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Tech threats impact family violence victims

24 November 2021

Tech threats impact family violence victims

Written by Wendy Tuohy

Each year The Salvation Army in Australia assists at least 5800 women and children experiencing family and domestic violence*. On the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, we examine the emerging issue of technology-based stalking and monitoring.

The Salvation Army has reported a 95 per cent increase in demand for support with technology-based threats in 2020, as more women found that perpetrators were using these means to exert coercive control.

More women are being stalked and monitored using drones, shopping rewards cards accounts, pet-tracking devices or other technologies, with calls for help to deal with this form of family violence nearly doubling during the (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Wherever we’re using technology, you name it, they are using it,” said Alexandra Miller, a family violence specialist with the Salvos.

In the lead-up to the National Summit on Women’s Safety earlier this (year), Alexandra said stalking and monitoring were strong indicators of future harm to family violence victims. She added that technological safety must be a focus if women were to remain in their homes and not risk homelessness.

“If you look at domestic violence death reviews, frequently one of the things they say is one of the most indicative behaviours [of future harm] is stalking and monitoring ... if someone is going to that level, it’s extremely concerning,” she said.

Devices used by family violence perpetrators to monitor women included old iPods placed inside car upholstery as trackers, drones used to film women in their homes, hacked iCloud, music, Microsoft or Samsung accounts and even a doorbell vision app.

Many women experiencing technology-facilitated abuse and stalking may not recognise it as family violence.

Ms Miller said women should be able to stay connected with friends and family via technology that was integral to everyday life, but “we also want women to be aware of the ways in which technology may be used by perpetrators of violence and of the support available should they need it”.

The full version of this story first appeared in The Age on 6 September. Wendy Tuohy is a senior writer focusing on social issues and those impacting women and girls.

If you or anyone you know needs support, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

eSafety resources can be found at esafety.gov.au/women and to learn how the Salvos can help, go to: https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/need-help/family-and-domestic-violence/learn-more-about-domestic-violence/  

*(Source: Salvation Army Annual Report 2021)

The Salvation Army Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and work and pay our respect to Elders past, present and future.

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