Online and digital abuse

Online and digital abuse

Staying safe online

Many relationships that begin romantically can quickly become controlling, with partners reading emails, checking texts and locations of social media posts. Research conducted by Refuge in 2021 found that 1 in 3 women in the UK have experienced online abuse (perpetrated on social media or other online platform) at some point in their lives. [1]

Online platforms are increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse.

Online abuse can happen over long periods and escalates over time. It can include behaviours such as monitoring of social media profiles or emails, abuse over social media such as Facebook or Twitter, sharing intimate photos or videos without your consent, using GPS locators or spyware. Research by the Victim’s Commissioner (2022) found that 40% of victims of cyber stalking reported that they experienced this for more than 2 years. [2]

Women’s Aid research on online domestic abuse found that:

  • Over half of respondents experienced online abuse during the first year of the pandemic, and over a quarter of respondents (28.6%) reported that their experiences of tech abuse started or escalated since March 2020. [3]
  • 16% of women in refuge services had experienced surveillance/harassment online or through social media by their abuser. [4]

Conviction data for image based sexual abuse (commonly referred to as ‘revenge pornography’) show that out of the 376 prosecutions for this offence recorded in the year ending March 201983% (313) were flagged as being domestic abuse-related(ONS, 2019)

Keeping safe online

Online services and social media should be open and safe for everyone to use. We know that perpetrators of domestic abuse often use online tools to abuse their victims.

Below is information about the safety policies and processes on some of the main social media platforms that should help you stay safe online.

If you need support please visit our information and support page for access to our Live Chat, Survivors’ Forum and more. 

You can find more tips for how to delete cookies and conceal your browsing history here

[1] Refuge (2021). “Unsocial Spaces: make online spaces safer for women and girls”. Available online.

[2] Victims’ Commissioner (2022), “The Impact of Online Abuse: Hearing the Victims’ Voice”. Available online.

[3] Women’s Aid (2022). “Technology and domestic abuse: Experiences of survivors during the Covid 19 pandemic”. Available online.

[4] Women’s Aid (2023).  The Domestic Abuse Report 2023: The Annual Audit, Bristol: Women’s Aid. Available online.

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