Three in five Australians abused online

Sixty per cent of Australians have fallen victim to online bullying and abuse, according to new research.

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The study by RMIT University and La Trobe University also suggests one in 10 Australians has had intimate images of them shared without consent.

La Trobe professor and co-author Nicola Henry said online abuse is frequently an extension of domestic violence occurring in the physical world.

“Perpetrators of domestic violence or sexual assault are really using technologies as a tool to further perpetrate harm,” Dr Henry said.

“For instance through the use of GPS tracking, looking at internet browser histories or using internet dating sites to meet up with a victim.”

Dr Henry and co-author Anastasia Powell surveyed 3000 Australians aged 18-54 on their use of technology and experiences of harassment, and interviewed members of law enforcement and support service groups.

Results found men and women were falling prey to online abuse in the same numbers, with men twice as likely to act as perpetrators.

Dr Henry said legal protections against online harassment and image sharing must be strengthened, with a focus on creating consistency between state and federal laws.

“There does need to be some specific legislation around revenge pornography behaviours,” she said.

“In Victoria there’s a specific revenge pornography law in place, but there are challenges and we don’t have a good picture. There are enforcement challenges as well.

“We need to also implement primary prevention measures that need to take place in schools, for instance about young people and ethical digital citizenship.”