Press Releases

Norton Study Shows Online Harassment Nears Epidemic Proportions for Young Australian Women

76% of Australian women under 30 experience online harassment; 47% of all Australian women

SYDNEY, Australia – Tuesday, 8 March 2016 – Norton by Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) today released research which reveals a staggering three in four women (76 percent) under the age of 30 in Australia have experienced some form of online harassment. While online harassment affects more young women, almost half (47 percent) of all Australian women have been targets.

The Norton survey, Online Harassment: The Australian Woman's Experience*, shows that forms of online harassment range from unwanted contact, trolling, character assassinations, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, rape and death. The survey also highlights the significant emotional toll it takes on Australian women.

Despite 70 percent of Australian women identifying online harassment as a serious problem, more than one third (38 percent) of women who had an online harassment experience** chose to ignore it. In addition, only 10 percent of such women reported it to police.

Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director, Asia Pacific, Norton by Symantec, said the findings provide new insights into the implications of online harassment for Australian women.

"This survey uncovers the prevalence of harassment against women in the online world, and sheds light on the extent of the problem in our society. It also exposes the high emotional toll online harassment is having on Australian women and brings to light the uncomfortable truth that some Australian women are feeling violated, abused and frightened by their online experiences."

"At Norton, our mission is to inspire people to go boldly online, confident that they are safe from all forms of harm. Protecting the world's online community is no easy feat, but more awareness and better collaboration between the IT industry, policing and law enforcement agencies can play an enormous role in reducing online harassment and preventing it from becoming an established norm in our digital society," added Dempsey.

Norton Ambassador, Tara Moss, who partnered with Norton in helping design the survey, said the disheartening fact is that most women don’t feel they should or can report harassment, or aren’t getting adequate support to do so and many occurrences are going unnoticed.

"We need to raise the profile of what's happening online, so online platforms and our law enforcement can better tackle this digital crime, and online users are aware of their rights, and are adequately supported when they speak out or take action against abuse," she said.

"While International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of all women, it's also a day to focus on issues that need to be addressed. As a community, we need to speak up against all forms of violence, including acts of harassment in the online world," added Tara.

Experiences of Online Harassment

The survey reveals one in seven women had been affected by general threats of physical violence. This figure rose to one in four (26 percent) for women aged under 30. Revenge porn and sextortion are shockingly common experiences amongst younger women, where almost one in 10 women under 30 experienced revenge porn and/or sextortion. In addition, one in four lesbian, bisexual and transgender women who had suffered serious harassment said their sexual orientation had been targeted.

More than one in five Australian women surveyed (21 percent) identified their physical appearance as being singled out for attack, followed by weight and gender, both at 12 percent. Social media (66 percent), email (22 percent) and text messages (17 percent) were most commonly used to facilitate online harassment.

Impact of Online Harassment Experiences

The effects of online harassment vary, but many women had feelings of anger (36 percent), frustration (32 percent), irritation (32 percent) and anxiousness (30 percent). Disturbingly, some five percent of Australian women surveyed, who had experienced online harassment, felt suicidal.

The implications of online harassment for women are significant:

  • More than one in five women (21 percent) felt helpless or vulnerable in their situation; 20 percent felt violated or abused and 16 percent felt frightened
  • More than one in five (22 percent) felt depressed
  • Almost one in 10 (9 percent) needed to seek professional help for depression or anxiety
  • 14 percent of women felt powerless to do anything about their experience
  • Almost one in 10 (9 percent) stated that online harassment negatively affected their work or studies

A long term partner of Norton, beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman, warned that the research has proven discrimination affects a person's mental health, whether online or in person.

"The partnership between beyondblue and Norton, now in its third year, goes from strength to strength and greatly benefits the community. Together with beyondblue, Norton is helping to save lives by protecting the mental health of Australians by focusing on the extremely harmful repercussions of thoughtless acts of bullying, trolling and discrimination online," she said.

"beyondblue's work is increasingly being carried out in the digital world which makes our partnership with Norton more important than ever. Cyberbullying can have a long-lasting impact and it can be a risk factor for depression, anxiety and suicide. It's important we look out for each other, both in the physical and online world, and try to tackle online harassment to help improve and potentially save lives."

For 27 percent of the Australian women surveyed, their online harassment experience resulted in them changing the privacy settings on their social media accounts. One in five women surveyed (20 percent) changed the nature of relationships with some friends; 17 percent lost friends; 13 percent closed their social media account and five percent moved house or changed jobs. More than half of the women surveyed (58 percent) felt police needed to start taking victims more seriously.

How to Tackle Online Harassment
  • REVIEW your online presence
    • Check your security and privacy settings
    • Protect your mobile device
    • Regularly change passwords

  • RECOGNISE the problem if it happens and move quickly
    • Do not respond to the perpetrator
    • Keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video
    • If you are witness to online harassment, offer support to the person being targeted

  • REPORT
    • If someone says or does something that is inappropriate or deemed as harassment, report it to the relevant authorities immediately
    • If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email requesting the content be removed or blocked
    • If the emotional impact of online harassment takes its toll on your wellbeing or that of someone you care for, please reach out to organisations such as beyondblue for help on 1300 224 636

Norton by Symantec has partnered with beyondblue since 2013 and throughout the partnership has donated approximately $700,000 to raise awareness and address cyberbullying and online harassment in our community.

About the Norton Survey:

Online Harassment: The Australian Woman’s Experience
Norton by Symantec commissioned an online quantitative survey through Morar Consulting in February 2016, with 1,053 females in Australia aged 18 and over. The survey aimed to understand Australian women's exposure to online harassment and the impact of these experiences.

About Symantec

Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC) is the global leader in cybersecurity. Operating one of the world's largest cyber intelligence networks, we see more threats, and protect more customers from the next generation of attacks. We help companies, governments and individuals secure their most important data wherever it lives.