News & Events

Digital violence on the rise

August 6, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to increased digital abuse, from abusive texts and social media posts to covert stalking.

Which is why Emerge is working with volunteer tech experts to help women with basic security measures such as turning off locations and learning how to stay safe on line.

Paula Westhead, Emerge’s Executive Officer, said technology abuse had become one of the leading causes of concern mentioned by women who are now living in Emerge’s refuge and crisis accommodation.

“The abuse has included abusive messages or calls, taking over accounts, threatening to share intimate images, and being tracked. It is distressing, humiliating and controlling,” she said.

However abusive it is, women should continue to have access to technology, such as a mobile phone or computer, to find support and stay in touch with trusted friends and family.

“Social media is also a vital way of staying connected with your support networks,” Paula said.

There are steps to protect anyone from abuse. These include:

Setting strong passcodes and passwords to secure your online accounts and devices, change them frequently and do not share them with anyone. One of the most common ways that an abuser can gain access to your personal information is by accessing your online accounts using saved passwords, or by simply guessing your password.

Turning off location services on phones and computers, and do not ‘check in’ through your social media accounts.

Being aware of your privacy when posting online — avoid posting identifying information about your location, including in photos be careful with photos of children in school uniforms which can have logos and school names which are easily traceable

Using social media accounts safely — block unknown or abusive people and use the highest-level security and privacy settings on your accounts to make sure your posts are only seen by the people you choose.

Double checking which apps or programs are loaded on your devices and remove any that you did not put there yourself.

Using a safer computer if you are not confident your computer is 100% clean, for example use a public library computer or a trusted friend’s phone or computer.

Trusting your instincts. You are in the best position to know if things are not right, and to take control of your online experience.

According to the report, domestic and family violence support services “overwhelmingly” reported an increase in referrals “due to clients being pushed into crisis situations while also being trapped in the home with their abuser due to lockdown requirements”.

A recent Monash University report into technology abuse showed that women aged up to 34 or 17 and younger, as well as transgender, non-binary and intersex people were most at risk.

Perpetrators were usually men up to 34 years old or boys, and were usually a former intimate partner, de facto or spouse.

The most common behaviours were put-downs or insulting/harassing messages, or messaging friends and family with fake messages from the victim’s number or account.


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