Online harassment and cyber abuse
What constitutes harassment and cyber abuse?
Any harmful call, message or image that is unwanted, or leaves you feeling harassed, threatened, embarrassed or otherwise victimised. It can come from people you work with or know personally, or from strangers.
- Being sent messages that are harassing, offensive, derogatory, or threatening
- Being bombarded by a large volume of messages
- Being cyber-stalked, or monitored or tracked electronically, or
- Having your personally-sensitive information and images used on any online technology without permission, including on emails, social media, blogs, websites or apps.
What you can do
Consider the following
Discuss options and safety planning. See the following contacts below. They can respond to family and relationship abuse, as well as any form of online harrassment.
Documentation and responses:
- Keep the evidence. Don’t delete the messages. Take screenshots, print out copies, and keep a log of the time and date you received the message, as well as the phone number or email address.
- If you know the person and feel comfortable doing so, reply to offensive correspondence with a firm but polite message telling them to stop sending you any more emails. If it's someone with whom you must continue to correspond, tell this person to refrain from sending you more messages of the kind that you find offensive. Be specific. Make sure to keep a copy of this email yourself.
- Don’t reply to texts, voicemails or emails from people you don’t know.
- Don’t reply to harassment or threats, it may just prolong the abuse. If a complaint is made to a telecommunications company, replying may delay the process.
- Don’t retaliate with other harmful communications, it could aggravate the situation and may harm your case should you wish to pursue legal remedies later.
- If possible, block bullying messages.
- Ask about having your details removed from University public facing directories. See Exclusion from University Directory.
Where there is real or imminent threat to personal safety, call the police on 111 immediately.
- If received on a University device, staff are asked to report all incidents involving the receipt of disturbing or obscene calls/messages or incidents of threatening behaviour to the Staff Service Centre, ext 86000.
- If received on a personal device, report to your telecommunications company who can assist with blocking numbers, sending warning messages to the harasser or suspending them from the network. See NetSafe: How to make a complaint to the telecommunications providers.
- If the platform has a published terms and conditions, report the abuse straight away. Popular platforms usually provide a "Report Abuse” button or a "Safety" link you can use to contact the company.
- If you are being harassed electronically by someone you know, you may be able to take out a Protection or Restraining Order which covers various forms of communication. For more information contact Shine or see Legal help.
- If a message threatens to harm a person or property, take it to the police. If someone is in immediate danger call 111.
- Refer to the University’s webpages on Safe Computing and Security Awareness.
For more advice
An independent non-profit organisation that promotes confident, safe, and responsible use of online technologies. NetSafe can provide more advice on preventing and stopping cyber abuse, including tips on how to hide your search history, and protections available to you under the Digital Communications Act.