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Know the facts about women online

Women are more likely to be targets of online abuse in all its forms.

International research has pointed to the stark finding that women and girls are subjected to very high levels of online abuse simply because they are women. This page gives a snapshot of the experiences of women in Australia.

Women are abused online at an unacceptably high rate.

A 2018 survey of 502 Australian women aged 18-55 conducted by Ipsos MORI for Amnesty International found that: 

  • Three in 10 women (30%) surveyed said that they had experienced online abuse or harassment.
  • Nearly half (47%) of those who said they had experienced online abuse were aged 18 to 24.
  • 37% of women who had experienced online abuse or harassment said that on at least one occasion, these online experiences made them feel that their physical safety was threatened.

Amnesty - Ipsos MORI poll (February 2018, Australia) 

Abuse of women starts early

Seven out of ten Australian girls aged 15 to 19 believe online harassment and bullying is endemic. For these women, receiving unwanted and uninvited sexually explicit content online is now considered common behaviour.

Plan International and Our Watch ‘Don’t send me that pic’ (March 2016)

Women experience abuse that is misogynistic or sexist, and often includes threats of physical or sexual violence.

  • Two-fifths (42%) of women responding to the survey who had experienced online abuse or harassment said it was misogynistic or sexist in nature, and a fifth (20%) said it had included threats of physical or sexual violence.
  • More than one in 10 (11%) of women responding to the survey who had experienced abuse or harassment online said personal or identifying details of them had been shared online (also known as ‘doxing’).

Amnesty - Ipsos MORI poll (February 2018, Australia) 

  • Compared to their male peers, girls online are facing more threats of sexual violence, more comments about their appearance and behaviour, and are more often told not to speak out and have an opinion.

Plan International and Our Watch ‘Don’t send me that pic’ (March 2016)

Women and men experience image-based abuse differently

  • Women are more likely than men to fear for their safety due to image-based abuse.
  • Women (39%) were more likely than men (30%) to be victimised by an intimate partner or ex-partner.

Henry, N., Powell, A. & Flynn, A. (2017). Not Just ‘Revenge Pornography’: Australians’ Experiences of Image-Based Abuse 

Women are particularly vulnerable to image-based abuse

  • Women – are twice as men likely to have their nude/sexual images shared without consent (15% women aged 18+, 7% of men aged 18+)
  • Young adults aged 18 to 24 – and, again particularly women in this age group (24% women compared to 16% men)
  • Indigenous Australians 
  • Those who identify as LGBTQI 
  • Almost a fifth of those who speak a language other than English at home have experienced image-based abuse.

Henry, N., Powell, A. & Flynn, A. (2017). Not Just ‘Revenge Pornography’: Australians’ Experiences of Image-Based Abuse 

Being abused online can be profoundly damaging

  • More than 3 in 5 (62%) of those who said they had experienced online abuse or harassment said they had experienced lower self-esteem or loss of self-confidence as a result.
  • A similar proportion (59%) said they had experienced stress, anxiety or panic attacks after experiencing online abuse or harassment.
  • 62% said they had not been able to sleep well as a result of online abuse or harassment.
  • About half (49%) said online abuse or harassment had meant that they had been unable to concentrate for long periods of time.

Amnesty - Ipsos MORI poll (February 2018, Australia)

Online abuse can silence women’s voices

  • Two-fifths (40%) of women who said that they had experienced abuse or harassment on a social media platform either ceased or decreased their use of the platforms.
  • Some women are also restricting what they post about: 27% of those with an experience of online abuse or harassment said they had stopped posting content that expressed their opinion on certain issues, and 23% said they stopped sharing content that expressed their opinion on certain issues.

Amnesty - Ipsos MORI poll (February 2018, Australia)

However, women are resilient!

Having had the experience of abuse or harassment on social media, 44% stated that they did not change the amount that they use social media at all.

Amnesty - Ipsos MORI poll (February 2018, Australia)