How perpetrators of domestic violence use technology to continue the abuse
Everyday technologies can enhance our lives and make things convenient but it can also be used for abusive purposes. Technology has become more and more incorporated into our everyday social lives and relationships. The danger arises when Apps such as ‘find my phone’, social media, Facetime and internet banking are monitored by the perpetrators of domestic violence to continue the cycle of abuse. Victim survivors experience a range of technology facilitated abuse including monitoring, stalking behaviour, threats and intimidation.
Post-separation contact and co-parenting is a key context of abuse that enables ongoing exploitation and manipulation. Through the use of technology children are becoming a central part of the abuse that is directed at the adult partner. Children become involved in the abuse as targets to hurt the other parent and as unwitting participants. For instance weekly scheduled Facetime calls can become an interrogation of the children for information about their location or their parent’s schedule.
There is a diverse range of activities in this type of abuse such as stalking, threats over the phone, repetitive intrusive texting or calling, impersonation of the child or another person on-line or blocking communication with the other parent. Technology can become particularly dangerous when the perpetrator manipulates the child to gain information into the lives of victim survivors. For example GPS tile trackers that are secretly inserted into toys facilitate monitoring and stalking behaviour. As a precaution, soft toys can be run through the laundry to make sure that any concealed electronic devices do not remain active.
Technology facilitated contact is used as a tool to decrease risk yet it can also enable persistent harm. Frequently parents are either court ordered or agree to use Facetime or another type of video chat function to facilitate contact between the child and the abusive parent. The idea is that this technological contact allows the child to maintain a relationship with the parent that they are not spending the most physical time with and is often presented as a solution to the risk of physical violence. However the same technologies that are being used to facilitate this are actually used to continue the abuse.
This opens up the child to manipulation where the perpetrator can ask the child to show them around the house or to point the camera out the window. Abusers are using such opportunity to gather information about the location of the victim survivor’s household and learn about who is present in the household. In short through the use of technology children are unwittingly being used to conduct surveillance. It’s a double edged sword because on the one hand it may be less risky than a physical visit involving child exchange with the parents personally in contact but it is not without risk.
Technology facilitated abuse has serious consequences for children as they can suffer from feelings of guilt for disclosing information to the offending parent and negatively impact the relationship with the non-abusive parent.
It’s a common misconception that technology facilitated abuse occurs predominantly through spy wear apps or software that is installed on devices because most abuse involves common technologies. A majority of the reported abuse is through the use of common devices or platforms such as social media, mobile phones and text messages. Hence its essential to be cautious of devices such as smart phones, smart watches and gaming consoles that can be misused by a perpetrator.
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If you have concerns about your safety and are at risk of, or exposed to domestic or family violence please contact our office on (07) 5591 5099 and a member of our family law team will be able to arrange an appointment with one of our family lawyers. Our team can get your matter moving, and provide you with legal advice regarding domestic and family violence. If you are in immediate harm, or require police assistance, dial 000.
Author: Rebecca Baird
Directors: Sophie Pearson and Ian Kennedy
Date: 7 February 2022