Cyber or Online Abuse During and After Separation and Helpful Tips
Technology facilitated violence and abuse is a serious issue. When people separate it is not uncommon for a disgruntled spouse to turn to social media such as Facebook to vent their unhappiness. But when does the use of social media in this manner become something more?
In this publication, we discuss Cyber Abuse and provide helpful tips for collecting and storing evidence safely.
What is Cyber Abuse?
A helpful definition of ‘Cyber abuse’ can be found on the eSafety Commissioners website. Cyber abuse is defined as ‘online behaviour which is reasonably likely to have a seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating effect on a person. It is behaviour that threatens to hurt a person socially, psychologically or even physically.’
Cyber abuse can occur through a range of platforms including social media (such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), games or other online forums to make:
- abusive, degrading or hateful comments about a person;
- threats of physical or sexual violence to a person; or
- repeated or unwanted sexual requests to a person.
Behaviours that may also constitute abuse include:
- Sharing, or threatening to share, intimate or sexual photos or videos of a person online without their consent.
- Encouraging vulnerable people to self harm.
- Stalking a person online — regularly checking a person’s social media activity such as Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Hacking into a person’s email or social media account to impersonate them.
- Creating fake social media accounts. For example, creating a Facebook account in another person’s name using someone else’s picture. Many people know this as “catfishing”.
- Spreading lies or malicious rumours about a person.
- Threating violence or inciting others to do the same.
- Repeatedly making unwanted contact with a person by calling, emailing, texting, messaging, or sending obscene material.
- Monitoring another person’s movements using GPS, tracking apps or spyware.
Proving online abuse
While there are laws that can help with this, without evidence it will be difficult to prove to Police and the Courts that this is happening.
There are a number of ways you can collect evidence of cyber abuse however you must only do so if it is safe to.
Here are some helpful tips when collecting evidence:
- Always seek legal advice first (if you can). Your lawyer is the best person to tell you what evidence may be required in your case.
- Take screen shots of abusive posts, texts or emails. If you don’t know how to do this ask somebody you trust to show you.
- Save or copy voice mail messages. You can do this by recording the message on a separate device or a Dictaphone. Make sure that your abuser can’t find the device containing the recording.
- Keep a copy of all emails, letters and faxes sent to you.
- Save your evidence somewhere the abuser can’t find it. A good idea is to save your evidence on two USBs. You keep one and secretly give the other to a friend. If your abuser finds your USB, you have not lost your evidence.
About eSafety Women
eSafety Women is an initiative of the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner which forms part of the Australian Government’s Women’s Safety Package to Stop the Violence. It aims to help women manage technology risks and abuse by giving women the tools they need to be confident when online.
The eSafety website is packed full of helpful resources to assist women stay connected safely.
If you feel as though you are being subject to, or at risk of technology facilitated violence or abuse, please contact our Family Lawyers today.