Online Abuse

Whether we are completing online units, researching for an assignment setting up dates on Tinder, or using social media, we use technology every day. As amazing and useful as technology is, it also has a dark side full of Trolls, abuse, and anonymous opinions.

What is cyber abuse?

Cyber abuse is behaviour that uses an online service or platform to menace, harass or offend someone.

The abuse can take place on social media, in texts or emails and through online chats, message boards and other forums that allow people to post public comments.

Types of abusive behaviour that people experience online include:

  • being ridiculed, insulted or humiliated because of their physical appearance, religion, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or political beliefs
  • finding their personal contact details have been made public on a social media service or other online platform
  • being threatened online or other people online being encouraged to harm them
  • being stalked online
  • having their social media, bank or email accounts hacked
  • being encouraged to harm themselves
  • repeatedly being sent obscene messages having their intimate images (i.e covered or uncovered genital area or breasts, private activities such as undressing, bathing, or sexual activity, or a person without attire or religious or cultural significance if normally worm in public) or videos posted online without their consent (this is known as image-based abuse)
  • having fake sexually explicit images or videos of them posted online (this is also known as image-based abuse)

Image-based abuse is sometimes called other things like ‘revenge porn’, ‘intimate image abuse’ or ‘image-based sexual abuse’.

‘Revenge porn’ is the term usually used in the media. But in many cases image-based abuse is not about ‘revenge’ or ‘porn’.

Image-based abuse can happen for many reasons and can include many kinds of images and video.

If you have experienced image-based abuse, the most important things to remember are that it is not your fault and you are not alone.

11% of Australians have experienced image-based abuse.

If you report image-based abuse to the eSafety Commissioner, they can help to get the material removed as quickly as possible. Sometimes they can also take action against the person who posted, or threatened to post, an intimate image without consent. Learn more about the civil penalties scheme.

Forms of online sexual harassment or abuse:

  • Sending someone hateful or unwelcome comments based on sex
  • Sending unwanted requests to partners or strangers to send nude photos or videos or livestream sexual acts.
  • Performing sexual acts on webcam without the consent of everyone involved or in inappropriate settings (like during an online work meeting).
  • Sharing private images or videos without the consent of everyone involved, also known as revenge porn, which is illegal.
  • Sharing porn in spaces where everyone has not consented to view it (like in Zoom meetings or other inappropriate places, also called 'Zoom bombing').
  • Grooming children to enable their sexual abuse either online or offline.

Just because these forms of sexual abuse take place behind a screen doesn’t make their impact on the person experiencing it any less real. While some of these behaviours are crimes, particularly any that involve sexual abuse of children, others are also harmful. Additionally, as images of abuse could be reshared and recirculated on the internet, there is an added layer of revictimization.

What can I do?

Resist the urge to respond

It can be hard but try to stay calm and not to respond or retaliate, especially when angry. People who say hurtful things often do so just to get a reaction and will feed off it.

If the abuse is aimed at somebody else, try to be a friend and supporter to them so they know they are not alone.

Take a step back and have a break. Create a space that is a safe haven for yourself, this may mean no internet or logging off from social media platforms for a while.


Save evidence

Your immediate reaction might be to make the abusive content disappear, but it is really important that you keep evidence of it in case you need to report it. This advice on collecting evidence can help.


Report and block

Report the abusive user or account to the service or platform where the content or comments were posted. You can find online safety advice and reporting links in the The eSafety Guide. If the material reappears under a different name, report the user or account again. There are new regulations that require certain platforms to remove reported material within 48 hours or risk getting a serious fine.

There is also a civil penalties scheme implemented in 2015.This scheme allows victims of image-based abuse to make a report (complaint or objection notice) to the eSafety Commissioner. In response to a report, they may be able to take removal action. In some cases, they may also be able to take action against the person who posted, or threatened to post, an intimate image without consent. Where possible, they will contact you to discuss the steps they might take.

Once you have saved evidence and reported the abuse, use the tools available to you to block or mute the user or account. If they reappear under a different name, block or mute them again.


Check out this tailored advice

  • Image-based abuse explains what to do when an intimate image of you has been shared without your consent.
  • Domestic and family violence has advice on how to deal with technology-facilitated abuse when it is part of domestic and family violence.
  • The section for Women on eSafety Commissioners website offers tailored tips about how to stay safe online.


Seek support

Whether you want to report the abuse, need help managing abuse you have witnessed or want to talk to somebody about what has happened, there are various support services within and outside of the university.

  • QUT counselling
  • Harassment and Discrimination Advisors
  • Police
  • eSafety Commissioner
  • lifeline


Supporting people who experience image-based abuse

When someone experiences image-based abuse it can feel like a betrayal and an invasion of privacy. Many people report feeling anxious, angry, fearful and depressed after discovering image-based abuse. It is important to seek support, whether this is from family members or friends, or from other support services.

If a friend has experienced image-based abuse, reassure them that it is not their fault. Let them know that you believe them, that you care about them and that you are there to help. Encourage them to speak to a counsellor or support service.

Your friend may feel depressed, anxious and angry. They may behave very differently from normal. Stay in touch. Even if they try to push you away it is a good idea to check in on them and make sure they are OK.

Other ways you can support your friend might be to help them gather evidence, make an image-based abuse report to eSafety for help and advice from our expert team, report the abuse to police or get legal assistance.

Dating Apps

Dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder go in and out of fashion but they are always around in one form or another. Online dating websites are also out there and with anything requiring you to meet up with strangers, there are risks involved.

