Technology Abuse is the new weapon of choice- a form of controlling behaviour that involves the use of technology as a means to harass, coerce or stalk another person.
The act of monitoring, tracking and harassment through technology devices can magnify a victim’s sense of imprisonment and isolation within a relationship, previous relationship or everyday life. Tech abuse makes victims feel as though their perpetrators are omnipresent in their lives and that there’s no escape – even after a relationship has ended.
Due to the borderless and indiscriminate nature of the Internet, anyone can say anything online.
Threats can be upsetting and traumatic to receive, even when made by anonymous people we’ve never met. However, tech abuse can have real-life implications when perpetrated by a spouse or ex-partner. Thanks to the Internet and our increasingly “smart” devices, there are now a frightening number of ways for abusers to control, humiliate and isolate their victims.
Examples of Technology abuse are:
-Abusive messages including e-mails and social media
-Abusive calls such as threats or controlling.
-Sharing intimate photos of someone without their consent (sometimes called revenge porn)
-Making someone prove where they are by sending photos of their location.
-Image-based abuse, when someone shares or threatens to share an intimate image of you without your consent
-Checking someone’s text messages, social media activity or internet activity
-Account takeovers, where someone accesses your online accounts and locks you out of them
-Fake social media accounts, when fake accounts are being used to harass you or post negative comments about you online
-Forbidding someone from having a phone or limiting who they can contact via phone or internet
-Spying on, monitoring, stalking or tracking someone through any type of surveillance device (such as a tracking system or spyware)
-Radio-controlled devices such as drone.
Technology Abuse as the name suggests is- abuse.
Technology abuse generally happens when there is a breakdown of a personal relationship and is prevalent in Domestic and Family Violence. Technology Abuse is often used:
-Workplace related when an employee is asked to leave a job or made redundant
-In a relationship be it domestic partner, marriage, or even friendship
-A vehicle to promote Racism and far-right views
-To discredit a business or an individual
The most recent survey of domestic violence frontline workers in Australia, found that 98% of respondents had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.
The survey found that technology-facilitated abuse happens across a wide range of platforms, including:
-Text message (80%)
-Mobile phones (82%)
-GPS tracking (29%)
At Protective Group we find the use of Technology Abuse is prevalent in nine out of ten Domestic and Family Violence cases that are referred to us. Technology Abuse isn’t only prevalent when there is a breakdown in a personal relationship but can occur as normal abuse would, just not physical.
In our experience we see Technology abuse happening:
-Spyware being used when martial relationships end. Perpetrators often use children’s personal devices to load spyware software to track their ex-partners
-Ex-partners tracking there previous parent through GPS tracking devices on the vehicles
-Secondary school students through “revenge porn”
-Online. Through email, messaging, social media, dating sites, and other platforms. Abusers who commit online harassment often do it to make you feel unsafe, humiliated, scared, or emotionally distressed.
-Cloud based programs where a Perpetrator can monitor their victim via cloud based programs such as icloud.
-Home based networks via WIFI/. For example, an abuser could remotely control the smart locks on your home, limiting your ability to leave the house or to return to it. A video doorbell could be used not only to monitor who comes to the door, but to harass them remotely or, in combination with a smart lock, prevent them from entering the house.
-Spoofing. Spoofing is a term that means masking or hiding one’s actual phone number so that another phone number (chosen by the user) shows up on the recipient’s caller ID.
The majority of Technology Abuse we see on a daily basis is from Domestic and Family violence matters. Far to often we see the perpetrator using easy to access over the country, or bought Online Spyware and GPS tracking devices, often we see the Children the target of where the use of these methods are used:
-GPS trackers inside Children’s toys
-Spyware downloaded on young children’s tablet computers
-racking devices disguised as gifts such as smart watches which have locations apps pre-programmed.
We see each day the perpetrator controls their victim and the physiological and emotional effect it has on the victim, the victim questions themselves every minute of the day “ am I being watched, are they looking at me”.
