What is technology-facilitated abuse?
Technology-facilitated abuse is real. Abusers may use technology to control, harass, or intimidate you. Your phone may be used to monitor you, your location features may be misused to track you, and home devices such as smart tech are often misused to create an environment where somebody is monitored, watched and stalked. Children’s devices are often misused in child contact agreements, with the abusive partner insisting on gifting children tech to monitor them online.
At Refuge we have seen a rise in women reporting to us being harassed and abused online and across multiple platforms, with little measures in place to keep women and girls safe online. This is why we are campaigning for a VAWG Code of Practice to be included in the Online Safety Bill to ensure women can stay online safely.
Refuge specialist tech team was created in 2017 in response to overwhelming reports of technology-facilitated abuse from women accessing our frontline services. We’re currently supporting around 1,594 women every day who are being tracked, monitored and harassed by abusers using modern technology as a weapon of control and coercion. We keep women safe from technology-facilitated abuse and empower survivors so they can use tech safely and take back control of their lives. Refuge’s expert tech team carries out risk assessments and creates customised safety plans for victims of technology-facilitated abuse and their children.
Tech abuse is often experienced as part of a pattern of controlling behaviour by the abuser. Many survivors experience tech abuse in addition to direct domestic abuse such as physical violence, and sexual, economic and emotional abuse. When Refuge launched the first safe house for women and their children in 1971, domestic abuse was seen as black eyes and broken bones. It is now not limited to physical violence and includes tech abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse coercive control, psychological abuse, and post-separation abuse.
Even if you’ve told someone and they didn’t believe you…
You have the right to be safe and respected online and in real life. We do not believe that women should be forced offline or feel they cannot use their tech.
Tech abuse can be tricky to identify. We’ve put together this list of questions to help you spot the signs:
· Does your abuser constantly call, text and message you online?
· Does your abuser publish posts about you online which encourage others to harass and abuse you?
· Does your abuser constantly call, message and send “friend requests” to your family and friends?
· Does your abuser harass you, your employer and your clients through business social media pages and work email addresses?
· Has your abuser threatened to share any information about you online such as confidential information, for example, screenshots of messages, photos of you, or information that could cause you embarrassment?
· Has your abuser threatened to share or share intimate images of you?
· Does your abuser seem to know about conversations that you have had without being present?
· Does your abuser give the children the latest tech gadgets during child contact? Does he play Xbox and PlayStation games with them online outside of his agreed contact time?
· Does your abuser have access to your banking and social media accounts, and assure you that it’s normal to have access to your partner’s information?
· Does your abuser know your whereabouts or turn up unexpectedly wherever you go?
· Does your abuser stalk and harass you via fake social media profiles?
· Has your abuser installed any apps such as ‘find my iPhone’ onto your device? Did he assure you that it is for your safety in case you lose your phone?
· Does your abuser access your online financial accounts to create debts in your name?
· Does your abuser without access to joint banking accounts and finances?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may be experiencing tech abuse. You don’t have to deal with this alone. Refuge is here to support you.
Through our dedicated Refuge Tech Safety website, we provide resources for identifying tech abuse and using technology safely, including a chatbot that provides real-time, automated support. Support can be accessed at refugetechsafety.org.
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is open 24/7, seven days a week and can help you create a safety plan tailored to your individual circumstances. You can access free and confidential support on 0808 2000 247 and digital support via live chat Monday-Friday 3-10pm via www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. You can also fill out a web form on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline website and request a call back at a safe time. From 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, you can speak to our expert Helpline team via a British Sign Language interpreter.
Refuge supports thousands of women and their children on any given day, and every two minutes someone looks to Refuge for help. Refuge runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and on average two women are killed by a current or former partner a week.
If you are able to support our lifesaving work, please donate to Refuge here to help ensure that no woman or child is turned away from accessing the support they need.
Refuge has the only dedicated specialist team that work alongside survivors and key workers to ensure women can use technology safely, they can remain online safely and are supported to regain financial freedom. Our dedicated team exist because of the increase in the misuse of technology to abuse a survivor. Our team support survivors and deliver training to agencies to raise awareness of technology-facilitated abuse to improve agency understanding and response for survivors.
If you want to read more about technology-facilitated abuse, click here.
Refuge is one of the charity partners supporting Rising Stars.