Domestic violence charity cracks down on tech abuse

Charity Refuge has helped almost 1,000 people since January who have been the victim of domestic abuse involving technology.

Joe Lepper | 29th Aug 18
Image: Photographer Julian Nieman for Refuge

A domestic abuse charity is improving the digital skills of its staff and survivors in a bid to tackle the growing problem of abusers using technology to torment their victims.

This year Refuge has already helped 920 victims who have suffered tech abuse from partners or ex-partners.

Such tech abuse includes online harassment, stealing online identities, revenge pornography, stalking and surveillance.

As well as using computers and mobile phones, other technology being used against victims includes voice activated home assistants, webcams and thermostats.

So far the charity has trained 347 frontline staff to keep up with new technology and digital innovations and understand how these can be exploited by abusers.

Survivors are also receiving training in online safety and privacy and how to get support to stop such technological abuse.

The charity also has a team of tech abuse leads and 30 tech champions who work around the UK.

Tech abuse a growing trend

“Over recent years, frontline staff at Refuge have recorded an alarming trend in the misuse of everyday technology by current or former partners to control, isolate, humiliate and dominate their victims,” said Refuge Chief Executive Sandra Horley.

“We have seen technological abuse in cases of domestic violence, stalking, economic abuse, trafficking and modern slavery and rape and sexual assault.

“Since January we have already supported 920 survivors who had suffered some form of technological abuse from online harassment, stolen online identities, hacking, spoofing, revenge pornography, to stalking and surveillance.

“In addition to protecting survivors, our work also focuses on empowering them to use technology safely in the future and avoid further isolation, a frequent consequence of domestic abuse.”

Last month University College London researchers launched a guide for charities and other organisations working with victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence on how to combat the growing use of digital devices by abusers.