Online abuse: problematic for all Australians

Published date25 May 2022
Date25 May 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
AuthorChristine Lee
Online abuse: problematic for
all Australians
Christine Lee
Purpose This paper aims to disseminate results from research into three forms of onlineabuse: text
messages,picture messages and online stalking.
Design/methodology/approach Using a mixed methodsdesign, qualitative and quantitativedatasets
were derived from an online anonymous questionnaire to identify themes associated with incidents of
Findings Women of all ages have experienced online abuse from men and otherwomen. Men have
also beentargets of online abuse from other menand women.
Research limitations/implications Researchersshould strive to include mature-agedcohorts.
Practical implications Researchers should not limit themselves to education settings for their
sampling. Onlineabuse may meet the legal definition of ‘‘psychicassault’’. The recent legislation against
online abuse needsto extend beyond protecting young people andchildren. Social media owners must
take more responsibilityfor the content on their platforms.
Social implications The results from this research strongly suggest that gender alone is no longer
pivotalto ones’ vulnerability to online abusers.
Originality/value This research uses a more age-inclusive sample to include the experiences of
people aged 2575, who have largely been excluded from previousstudies that have concentrated on
the 1825age group.
Keywords Australia, Gender, Victims, Social-media, Perpetrators, Online abuse,
Mature aged
Paper type Research paper
The internet has become a ubiquitous presence powering portable devices, including
smartphones and computers. An unfortunate by-product of this technology is its role as the
conduit used to threaten or intimidate other parties. Such acts have numerous monikers,
including cyberstalking (Bocij, 2004;Spitzberg and Hoobler, 2002), cyberharassment
(Citron, 2009a) and image-based sexual abuse (Bates, 2016;Powell and Henry, 2019).
Most academic literature focuses on the experiences of young people enrolled in university
and college, with little research exploring the experiences of online abuse of other age
groups, with the exceptions of Currin et al. (2016a,2016b)andGarcia et al. (2016). Most
research also demonstrates a strongly gendered pattern where women are
disproportionately the targets of online abuse and men are the perpetrators. Although
gender and age appear to be the pivotal victimisation risk factors for online abuse, this
pattern may not be as concrete if one considers the possibility that women can be just as
likely to attack other women and men in online settings. This research also includes the
experiences of Australians aged 2575 alongside the 1824 age cohort. This group is
hereby referred to as “mature-aged”, based on the term given to anyone who is not of
traditional school leaver age making the direct transition from secondary to tertiary
education, which is generally1824 years old in Australia.
Christine Lee is based at
the School of Social
Sciences, Western Sydney
University, Penrith,
Received 22 February 2022
Revised 23 April 2022
Accepted 13 May 2022
The author would like to
acknowledge Dr Susan
Mowbray for her critique of his
PAGE 120 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICALRESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jVOL. 8 NO. 2 2022, pp. 120-134, ©Emerald Publis hing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-02-2022-0006

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