electronic service or platform. It can include posts, comments, emails, messages, chats, livestreams, memes, images and videos.

What you can do

If someone is just being rude, annoying or upsetting, or you don't like their opinions, you can use simple strategies such as changing the settings on your device or online account to limit contact with them. Find out how in The eSafety Guide

But if the content is seriously harmful you should report it to the service or platform that was used to send, post or share it. This is usually the fastest way to get the content removed and stop the bad behaviour, if the service or platform has clear rules and moderators who can assess reports and take action. This also allows them to understand, prevent and respond when patterns of abuse develop that may affect other users. You can find reporting links for common services and platforms in The eSafety Guide. Also, you can follow our tips about how to manage the impacts of adult cyber abuse.

If the harmful content is serious enough, and the service or platform does not help you, eSafety can direct them to remove it.

 

For eSafety to investigate, the harmful content must meet the legal definition of 'adult cyber abuse'. This means it must target a specific Australian adult and be both:

  1. intended to cause serious harm, and
  2. menacing, harassing or offensive in all the circumstances.

This can include content that makes realistic threats, places a person in physical danger, is excessively hurtful, or repeatedly targets the same person. It may also involve hate speech including sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, antisemitism and islamophobia.

You can learn more, including what is meant by ‘serious harm’ and ‘menacing, harassing and offensive’, by reading about eSafety’s Adult Cyber Abuse Scheme.

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I'm being abused online. What do I do? 

Here are 5 things that can help:

1. Try not to respond. It can make it worse.

2. Change your privacy settings to limit contact. See The eSafety Guide for tips.

3. Look after your mental health.

4. Collect evidence and report it to the platform.

5. No response? Report it to eSafety.gov.au. eSafety can get seriously harmful content removed.

WATCH: 5 things to do if you’re being abused online

Report adult cyber abuse to eSafety

If the content is seriously harmful and the service or platform does not help, you can report it to eSafety using our online form.

Report now

 

 

Last updated: 08/05/2024