Make no mistake about it – technology abuse is domestic violence. It’s a newer form of abuse, but when misused, technology can be as dangerous as more traditional forms of domestic violence.
When we hear the words domestic violence, we immediately think of physical violence – hitting, slapping, kicking, shoving, choking. It may also conjure images of an emotionally abusive spouse. But a new player has emerged on the spectrum of domestic violence and it’s impact is felt just as much. It is technology abuse.
Using tools such as the Internet, social media, text messaging, email, mobile devices and surveillance devices, domestic violence perpetrators can now stalk, harass and abuse their victims at any time of the day or night. Victims in turn feel as if they can never escape their abuser.
A survey by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre of Victoria (DVRCV) found that 98% of domestic violence victims had suffered technology-facilitated abuse. Many victims had GPS tracking or Facebook used as a way to stalk them.
Senior researcher at DVRCV Dr. Delanie Woodlock said: “What makes [cyber abuse] unique, and why we think it’s increasing, is because it’s easy. Men can do this at a distance. It’s also harder to prove … and it means [the woman] is very vulnerable and exposed.”
Cyber stalking and abuse can also occur outside of the family unit. Former business analyst Katalin said she had been cyber stalked for six years after rejecting advances from a male colleague in her office’s IT department. Because she could not prove who was behind continued hacking into her computer, laptop and mobile phone, Katalin’s complaints to the human resources department were futile, and she eventually left the organisation.
“I have now three mobile phones which have been hacked. I can only use the most primitive phone on the market,” Katalin said.
“He is able to do all these things incognito. He is never worried about being caught.”
Katalin said complaints to police were not taken seriously, and she instead was told to see a psychiatrist.
Dr Woodlock said Katalin’s experience was consistent with her research, in that women often struggled to be taken seriously when reporting cyber harassment and perpetrators were able to make victims feel “crazy”.
What is technology abuse?
Abuse involving technology, or technological abuse, is more common among younger members of the community but its incidence is rising quickly. Forms of technology abuse include:
- Hacking into someone’s personal email account, computer or phone
- Using tracking devices to monitor someone’s location, phone calls and messages
- Monitoring interactions on social media
- Demanding to know passwords
- Distributing humiliating, false or intimate videos or photos without consent
- Sending messages, emails or texts that are abusive, intimidating or threatening
- Stealing a person’s identity or impersonating them
Usually, technology abuse can last far beyond the relationship itself. It is easy to keep tabs on the person without being detected and expands far beyond the appropriate use of technology. However, technology abuse is not necessarily recognised as abuse. Unfortunately, technology abuse has been given little, if any, attention in government initiatives aimed at tackling domestic violence. For example, the Domestic Violence Strategy does not mention technology-facilitated domestic violence.
There are federal and state laws that may deal with some forms of digital abuse – for example, stalking offences or using a carriage service to menace and harass someone. But there needs to be a co-ordinated national response, rather than a patchwork of legislation throughout Australia.
This is especially true given the borderless nature of the internet. This allows abusers to traverse geographical barriers to reach their victims through the use of technology.
in its review of domestic violence homicides occurring between 2000 to 2012, the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team observed that technology was commonly being used to stalk, monitor, and control their intimate partners while the relationship was on foot. This challenges misconceptions that stalking behaviours usually only manifest after the relationship has ended.
On an international level, the United Nations, in its 2015 “wake up” report, estimated that 73% of females worldwide have endured online abuse. The report also urged countries to recognise that online abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence, and has negative consequences for all societies in general and irreparable damage for girls and women in particular.
What can you do if you feel you’re at risk?
The police recommend that a victim keep records of the technological abuse.
- Keep any messages sent
- Keep any physical evidence
- Keep a log of behaviour that is threatening or intimidating
It may be hard to detect technology abuse, and you may even have trouble considering it to be domestic violence, but it is still a serious matter. You have the right to feel worried and want to be protected. Take your matter to the police because you deserved to be protected.
We offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation. If you have any questions, contact us today.