Section: 5.3 Online abuse and harassment of women and girls

Technology-facilitated Intimate Partner Violence

According to a 2021 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), two of the most common forms of violence against women globally are intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence (NPSV). The study found that almost one in three women worldwide have experienced either or both of these types of violence at least once in their lifetime.

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) includes psychological, sexual, and physical violence committed by a current or former intimate partner or spouse. This type of violence encompasses a range of behaviours that can harm, threaten, or control an intimate partner.

What is technology-facilitated intimate partner violence?

Technology-facilitated intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to the use of technology to control, harass, stalk, or abuse a current or former intimate partner.1

This form of IPV includes behaviours such as:


Persistently monitoring someone's online activities, sending frequent messages, or tracking their physical location via GPS.


Using someone's digital identity, creating online fake profiles, without their consent to harm their reputation or relationships.

Unauthorised sharing of intimate and private content

Sharing private, sensitive content (like intimate images or videos) without consent or threatening to do so in an act of revenge or control.

Control and surveillance

Installing spyware on devices to monitor communications and movements without consent.


Publishing private or identifiable information about the victim online, typically to encourage harassment or as a form of punishment.


Denying access to devices and technology, isolating the victim from support networks or preventing them from seeking help.

Harassment and abuse

Using digital means such as social media, emails, and text messages to send threatening, insulting, or degrading messages to intimidate or harass.

Digital control

Unauthorised access to the victim’s personal digital accounts, using shared or stolen passwords, to gather information or further control the victim.

Intimate partner violence in New Zealand

According to a 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) study2 that analysed data from 2000 to 2018 across 161 countries, including New Zealand, 23% of New Zealand women and girls aged 15 – 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime. The study further breaks down the statistics by age groups, revealing that 7% of those aged 15 – 19 and 26% of those aged 30 – 39 have experienced IPV in the previous year.

The study also provides specific rates for different types of IPV among New Zealand women aged 18 – 64: 19.9% reported experiencing sexual IPV, 23.4% reported experiencing physical IPV, and 38.8% reported experiencing either or both.

Non-partner sexual violence (NPSV) shows a different pattern and is more prevalent in higher-income countries, according to the WHO study. In Australia and New Zealand, 19% of women and girls have been affected by NPSV, compared to 15% in North America.23

These stats are in line with the 2021-22 New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey,4 which revealed that over their lifetime, around 24% of women in New Zealand have experienced IPV offences and 36% have experienced sexual assault. In addition, the survey revealed that when looking at offences by family members, there were significant disparities in the percentages of women from diverse backgrounds who experienced such offences. For instance, females who identify as LGBT+ (8.2%), those with disabilities (6.6%), and women facing financial difficulties (6.5%) are much more likely to experience offences from family members compared to the average adult in New Zealand.

In 2024, the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges (NCIWR) research unit conducted a multi-phase research project, exploring the risks women and children face due to family violence in New Zealand. The first phase5 involved analysing data from 3,500 risk assessments recorded in the Women’s Refuge client database from November 2022 to November 2023. This analysis focused on mapping risks and their implications for safety throughout a person's life. The findings revealed significant risks: one in three women reported being encouraged by the perpetrator to self-harm or suicide, 58% experienced stalking, and 51% received threats of death.

Technology-facilitated intimate partner violence

Technological tools can be utilised to commit online violence against women. The NCIWR’s 2024 study5 highlighted that 49% of women dealt with constant unwanted contact, 56% were subjected to tracking and monitoring of their movements, and 45% faced persistent invasions of privacy through their private messages.

In a 2023 study1 by Nicola Henry, Nicola Gavey, and Kelly Johnson, 75 participants from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK were interviewed about their experiences with image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) by intimate partners. The majority, 77%, had suffered such abuse, with 40% (n=30) indicating they experienced IBSA as part of broader coercive and controlling behaviour.

Specifically, the analysis focused on 30 participants 29 women and one gender-diverse person who stated that intimate partners used intimate image abuse as a way to control them. The study revealed that abusive partners use intimate imagery as a means of exerting power and control. This tactic is employed not only to entrap victims within abusive relationships but also to intimidate, punish, and degrade them at or after the relationship's end. The researchers highlight the importance of recognising that some forms of IBSA are part of “a pattern of gendered violence” that often coincides with other abuses in coercive and controlling relationships.

Further Reading

Studies and reports: Technology-facilitated intimate partner violence


We understand that this research could be confronting or upsetting for some readers. If you or someone you know needs to talk:

  • Free call Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 for support for women and children experiencing family violence.
  • Visit Netsafe to complete an online form to report any online safety issues or free call 0508 638 723 for support.
  • Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.
  • Free call Youthline 0800 376 633 or text 234 to talk with someone from a safe and youth-centred organisation.
  • Free call Safe to Talk 0800 044 334 or text 4334 anytime for support about sexual harm.
  • Free call OutLine Aotearoa 0800 688 5463 any evening to talk to trained volunteers from Aotearoa's rainbow communities.