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.

Need Help?

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.