Cyber abuse – worse than a punch in the head

Remember the phrase; “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me?”

This is an outdated and  false notion according to latest neuroscience research. In the world of online abuse, words can deeply wound and cause depression,  anxiety and even suicide.

Have you been a victim of cyber bullying?


There’s a great new series on ABC with Tara Moss that’s definitely worth watching. Considering that over three quarters of Australians under the age of 30 have experienced online abuse it’s an issue that needs to be taken seriously.


Moss explores the world of online shaming, attacking and bullying  and discovers the emotional and physical toll these emotional attacks have on the body.

Cyberbullying is is a criminal activity and is illegal.

Examples of cyberbullying are;

  • teasing and being made fun of in a negative manner causing emotional distress
  • spreading of rumours online
  • sending unwanted messages after being asked not too
  • defamation.

The thing that’s different about cyberbullying is that you can be under attack 24/7 and the messages come into your personal space whether you’re at home or work. The bully doesn’t actually have to be in the same room as you.  Cyber bullying can reach a greater scope and scale and reach a wider audience and cyber bullies can hide behind cowardly anonymous profiles.



I’m glad they make mention of the celebrity Charlotte Dawson. She sadly took her own life after vicious, non-stop enslaughts of cyber bullying from hundreds of followers. This really highlights the devastating emotional impact cyberhate can have on victims. It’s not funny to attack people online. It’s sickening and cruel bullying. It can drive victims to suicide.

Below was Dawson’s final twitter post. The vile responses  turn my stomach.




After Moss courageously  explained she was a survivor of sexual assault on the ABC program Q and A, she was bombarded with vicious cyber bullying and cyber hate. It’s hard to listen to. The attacks are vitriolic and sexually violent. They reek with sexual violence, shame, stigma, victim blaming and misogyny.

Aswell as being a former model and best selling author, Moss is also a human rights campaigner. It’s inspiring to see her stand up and speak out for others based on her own harrowing experiences. Her bravery and strength is inspiring. Research shows that victims of online bullying can step back into the shadows and can be too afraid to keep putting it out there publicly. It’s important not to let the bullies win or dim your shine.


I was particularly fascinated when Tara Moss stepped into an MRI with the help of Dr Sylvia Gustin at Neuroscience Research Australia. As Tara lay still in the MRI she was forced to read and reread the hateful insults sent to her.

“Have you no shame, whore?”
“Lying about being raped to sell your garbage book?”
“I hope you do get raped for your lies.”


The results of her brain scan show how false the phrase “words will never hurt me” actually is. The words have the same effect neurologically speaking as if you were to be punched in the face. The physiological response to the cyber hate was very real.

Dr Emma A Jane was one of the main researchers for the show and she explains that cyber hate is a form of violence because of how the brain responds to the abuse. “Words can cause harm in a similar way that me punching you in the face would cause you harm,” she says.


Dr Gustin’s research has proved the same thing.

“We know that emotional abuse, such as cyber-bullying, is just as hideous as physical abuse.   It can have devastating effects, causing problems such as sleep trouble, anxiety, depression and even suicide.”


Dr Gustin explains that cyber abuse can be even worse than physical abuse.

“… because the victims of emotional abuse blame themselves and minimise their abuse. They say, ‘It was only online words, at least he/she didn’t hit me.’ The more you deny and suppress feelings of sadness, helplessness and fear, the stronger these feelings are in your mind and the more they have an impact on both your physical and mental health..”

Some of the other main points to come out of the series so far, is that the advice to stay off the internet after experiencing bullying is wrong and reeks of victim blaming.

Dr Gustin says we need to talk about it openly for healing to occur. How many times do people tell you to just ignore it. Bottling it up doesn’t work.

Moss says we need to report it and Dr Jane says we need a multi pronged approach…

“Police need to be trained and take complaints seriously. Schools need resources in cyber civility. Parents need to talk about engaging online with their kids, and individuals need to take responsibility for the way we use technology and call out bad behaviour.”

What about you? Have you ever attacked anyone online before? How could you be kinder online? How does attacking others online help make up for any insecurities you have about yourself? How can you work on being more happy in yourself rather than tearing others down?


Have you ever been attacked online? How did it effect you? What helped and what didn’t?
Have you ever stood up for someone being bullied? Did you report it?

Please get in touch if you’d like to work through some emotions this article has brought up for you.


Triple M blames women victims of “revenge porn.” Can we stop using that phrase now please?

Great video by John Oliver discussing the chillingly specific and potentially dangerous online threats that women receive and comparing them to the ones he receives. Hint –people mock his hands. It’s a comical comparision.

“This can affect any woman who makes the mistake of having a thought in her mind and then vocalising it online….”

Oliver also discusses “revenge porn” and how law enforcement is not up to date with technology. Police officers having no understanding what twitter is to a woman who has had rape and death threats against her over that social media medium is just terrible! I’m glad Oliver addresses the FLAWED victim blaming warped belief that “you just shouldn’t take naked photos of yourself!” Read my defense of sexy selfies here!

