Are you a woman or child experiencing complex abuse via the everyday technology you use? Or perhaps you know someone who is a victim of this kind of domestic abuse, who may or may not be able to speak up about it, even to their closest friends.
Many abusers use technology to control, harass or intimidate their victims. They may carry out physical, sexual, psychological, or economic abuse via hacking phone hacking, cyberstalking, tracking social media accounts, household cameras and other kinds of technology.
Refuge, the charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence, has a separate website specifically for women experiencing complex tech abuse.
The site – at https://refugetechsafety.org – was launched in May 2021 in response to a massive increase in the in the number of complex tech abuse cases requiring specialist support. This kind of abuse often involves perpetrators using multiple accounts and devices to abuse, control and monitor their partners. The technology they use can range from everyday devices and accounts to sophisticated tracking malware. A recent report from Avast, one of Refuge’s digital security partners, found a 93% increase in the use of malicious stalkerware and spyware apps over the same time the previous year. Digital abuse frequently happens alongside physical, sexual, emotional and/or financial abuse.
Many women experiencing tech abuse feel they have no choice but to stop using online spaces or their devices, making them feel even more isolated and helpless. The new website was created in consultation with survivors and provides women with resources for recognising tech abuse and using technology safely.
The website features an easy-to-use interactive tool designed to help women spot commonplace smart devices in their homes which could be controlled by an abuser, together with simple step-by-step advice on how to secure them including cautions throughout where an action could notify an abuser. It also includes an interactive Tech Safety Tool (chatbot) with video guides for securing accounts and devices in English, Urdu, Polish and Spanish.
A quick exit button is also provided so that victims can leave the site immediately should they be disturbed by the abuser when using it.
Refuge also operates the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on (Freephone) 0808 2000 247.