Online and digital abuse
Online platforms are increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse. Online domestic abuse 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.
Women’s Aid research on online domestic abuse found that:
- For 85% of respondents the abuse they received online from a partner or ex-partner was part of a pattern of abuse they also experienced offline.
- Nearly a third of respondents (29%) experienced the use of spyware or GPS locators on their phone or computers by a partner or ex-partner.
- For half (50%) of respondents the online abuse they experienced also involved direct threats to them or someone they knew.
- Nearly a third of those respondents who had received threats stated that where threats had been made online by a partner or ex-partner they were carried out.
Conviction data for image based sexual abuse (commonly referred to as ‘revenge pornography’) show that out of the 464 prosecutions for this offence recorded in the year ending March 2018, 86% (400) were flagged as being domestic abuse-related (ONS, 2018).
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 call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership with Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247.
Twitter has certain rules and policies that it expects everyone who uses it to abide by. Tie rules include not abusing people on Twitter. When someone breaks the rules they can be sanctioned. We know that perpetrators use Twitter to abuse their partners or ex-partners, monitor their movements and also carry out certain behaviours such as revenge pornography. This is unacceptable and against Twitter’s rules and policies.
Below are some of the main ways of keeping safe on Twitter. There are other tools and resources that can be used and these can be found on Twitter’s Safety Centre
Stop other people seeing your tweets- you can ‘protect your tweets’ so only people who you approve can see what you are tweeting. Here’s how to protect your tweets
Disable your location – if your tweets have a location added it may be easier for the perpetrator or their friends and family to find you. To check your location settings and to turn it off here’s how:
- In the Tweet compose box on twitter.com, click the button with your location.
- Select Turn off location from the dropdown menu.
- The Turn off location setting will be saved, so next time you compose a Tweet on twitter.com your location information will not appear.
Block Someone who is being abusive – if you are being abused or harassed by someone online you can block them from being able to see your profile or getting any of their tweets. NOTE if you block someone they will know that you have blocked them. Here’s how to block someone
Report abuse – you can report someone for being abusive, threatening you or harassing you on Twitter. You can report them using this form
Use your report as evidence – if you have reported someone for being abusive you can also download and email your report to use as evidence for the police or other agencies. Here’s how to use your report as evidence
If you are a domestic abuse service you can also report abuse on behalf of someone you are supporting through this form
Women’s Aid and Facebook have teamed up to produce a guide to staying safe on Facebook. The guide provides advice to help women and girls understand the risks and tools needed to protect themselves and stay safe on social media. The guide has a lot of helpful tips – from how to report something that is abusive, to stopping an intimate, private or sexual image from being shared online. It aims to help women take greater control of their own safety on Facebook, whilst staying connected to the people and causes they care about.
Remember, you can also download your Facebook data into a PDF and use it however you want. This could be for the police as proof of online abuse or for other evidential requirements.
To download your data from your Facebook page:
- Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
- Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings
- Click Start My Archive
Resources and information
This guide by Women’s Aid and Facebook provides advice to help women and girls understand the risks and tools needed to protect themselves and stay safe on social media.
Vitual world Real Fear
Women’s Aid report into online abuse, harassment and stalking (2014)
A4 Digital Stalking Poster
Staying safe online – Easy and Practical Help
Digital Stalking leaflet
Digital stalking: A guide to technology risks for victims
Jennifer Perry (2012)
Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2018) Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018. Published online: ONS.