Anyway, so I was driving home late one night last week and was flicking around the radio. It was really late and I needed something  to keep me awake. I settled on Triple M and heard the male DJ ranting incessantly about “revenge porn.” However his rage and anger was directed at the female victims in these cases and not once at the criminals themselves.

“Women should just stop taking naked photos of themselves!” he boomed in a shaming way. “Why are women taking naked photographs of themselves in the first place? What do they expect?”


Um. Sounds oddly reminiscent of the victim blaming nonsense told to rape victims, “Why did you walk somewhere in public at night? Why did you wear a skirt? Why did you have a drink at a party? What did you expect?”




Hmmm. Rather than swerve off the road I fumed silently. I had to concentrate as it was a rainy and windy. My fists clenched the wheel as yet another media commentator normalised non-consensual sexual activity and victim blamed.  This radio commentator was discussing a sex crime as if it was the victims fault! Grrrr..

“Bicycle theft is a common and intractable crime and yet I’ve never heard a police officer come out and say: “If you don’t want to have your bike stolen don’t ride a bike.”

Perhaps that’s because victim blaming is all too often reserved for crimes against women.”

Anyone remember the program Sunrise where they did the same thing as Triple M a few years ago?


“When Channel 7’s Sunrise asks ‘when will women learn’ instead of ‘why do men continue to view women as objects they can defile and violate while the world watches and tut-tuts’, they are victim blaming. They are saying it’s the responsibility of victims of crime and assault to prevent it and not the responsibility of society to make such crimes intolerable and unacceptable.

When will women learn? Learn what? That our bodies do not belong to us? That we have no right to determine who sees those bodies, touches those bodies, fucks those bodies, and shares in those bodies? Honey, we don’t need to learn that. We already know the answer. We don’t have those rights. We are not allowed to be the masters of ourselves, only the gatekeepers. ”

Clementine Ford


First of all Mr triple M presenter, (who I’m assuming is Ugly Phil) let’s get this straight.

Often the women in “revenge porn” don’t know they’re being photographed or have been pressured by their partners for months to pose.  Sometimes the partners take their pictures without them knowing or the photos are stolen from their phone or email account through hacking scams. OR -and I’m starting a sentence with OR because I’m so incensed – innocent women’s faces are PHOTOSHOPPED onto pornographic pictures.  It’s not the woman’s body but the effect on her life and career is the same. Some women have changed names, states, jobs because of these leaked fake images…….

Secondly, taking naked photos of yourself or your partner is NOT a crime and I’m so sick of the morality police blaming women in these stories!  And yes it’s mainly women who are victims of “revenge porn.”  Plenty of women and men enjoy taking naked photos of themselves and that  is not a crime! It can be a lot of fun, liberating, sexy and an exploration into self portraiture!  We live in the digital age.  For sure, don’t let anyone pressure you to send photos of yourself and only do it if you want to.  Lots of people send each other sexy selfies, especially if they’re in a long distance relationship. It can be a great way to keep the fire alive in a relationship!

There needs to be education about HOW NOT TO SHARE NAKED PHOTOS OF SOMEONE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT AND WHY THAT’S A CRIME! This education would have to be careful not to fall into the age old, toxic way of thinking- “women need to protect and safeguard their bodies/sexuality at all costs whilst men don’t have to change their behaviour at all”– that fuels gendered violence in this country. The onus must be on the criminal here, not the victim.

Ok, so let’s get this clear!

Releasing naked and intimate photos onto the internet and sharing them with anyone without the express consent of the subject is a crime!

Revenge porn is image-based sexual abuse with the intention to shame or humiliate.

It is a crime of invasion of privacy and theft that can devastate lives.
Let’s look at the criminals here. Do you remember that 20 something year old Hunter Moore  that lived at his parents suburban home where he ran the despicable, frat boy and misogynistic website – Is Anyone Up? He’s in gaol now thanks to the hard word of a mother of one of his victims and the FBI- but only for two years!


Moore’s website used to release topless and naked photos of mainly women which his followers would then collectively comment on in extrememly sexist and derogatory ways. The victims were called names such as “ugly whores” or “white trash sluts.”  Next to the images he posted the women’s full name, job, social media address and city which meant these nude photos would appear in the first page of Google. His followers would then post the images to the victims job and family. They would often release the victims home address or phone number to increase harassment or to intimidate.

This was about ruining women’s lives, driving them from their jobs and driving people to suicide. Cyber bullying at its peak.

40% of the photos had been hacked from women’s email addresses and 12% of the photos had been photoshopped. This meant their face had been photoshopped onto a photo from a porn shoot.

Moore called himself a “professional life ruiner” and teased his victims telling them to go and kill themselves. He said that the victims on his website were sluts who were asking for the abuse, losing their jobs, humiliation to their family and their life and reputation in ruins. Notice that victim blaming ideology at work again?


Remember last year when teenage girls in an Australian school had their photos hacked as part of a school porn ring? The girls were told they should wear shorter skirts if they want to stay out of trouble and they brought it upon themselves for taking nude photos of themselves in the first place!  This highlights a huge problem our society has with blaming women and blaming female sexuality.

