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Domestic Abuse and Technology

Submitted by on August 25, 2010 – 1:36 pm

New technologies have given people new ways to communicate from video chatting with Skype to status updates on Facebook and even the good old-fashioned e-mail. For victims of domestic abuse, however, these new technologies can be misused to further isolate and hurt them.

Spyware is a popular way for husbands to keep tabs on their wife’s online activity. They can intercept e-mails, check search histories, and invade their wife’s privacy. If a woman is thinking about leaving her husband, her internet searches for plane or bus tickets or an apartment or shelter will be discovered by spyware. Tracking cell phone calls is even simpler with call histories available through a simple search on the phone itself.

GPS trackers are another way that women are being stalked by their husbands or significant others. Sometimes GPS trackers are installed on teenagers’ cars by their parents to make sure they are going where they say they are going, but men have been getting them installed on their wife or girlfriend’s car so that they can know exactly where they are every minute of the day. Sometimes the man won’t even bother with letting his wife have a car so that she has to rely on him to pick her up or drop her off.

A more recent misuse of technology comes from camera phones that take video and pictures. Husbands or boyfriends will take sexually explicit photos or video of their wife or girlfriend, often against their will or without their knowledge, and threaten to release the pictures or video if she considers leaving. This type of blackmail is happening much more than people would like to believe, and even though most websites like YouTube will take down such videos fairly quickly, the threat of such a video being online is enough to scare the wife or girlfriend into staying.

There are organizations working to help women in domestic abuse situations where new technology plays a role. One of the most prominent organizations is Take Back The Tech!, a global network that gives groups around the world the tools to start their own local campaigns and educate their community. They encourage women to turn technology to their favor and use blogs, e-mail, podcasts, and instant messenger programs to spread a message of female empowerment. Currently, there are Take Back The Tech! campaigns in Germany, Malaysia, Rwanda, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To learn more about Take Back The Tech! and how you can start a campaign in your community, go to http://www.takebackthetech.net.

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