Technology 'key part' of domestic abuse


TECHNOLOGY IS becoming an increasingly common tool for abusive men to monitor and control women, domestic violence charity Women’s Aid has said.

In its annual report for 2009, to be released today, the charity has noted an increase in disclosures of women being abused, controlled and stalked through technology.

Director of the charity Margaret Martin said it was very concerned at the development.

She said callers disclosed that current or former boyfriends, husbands and partners were using many forms of technology to control, coerce and intimidate them.

Women had disclosed that home and mobile phone calls were monitored, as well as their texts. Some women also found cameras secretly installed to monitor them in their own homes.

Abusers tracked and scrutinised online use and demanded access to private e-mail and social networking accounts.

Some women said their partners and ex-partners had placed lies about them on internet sites. Others had been photographed and filmed without their consent, sometimes having sex, and the images were uploaded to the internet.

More than 10,000 calls were received by the charity’s helpline last year. Two-thirds were calls from women experiencing physical, emotional, sexual and/or financial abuse chiefly at the hands of an intimate partner.

More than 800 women said they were sexually abused, including 335 rapes.

Almost 1,700 callers said they were experiencing financial abuse. This involved the abuser using money as a means of control by withholding funds for food and bills, destroying bank cards and emptying joint bank accounts.

Many callers said they were more vulnerable to financial abuse because of the recession.

Women who had experienced domestic violence before the recession reported the economic downturn had lead to more frequent and more severe abuse and that the abusive men were using the recession to excuse their bad behaviour. Almost 3,500 callers had been physically abused, many while pregnant.

More than 8,500 women reported emotional abuse. This included being constantly controlled and monitored through technology. Women reported their phone use had been checked and calls recorded, their mobile phone logs checked and all of their text messages read.

Some abusers used spyware to read e-mails.

Emotional abuse also included threats to kill women, their children or other family members.

Some abusers destroyed their partner’s property, stole their car keys, emptied their petrol tanks or smashed their phones. Women reported being followed from room to room and being accompanied to all outside activities. They also said they were referred to as “it” or “bitch”.

Ms Martin said the use of technology in domestic violence situations is now a key part of the wider pattern of emotional abuse.

“Women have told us they feel like they are constantly being watched and that their privacy is completely invaded and controlled,” she said.

“Quite often it prevents women from seeking help as they fear their partner will see that they have rung a helpline, looked at a domestic violence website or spoken of the abuse to their friends, family or colleagues in an e-mail or text.”

She said leaving the relationship did not always end abuse, with almost one-fifth of women disclosing abuse by former boyfriends, husbands and partners.

Some women were bombarded with texts and calls often telling them in explicit detail how they would be attacked or even killed, and younger women reported their current or former boyfriends stalking them on social networking sites.