Being threatened online
Some members of the LGBTIQ+ community can experience targeted and persistent attacks due to their gender, sexual orientation and/or cultural background.
It is never OK to be threatened online and it can be especially harmful if you are being targeted because of your gender, sexuality or cultural background.
If anyone threatens to share intimate images of you, including images of you without attire of religious or cultural significance that you would normally wear in public, this is image-based abuse and you should report it to eSafety.
If someone threatens you online in a way that is menacing, harassing or offensive and intended to cause you serious harm, this is adult cyber abuse. If the app, platform or service used to send, post or share the harmful content does not help you and your experience meets the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, you can report it to eSafety.
If the online abuse is part of domestic and family violence, we have resources and information to support you.
Young people feeling unsafe online can find information to help in being out, transgender or gender diverse online.
On this page:
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.
Threats to ‘out' a person because of their gender identity or sexual orientation
Some people may use dating apps to threaten to reveal your gender identity or sexual orientation to your work colleagues, your family or your community.
‘Even though I no longer live with my family, I keep my personal life a secret from them.’
‘They have very strong religious beliefs and are always saying that being a lesbian is a sin. I have been using a dating app for a while to connect with other women and was shocked to find out that one of my cousins saw my profile and is now threatening to out me to my family. I blocked him but that didn’t stop him telling my parents. When they asked me if it was true, I was so in shock, I denied it. I am just not ready to come out to them and when I do, I want to do it on my terms.’ – Aera*
Religious or community shaming
Some people with strongly held cultural or religious beliefs and customs can use dating apps as a way to shame LGBTIQ+ individuals who have come out to their families.
‘I came out to my family three years ago as queer. They have tried to “fix” me ever since.’
‘Things have been tough – I have been bashed by members of my own family and I was also contacted on a dating app by some family friends, who created fake profiles to insult me in private messages. They told me that I am “betraying my religion and shaming my family”. I have blocked them but this does not take away the pain and hurt this has caused. I am proud of who I am, but I fear for my safety. I have changed my name on dating apps and I no longer put up a profile pic to avoid being recognised. It’s tough trying to meet someone new when you don’t have a profile pic – guys think it is because I am not out or that I’m ashamed. It’s not that at all – I just have to make sure I am safe.’ – Ghassan*
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. For more information, read our advice on cyberstalking and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
If you are in Australia and you are in immediate danger or at risk of harm, call the police on Triple Zero (000).
‘I got a notification that I had been tagged in a photo of someone I had not seen in ages.’
‘I initially thought about saying hi but didn’t get around to it. Pretty soon I started receiving lots of the same notifications, it was like they were trying to make out we were close friends. This started creeping me out, so I sent them a message asking to be untagged. Instead of untagging me, I started to get heaps of private messages asking personal questions. I didn’t write back but this didn’t stop them so, I took screenshots as proof, reported them to the platform and then blocked them.’ – Sam*
What to do
Screenshot the chat or post. If things turn nasty, you might need it as evidence to report the abuse to online services, police or eSafety. Find out more about how to collect evidence.
Report harmful content
Report harmful posts or profiles to the app, platform or service. You can find reporting links for most apps in The eSafety Guide.
Prevent further contact
Once you have collected evidence, you can usually use in-app functions or the settings on the web browser to mute, unfollow or block the other person and change your privacy settings. The eSafety Guide has advice on key online safety functions for many online services, including dating apps.
If someone has shared or threatened to share intimate images or videos of you (image-based abuse), stop all contact with them. You can use in-app functions to mute or unfollow them, but don't block them until you are advised to do so by eSafety or the police – they may need to collect more evidence first.
For additional support services for the queer and LGBTIQ+ community across Australia, visit the ABC Queer and LGBTIQ+ support services page.
*The personal stories quoted here are real accounts taken from our community engagement sessions, only the names have been changed.
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Last updated: 19/10/2023