05 February 2018

Cyber-violence: Digital abuse in the context of domestic violence.

This research  examines case law involving technology-facilitated domestic violence by reviewing cases heard in Australian courts  involving allegations of cyber-violence to shed light on the limitations of the existing legislation in addressing such abuse. The article also discusses the adequacy of the existing legal remedies available to victims and concludes with suggestions for ways to combat cyber-violence. The research concludes that there needs to be a greater focus on addressing online abuse and victims should not have to wait until they are victims of offline abuse before authorities intervene. There needs to be a uniform response to addressing cyber-violence, rather than the 'patchwork of legislation' currently in place across Australia. For example, the author suggests that introducing legislation that specifically addresses cyber-violence would (i) communicate to the public the boundaries of legally permissible behaviour and send a message that digital abuse will not be tolerated; (ii) establishing specific offences would signal that cyber-violence is a serious offence which would encourage police to pursue cyber-violence complaints; (iii) if the penalties attached to the offences are not trivial, this may encourage victims to report abuse as reporting "would not seem fruitless".  Finally, legal remedies should not be seen as the sole response to cyber-violence. A range of non-legal remedies are also required to address cyber-violence.