WHGNE is proud to be a part of the consortium, led by Gippsland Women’s Health, which recently received a grant from the e-Safety Commissioner. This exciting opportunity will allow participating women’s health organisations to engage with rural and regional women across Victoria about e-safety and digital equity. 

The project* will center co-design, with women from rural and regional communities to drive the process of developing violence prevention training modules and digital self-defense resources aimed at addressing the drivers of tech-based abuse. This project is all about improving women’s safety and fostering online spaces where everyone feels safe, respected and included. WHGNE will keep people in our region updated as the project gets underway in 2024 – in the mean time, keep reading to learn about the context of keeping women safe online.

Everyone should feel safe as they go about their daily lives – lives that are increasingly dependent on accessing online and digital spaces. Read more to find out about digital safety, gender equity in the digital age, and the work that is being done to prevent gender-based violence online.

Tech-based abuse, or technology facilitated abuse, is a form of gender-based violence. Women, girls and gender non-conforming people are frequently the targets of misogynistic or queerphobic aggression and unwanted sexual harassment in online spaces – by people they know in real life, and by people they don’t.

This can occur on social media, dating apps, online games, forums or comments sections on a website or news article – any interactive online space. Sometimes a person’s personal information will be made public (called doxing), which when perpetrated by a faceless stranger online, adds a real-world element of physical danger. Of course, the mental and emotional distress caused by sexual harassment, threatening and demeaning language or misogynistic abuse is already real and alarming.

When technology facilitated abuse is perpetrated by a partner, former partner or other person known to the victim-survivor, it forms part of the pattern of intimate-partner and family violence. Technology has become another avenue through which perpetrators of gender-based violence can stalk, harass and threaten their targets. The use of technology like phones, laptops or GPS trackers can facilitate access to personal information – giving rise to digitally based abuse, like revenge porn.

In spite of this, women, girls and people of all genders can be empowered to protect themselves and challenge gender-based violence online. In order for this to happen, it is so important that organisations, institutions and decision-makers encourage and facilitate digital literacy, digital inclusion and digital equity for women – particularly in rural and regional areas where access and inclusion can be low.

On an individual level, preventing tech-based abuse is all about rejecting social norms which condone sexism and aggression online, empowering each other with the tools to reduce risk and staying informed.

As with the prevention of gender-based violence outside of the online world, it is crucial to challenge sexist language, behaviours and assumptions that subordinate and objectify women and girls, as well as gender non-conforming people.

Male allies are invited to call out disrespect and inappropriate behaviours amongst their peers, while modelling respect and gender equity in the way they conduct their own online presence. We can guide and mentor children and young people to understand the real-world consequences of our language and behaviour online too.

While individuals can undertake action to protect themselves, it is important that this is matched with action at the community and organisational level, as well as by government and institutions.

We must ensure that policies and practices – backed up by resourcing and appropriate funding allocation – are in place to address technology facilitated abuse at a systemic level, and that our institutions of law, learning, economics and mass media keep pace with how the digital world impacts lives through a gendered lens.

The eSafety Commission has a wealth of valuable information about online safety and the prevention and mitigation of tech-based abuse.

You can find resources to help guide you through the steps which will keep you safe online and via your digital devices.

There are resources available in different languages and in different mediums, including safety tips, blog posts and video media.