Tech Abuse Suffered By 72% Of Refuge Service Users

Tech Abuse Suffered By 72% Of Refuge Service Users

The UK’s largest domestic violence charity, Refuge, has reported that 72% of its service uses have expressed that they have experienced tech abuse.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse are increasingly using technology to abuse their victims, giving them the ability to reach into a victim’s personal life and home through tech such as personal devices, online accounts, home tech and ‘even children’s toys’.

The charity states that victims may be suffering tech abuse in various forms, including:

  • Constant contact through calls, text and messaging to the victim and their family, including to personal and business devices
  • Publishing posts on social media encouraging abuse and harassment of their victim
  • The threat or action of sharing intimate images of their victim
  • Knowledge of private conversations or location of their victims
  • Stalking and harassing the victim through social media through fake profiles

Coinciding with ITV program “Tonight, Tech Abuse: Stopping the Stalkers” on the 9th January, Refuge launched an online chatbot that aimed:

“to provide safe and accessible information to thousands of women across the country experiencing abuse through technology.”

Offering practical real-time tips from securing devices to ensuring location tracking is inaccessible to abusers, the charity also has instructional videos to help victims.

Roxanne Leitao, a PhD Student that designed the chatbot said:

“Working with Refuge’s tech abuse team and, based on the findings from the PhD research, we identified the need for an online resource that could show women how to secure their devices. The chatbot provides clear and simple instruction videos that women can access anywhere, anytime, and offers guidance for securing a number of devices including iPhones and Android. I worked closely with survivors of tech abuse and directly with Refuge to shape and test the design, and make sure it was as effective and user-friendly as possible.”

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of national domestic abuse charity Refuge said:

“Tech abuse is domestic abuse. Women are reporting tech abuse to us on an alarming scale, and we know that being able to access quick, safe and accessible support in order to secure devices is crucial. We have worked with clients who have had spyware installed in their homes, or their movements tracked by abusive partners, as well as women whose children have had their toys tampered with, and tracking devices placed in them.

“This chatbot will help save and change lives, and will empower women to ensure their devices are safe. It will enable Refuge to upscale the support offered to women, not just in Refuge services, but wherever they are.”

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