Even the most inconspicuous devices are often used: baby monitors being pre-programmed to listen to their victim, controlling home WIFI networks to turn on music at 3am in the morning or turning the heating on at the highest temperature.
This Silent Menace is the new frontier being used by the aggressor and they are becoming more cunning and confident each time our assessment team is faced with the silent predator.
“With the onset of COVID-19, we have seen a triple-digit increase in our Technology Abuse services. The ease of purchasing trackers and spyware software from retailers and Online is driving an increase in the use of smart technology. We are increasingly seeing perpetrators being creative in how they track and control their victims.”
“We need to adapt to the ever-changing landscape, our field assessment team are meeting daily to share their experiences to ensure we are not only disrupting Technology Abuse but eliminating it.”
CEO at Protective Group
Often a victim may question themselves if Technology Abuse is happening to them; “Could it just be a coincidence they always know where I am and what I’m doing”.
The following is a guide to some of the key behaviours that could indicate you are a victim of technology abuse
Bullying and harassment: Sending insulting or threatening texts or social media messages; putting you down in social media posts; tagging you in hurtful posts or photos; posting embarrassing photos of you.
Monitoring and stalking: Stealing or demanding to know your passwords; looking through your phone or computer without permission; using location tagging or spyware to monitor and track you; posing as you online; remotely controlling your smart home devices to intimidate you
Sexual coercion: Demanding you take or send explicit photos or videos you aren’t comfortable with; sending you explicit photos or videos without your consent; sharing your photos or videos with others; taking photos or videos of you without your knowledge
Possessiveness and control: Deciding who you can follow or be friends with online; controlling who you can text or message; demanding your constant attention through technology; making you feel unsafe for not responding to messages immediately
If you are facing Technology Abuse, know that it is not your fault, it is not physical but just as damaging.
You have the right to privacy online and offline. You also have the right to decide for yourself how you use photos, social media, and smart home devices and other technology, as well as who you communicate with and how often. Above all, you have the right to feel safe and respected.
With more people at home, working and spending time Online it’s become the weapon of choice of perpetrators. Victims movements can no longer be tracked visually, workplaces are no longer available to be seen-in and public transport is no longer an option to track a victim- Technology abuse is the new norm.
We have seen a triple-digit increase in our Technology Abuse services since the onset of COVID-19 and as each stage of restrictions is applied the demand for our services is increasing. No longer can you drop-in at your workplace and speak to your IT helpdesk team to check the security settings on your phone, no longer can you rely on a friend to pop around to check your social meeting settings, being at home connected to a WIFI network and/or smart home devices is the weapon of choice. Victims every move, every button pushed, every restaurant delivery is potentially being monitored by somebody who wishes harm against you.
We not only eliminate the immediate threat of Technology Abuse, we also through education prevent the future chances of it returning.
Through our group of brands we offer a professional, specialist service for people experiencing Technology Abuse with a particular focus for individuals experiencing Domestic and Family Violence abuse via technology.
Our Technology Abuse services are focused upon disrupting the abuse, reducing further risk and optimising safety. We are able to provide you or your client with enhanced safety and peace of mind through an individualised service to assess technology abuse and the implementation of immediate
interventions tailored to their circumstances.
We bring together years of first-hand experience to stop the abuse then educate the user through first hand experience of how to prevent becoming a victim in the future.
Key principles of our Technology Abuse services:
-Personalised advice and practical demonstrations provided for clients as to how they and their children can use technology safely without fear of further abuse
-An electronic sweep and methodical visual inspection of the client’s car and other possessions for tracking devices that may have been put in place by a perpetrator
-Where possible, immediate interventions to disrupt tracking by perpetrators, their access to the client’s personal information and accounts
-Where forensic IT assistance is required, we can organise this through a third party for an additional fee
-This service may be paired with additional measures to enhance client safety such as our wearable personal duress alarm, the Tek Safe watch*
*Additional charges apply.
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