Types of online abuse
It’s a sad reality that many people in the LGBTIQ+ community experience online abuse. Learning more about different types of online abuse can help you to better manage online risks and deal with their impacts.
Every situation is unique and eSafety is committed to helping all Australians prevent and deal with online abuse. We do this by providing information, education and resources, as well as investigating the most serious cases of abuse and helping to remove harmful content.
On this page:
Adult cyber abuse
Adult cyber abuse involves severely abusive online communication to or about an adult which is menacing, harassing or offensive and intended to cause them serious harm. eSafety has lots of information to help you protect yourself, deal with adult cyber abuse and find counselling and support. In some circumstances, eSafety can also investigate and have the harmful content removed,
Read more about adult cyber abuse. You can also find out more about the difference between adult cyber abuse and online hate.
‘I’m a coach at my local soccer club. One of the players was not comfortable with having me, a non-binary person, as their coach.’
‘Whenever I gave this player directions, he would get all worked up and yell and scream at me. Pretty quickly, his abuse shifted online and he started making horrible comments about me on the club’s social media pages. Things started getting worse and before long, he was also sending me DMs saying that he was going to bash me the next time he saw me. This went on for months and it started to take a toll on my mental health. I was lucky to have the support of the other players and he was eventually asked to leave the club. I also reported him to eSafety and they helped me to deal with the online abuse I was getting. A positive thing to come out of this situation was that, together as a team, we created a set of standards and rules for the soccer club’s social pages to clearly state what we considered to be acceptable behaviour online and to help protect the club members from online harm.’ – Sam*
What to do
If you are in Australia and you are in immediate danger or at risk of harm, call the police on Triple Zero (000).
If your experience meets the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, and the service or platform does not help, you can report the harmful content to eSafety using our online form. Read more about how to report adult cyber abuse.
You can also follow these steps to manage the impacts.
Note: Claims of reputational harm caused by the posting of defamatory material online are dealt with by the legal system, not eSafety. If someone makes defamatory comments about you online, it may be worth seeking legal advice. Besides litigation, a lawyer may be able to write a cease-and-desist letter to the person responsible in certain circumstances.
Image-based abuse, sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’, is when someone shares or threatens to share intimate, nude or sexual images without the consent of those pictured. Read more about image-based abuse.
We support anyone experiencing image-based abuse, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. eSafety considers an ‘intimate image’ to be one which shows nudity, sexual poses or private activity such as getting undressed or showering. We can also help with the sharing, or threatened sharing, of images of a person’s breasts or chest, if the person identifies as female, non-binary, transgender or intersex, and they regard this part of their body as private. Read more about the definition of an intimate image.
Sharing a nude or sexual image or video of someone without their consent is a violation of their trust and can get you into serious trouble. It can also seriously damage someone else’s reputation and make them feel humiliated. If someone sent you a photo, ask yourself – have they given me active consent to share this photo with someone else? The mostly likely answer is that they haven’t, so don’t share the image.
What to do
If you experience image-based abuse, report it to eSafety for help to remove the images.
Check this quick guide to image-based to find out how you can get help and support. You can also read personal stories from LGBTIQ+ people about image-based abuse from Jess, Luca and Mitch or watch Steven’s Story.
One in five Australians experience image-based abuse.
Image-based abuse is the sharing of intimate images without consent by an ex-partner or current partner.
Imagine how you would feel if you felt naked everywhere you went.
How would you feel out socially?
What if it was your partner that shared your image without consent?
If it is happening to you, you can report it.
Steven (speaks to camera):
And what if it happened to you?
Image-based abuse is never OK.
You can report image-based abuse at eSafety.gov.au
This story combines the experiences and emotions of a number of individuals in this situation. Commissioned photo. Posed by model.
Cyberstalking is when a person keeps constant track of you online in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or threatened. They could keep checking in on you and trying to get your attention even when you make it clear that you are not interested. Sometimes it's worse – they may repeatedly send, post or share unwanted sexual requests, abusive comments or false accusations about you. They could attempt to smear your reputation, or threaten you with sexual or other forms of physical violence.
Cyberstalking is often accompanied by offline stalking and can be connected to domestic and family violence. For more information, read our advice on cyberstalking and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
Remember, it is never OK to stalk someone on social media or send unwanted messages to them.
‘My ex-partner has been ordered not to contact me online. I have blocked him from all my social media accounts and have asked my close friends to do the same.’
‘I even changed my privacy settings to make all my accounts private so they can only be seen by my close friends. But I think he must have asked someone else to check my posts for him because he has sent me images that could only have come from my social media posts. I do not know who is providing him with this information, but someone is, and I find it really concerning and upsetting. I am so tired of all of this! I do not want to change the way I live and I hate feeling nervous all the time – I have the right to feel safe! I spoke with a close friend and he went with me to the police to report these incidents. We asked to speak with a LGBTIQ+ Liaison Officer and provided all the evidence. They are helping me to keep my ex-partner away. Cyberstalking is a crime.’ – Zhan*
What to do
If you are in Australia and are in immediate danger or at risk of harm, call the police on Triple Zero (000). All Australian jurisdictions have laws dealing with cyberstalking and you can get help from the police.
For more information, read our advice on cyberstalking and the steps you can take to deal with this abuse.
Doxing is when someone intentionally publishes your personal information online without your consent. Your personal information includes information such as your full name, home address, date of birth or credit card details. Find out more about doxing.
‘I had been with my partner for two years before I discovered she was seeing someone else behind my back.’
‘Things got really tense and we started arguing a lot before we finally split up. All this was complicated by the fact we worked in the same industry. Shortly after our breakup, she started threatening that, if we didn’t get back together, she was going to share my credit card details, my Medicare number, my mobile and my physical address on social media. I was absolutely petrified. I knew what scammers could do if my personal information was shared online. I took screenshots of the messages she sent me, and then reported her to social media services. I also got help from eSafety, including advice on checking my privacy and security settings. It was such a relief when the online harassment stopped.’ – Kirra*
What to do
To protect yourself against doxing check your privacy settings on social media, use a range of strong passwords for your accounts and limit the amount of personal information that you share online. Find out more about protecting your personal information.
Read more about doxing and what you can do to protect yourself.
Be very careful about the amount of personal information you share with someone you have just met online. Scammers are online and are out to steal your identity and money.
What to do
If someone threatens to share a nude or sexual image or video of you unless you give them money, this is sexual extortion. Learn more about sexual extortion and how to report it.
*The personal stories quoted here are real accounts taken from our community engagement sessions, only the names have been changed.
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