Survey finds significant number of NZ women experience online harassment

Wed 27 Jul 2016

Cyber security software company Norton by Symantec has published a report about New Zealand women's experience of online harassment. The report, Online ...

Cyber security software company Norton by Symantec has published a report about New Zealand women's experience of online harassment.

The report, Online Harassment: The New Zealand Woman’s Experience, summarises findings from an online survey of 536 women over age 18 conducted in February 2016. Respondent demographics and information on how the survey was conducted are not provided.

Of the women who completed the survey, 52% had experienced online harassment. This number rose to 72% of women under age 30. More than 60% in all age groups thought that online harassment is a serious problem in 2016 and the problem is getting worse. 

The study found that women experienced a wide range of types of harassment including: unwanted contact, trolling, character assassinations, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, rape and death.

Of the women who completed the survey, one in seven reported they had been affected by general threats of physical violence. This figure rose to one in four (23%) for women aged under 30.

Norton reported "The harassment is frequently of a sexual nature. 1 in 10 women have experienced graphic sexual harassment, rising to nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) for women under 30. Threats of sexual violence are shockingly common experiences. One in 14 women have been threatened with sexual violence/rape, rising to 1 in 10 women under 44. In addition, one in four lesbian, bisexual and transgender women who had suffered serious harassment said their sexual orientation had been targeted."

The women from the study reported a range of emotional impacts from the harassment including:

  • 21% felt depressed
  • 17% felt helpless
  • 14% felt violated or abused 
  • 11% felt frightened
  • 6% felt suicidal

Of the women surveyed, only 9% reported perpetrators to police, 7% sought legal advice and 1% started civil litigation against the perpetrator.

Lee Chisholm, NetSafe Training and Education Specialist, said “We receive a higher percentage of reports of personal harm from females than males. Anyone who is harassed or abused online needs positive support as well as practical expertise - which can be accessed through NetSafe.” 


Norton by Symantec has also published a report about New Zealand men's experiences of online harassment. They surveyed 505 men over age 18. Similar to women's reports, 72% of men under age 30 and 58% of all New Zealand men reported they had experienced some form of online harassment. 

Mark Shaw, Norton Security Expert at Symantec for the Pacific region, said "The Norton survey reveals there are some risk factors that make some men more vulnerable to online harassment than their other male counterparts. Men from minority religious beliefs are attacked because of their faith in 21 percent of cases; gay, bisexual and transgender men are targeted because of their sexual orientation in 23 percent of cases, compared with 8 percent of heterosexual men; and men with disabilities are attacked because of their physical or intellectual disabilities in 15 percent of cases."

Documents on the survey

The full report is available online, providing graphs and charts summarising the statistics from the study. Norton has also produced a press release that provides more descriptive information. A tip sheet outlines basic steps including reviewing your online presence, recognising harassment and reporting harassment.

More information and help

NetSafe is the national agency providing support for victims experiencing harmful digital communications including online harassment. NetSafe provides online safety advice and help to resolve complaints.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act enacted into law in 2015 provides options for remedies and support in dealing with online harassment and other forms of digital harm. For more information about the law, NetSafe and resources for victims, see the previous NZFVC stories:

Harmful Digital Communications Bill passes into legislation

NetSafe appointed as key agency for online harassment; information and support for victims

New cyber-law research centre to study Harmful Digital Communications Act

The Clearinghouse has also collated New Zealand and international research and resources to support people experiencing digital stalking.

Select media

Men not immune to online abuse, Newshub, 07.09.2016

Editorial: How do you stop online abuse that is mostly targeted at women?, Stuff, 26.07.2016

More than three quarters of women harassed online - study, Māori TV, 20.07.2016

A new study has found that if you're online and a woman, you've probably been harassed, One News, 20.07.2016

Rachel Smalley: Online abuse is becoming an established norm, Opinion, NewsTalk ZB, 20.07.2016

Image: Pixabay