Cyber Violence – The Rise of Online Abuse in Domestic Settings

Family violence and domestic abuse isn’t always physical, online harassment and cyber stalking by a partner or family member is an illegal online behaviour that is designed to humiliate, control or scare the victim. Robert Wood and Associates are the Melbourne family law practitioners  where families trust us to assist with and resolve a broad range of legal issues. Cyber stalking and harassment is never ok, read on to find out more about it and what you can do about it if you are being targeted.

What is Cyber-Harassment?

Generally defined as not involving a credible threat, cyber-harassment usually refers to unconsented online communication or conduct that is dedicated to tormenting an individual, generally a current or ex-partner. Such abusive online behaviour may include:

  • Spreading rumours about an individual
  • Sharing photos or videos without consent or posting embarrassing, fake or intimate videos, photos, blog or comments online
  • Constantly sending emails, instant messages or texts in a manner that makes the victim feel intimidated or scared
  • Harassing or bullying an individual on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter or dating/chat sites

What is Cyberstalking?

Stalking generally refers to a pattern of threatening or malicious behaviours involving a credible threat of harm. Cyberstalking is simply stalking done via the use of the Internet, email or other electronic communications. The stalker often tries to intimidate or scare the victim and in some cases, the line between cyberspace and reality can become blurred with perpetrators collecting personal data and information in an attempt to harass their victim offline. Stalking of any kind, either in person or online, is against the law in Victoria.

How Do Perpetrators Track Their Victims?

Whether it’s following someone on social media, tracking locations through Google or logging into their victim’s email account, with modern digital technology, it’s incredibly easy for abusers to monitor and track the movements and location of current or estranged partners. Even the most tech-savvy people can get caught out.

How to Prevent Cyber Stalking?

If you are a victim or you are concerned that you may become a victim of cyber stalking, don’t remove all technology from your life. This is not feasible, technology is vital for keeping connected to children, family and friends and the wider community. However, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Use an alternative mobile phone until you can be sure your phone is not relaying any location details and/or private information.
  • Keep a low profile on social media and don’t reveal any real-time information such as where you are and who you’re with.
  • Reset all devices to remove tracking or spyware apps or run them through an antivirus program.
  • Turn off the GPS function and stop location sharing on your phone and other devices.
  • Turn off family sharing and remove any connected or linked accounts.
  • Regularly delete your internet search history.
  • Set up an alternative email account.
  • Change passwords on all devices and for accounts that you use regularly, including social media platforms and Google.
  • If you fear for your safety at any time or you believe their behaviour is illegal, you should contact the police and report the cyber-stalker immediately.

Incidents of cyberstalking are recognised under the definition of stalking used in Victorian legislation. While the prosecution of such offences is difficult and rare, it is not impossible.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or cyberstalking, there are many services that you can reach out to for help and support. For professional legal advice or for more information on the legal aspects of cyberstalking, get in touch with a family lawyer in Melbourne today. Robert Wood and Associates is an experienced family law firm based in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, specialising in family and criminal matters. Call us today on (03) 9762 3877 or visit our office in Boronia.

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