While dating apps are constantly changing and updating, here are some statistics you might find interesting. In a study of Australian dating app, users of all ages and genders, results found that:  

  • 32% received abusive or offensive messages 
  • 32% reporting having personal safety issues 
  • 41% had awkward or unenjoyable dates 
  • 37% were ghosted by their matches 
  • 47% found the conversations with matches boring 
  • 51% had problems with fake accounts or misleading profile pics 

But these apps aren't going anywhere as shown with between 75 and 89% of users reporting being satisfied with their dating app. Just remember when using dating apps to be smart and be cautious. Check out the advice below to see some tips and tricks to optimise your dating app experience.  


Staying safe on dating apps

Here are some tips on how to stay safe when using a dating app or website. Your safety is the most important thing, so remember when you meet a stranger (especially online) it is healthy to be a bit cautious at first.

When Connecting Online

Use different photos for your dating profile. It’s easy to do a reverse image search with Google. If your dating profile has a photo that also shows up on your Instagram or Facebook account, it will be easier for someone to find you on social media.

Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles. If the person you matched with has no bio, linked social media accounts, and has only posted one picture, it may be a fake account. It’s important to use caution if you choose to connect with someone you have so little information about.

Check out your potential date on social media. If you know your match’s name or handles on social media—or better yet if you have mutual friends online—look them up and make sure they aren’t “catfishing” you by using a fake social media account to create their dating profile.

Block and report suspicious users. You can block and report another user if you feel their profile is suspicious or if they have acted inappropriately toward you. This can often be done anonymously before or after you’ve matched. As with any personal interaction, it is always possible for people to misrepresent themselves. Trust your instincts about whether you feel someone is representing themself truthfully or not.


The list below offers a few examples of some common stories or suspicious behaviors scammers may use to build trust and sympathy so they can manipulate another user in an unhealthy way.

  • Asks for financial assistance in any way, often because of a sudden personal crisis
  • Disappears suddenly from the site then reappears under a different name
  • Gives vague answers to specific questions
  • Overly complimentary and romantic too early in your communication
  • Pressures you to provide your phone number or talk outside the dating app or site
  • Requests your home or work address under the guise of sending flowers or gifts
  • Tells inconsistent or grandiose stories
  • Uses disjointed language and grammar, but has a high level of education


Examples of user behaviour you may want to report can include:

  • Requests financial assistance
  • Requests photographs
  • Is a minor
  • Sends harassing or offensive messages
  • Attempts to threaten or intimidate you in any way
  • Seems to have created a fake profile
  • Tries to sell you products or services


Wait to Share Personal Information. Never give someone you haven’t met with in person your personal information, including your: phone number, credit card details, bank information, or work or home address. Dating apps and websites will never send you an email asking for your username and password information, so if you receive a request for your login information, delete it and consider reporting.

Don’t Respond to Requests for Financial Help. No matter how convincing and compelling someone’s reason may seem, never respond to a request to send money, especially overseas or via wire transfer. If you do get such a request, report it to the app or site you’re using immediately. For more information, check out the ACC's ScamWatch website.

When Meeting in Person

Video chat before you meet up in person. Once you have matched with a potential date and chatted, consider scheduling a video chat with them before meeting up in person for the first time. This can be a good way to help ensure your match is who they claim to be in their profile. If they strongly resist a video call, that could be a sign of suspicious activity.

Tell a friend where you’re going. Take a screenshot of your date’s profile and send it to a friend. Let at least one friend know where and when you plan to go on your date. If you continue your date in another place you hadn’t planned on, text a friend to let them know your new location. It may also be helpful to arrange to text or call a friend partway through the date or when you get home to check in. Agree on a codeword that you can use with your friend/housemate/family member to let them know if you need help so they can come and collect you or intervene.  

Meet in a public place. For your first date, avoid meeting someone you don’t know well, or in your home, apartment, or workplace. It may make both you and your date feel more comfortable to meet in a coffee shop, restaurant, or bar with plenty of other people around. Avoid meeting in public parks and other isolated or secluded locations for first dates.

Don’t rely on your date for transportation. It's important that you are in control of your own transportation to and from the date so that you can leave whenever you want and do not have to rely on your date in case you start feeling uncomfortable. Even if the person you're meeting volunteers to pick you up, avoid getting into a vehicle with someone you don’t know and trust, especially if it’s the first meeting.

Stick to what you’re most comfortable with. There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks on a date. Try to keep your limits in mind and do not feel pressured to drink just because your date is drinking. Avoid taking drugs before or during a first date with someone new because drugs could alter your perception of reality or have unexpected interactions with alcohol.

Enlist the help of a bartender or waiter. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it can help to find an advocate nearby. You can enlist the help of a waiter or bartender to help you create a distraction, call the police, or get a safe ride home.

Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and feel free to leave a date or cut off communication with whoever is making you feel unsafe. Do not worry about feeling rude—your safety is most important, and your date should understand that.

If you felt uncomfortable or unsafe during the date, remember you can always unmatch, block, or report your match after meeting up in person which will keep them from being able to access your profile in the future.


Immediate support in emergencies

Police - 000

QUT Security - 3138 8888

QUT support services

Equity Harassment and Discrimination Advisors - 3138 2019 -

QUT free counselling service - 3138 2019 -

Or make an appointment online 

Use the online reporting form

Security can escort you around campus if you feel unsafe. Give them a call on 3138 5585 or download the SafeZone app.


Read more about:

Being an Active Bystander

Sexual Harrassment

Sexual Assault



Helping Others