The teenage girls were taking photos of themselves naked. Big deal. Their bodies are changing and they’re documenting it. Nothing wrong with that. Yet the media and the schools responded by punishing them for being sexual.

We only have to look at how the media treats male victims of “revenge porn” to see how much women victims are routinely blamed. When Kim Duthie published nude photos of St Kilda AFL footballers in 2010 not one word of condemnation touched the footballers. Not one commentator angrily speaking out about “tut tut naughty boys! What did those footballers with their loose morals expect with taking naked photos of themselves anyway?”
You guessed it. All the vitriol was saved for Kim Duthie while nothing but sympathy for the footballers as innocent victims.

revenge porn info 1

And can we just stop using the flawed term “revenge porn?” now please.

It’s such a victim blaming term! The images aren’t necessarily “porn” and the reasoning behind the crime can be complex, varied, not singular and possibly not even about revenge at all.

Hunter Moore’s website wasn’t about porn but more about hurting and humiliating other people.

I prefer the term image based sexual abuse because it evokes pain and emotional distress that can be caused by the non-consensual making and distribution of private sexual images. It is not porn!

The Women’s Legal Services NSW says “revenge porn” is a misnomer that incorrectly places the focus on the victim, “categorising their actions as pornography and victim blaming, rather than focusing squarely on real harm, which is caused by the perpetrator”.

“Image-based sexual exploitation” is a term that the Sexual Assault Support Service recommends.

Domestic Violence Victoria says that freely given consent must be at the centre of any new laws. Yes! Let’s bring agency and  consent back into the discussion!

The organisation also says that image based sexual abuse needs to be viewed through the lens of domestic/intimate partner violence. For example, the threat of posting photos online can keep a current or past partner under an abusers power or control. The organisation says;

“In the context of family violence, it’s important to recognise the highly problematic nature of consent because women in this situation may not feel able to refuse to participate in the production of images or materials and/or to consent to their subsequent distribution. Due consideration must therefore be given to the limitations to the personal agency of those in a family violence situation.”


So the most important thing is to get laws in place to protect the victims and it’s heartening to see laws finally changing around Australia to catch up with technology.
Revenge porn is illegal in England and Wales and banned on sites like Reddit and Twitter.

Have you taken naked photos of yourself? Have you ever had a partner pressure you to send naked pics or pose for their camera? Have you ever had naked or sexual photos of yourself leaked online? I’d love to hear from you.


Art-Vanessa Omoregie from her camgirls series.

Stop Sexual Bullying and Shaming

Sexual bullying makes me sick. That is, any sort of bullying or shaming about someone’s gender or sexuality. Research shows that girls are disproportionately the victims and the bullying is usually about their sexuality and fueled by sexual double standards. You know the sort of sexual double standards I’m talking about; men can wear revealing clothes, have many sexual partners, be sexual whereas if women do the same they are met with more condemnation and judgement.


Art by Christian Schloe

Cyber bullying is  the intentional and repeated behaviour performed through electronic media for the purpose of harming others. 

Modern technology makes it easier to intimidate, shame and harass someone.

Also known as electronic harassment or online aggression, cyber bullying is becoming a bigger problem as the internet plays an increasing role in our lives. Social media and google are our new reputation emblems and being publicly shamed can lead to depression and suicide.


Internet and phones become a weapon for bullies to harass women about their appearance, sexuality and their real or imagined sexual activity and to harass men for their perceived sexual orientation and masculinity. Bullies embrace the internet as a space of criticism and judgement and act like the “sex and moral police.” Bullies actions are more like a mirror that reflects their own internal problems and insecurities than revealing anything about the victim.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth are more than three times as likely to experience harassment online than non LGBT youths. LGBT kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non LGBT adolescents. Research shows that adults are just as susceptible to the negative mental health effects of cybercbullying and that victims of cyber bullying have worse anxiety and depression outcomes than victims of traditional bullying.
A new study of university students found that women who have experienced cyber bullying have increased rates of depression by six fold. Young adults are twice as likely to attempted suicide if they’ve experienced cyber bullying than those who have not and the effects can last for decades after the bullying took place.

The most common cyber bullying tactics reported were; online unwanted sexual advances, harassing by text and posting degrading comments publicly on social media.

“Bullycide” is a new term for when people commit suicide as a result of bullying and it’s happening to adults and kids.

The study found that cyber bullies were more likely to have very low self esteem and have problems with alcohol use. Their existing mental health problems manifest outwardly as aggressive online behaviour.


I want to see kindness, compassion and acceptance go viral. Let’s embrace the power of technology to promote respect for each other, our bodies, our sexual expression and our sexual orientation. Let’s harness our creativity to take a stand against bullying.

I’m starting an education campaign against sexual bullying. Please email me with your bullying story or how you stood up to sexual bullying and I will publish it on my website. I will have a new page up soon in support of this campaign.
I want you to have your story heard. There’s too much pain and blaming of victims taking place. Telling your story can inspire and strengthen others. Let’s transform the toxicity of sexual bullying into an atmosphere of  respect and love. 


Email me with your story on this link and get in touch if you’re struggling with cyber bullying or sexual shaming. You are not alone and it does hurt and I can help.
I would be honoured to help you.