Chilling domestic violence campaign highlights 97% rise in tech abuse

·3-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From the way we connect with friends to applying for jobs and doing the weekly food shop, we're spending more and more time in the online world. But, while the move has made many aspects of life easier (like being able to order a taxi at the click of a button), it hasn't had a positive impact on everyone. In fact, as domestic violence charity Refuge highlights in their new campaign: domestic abuse is getting smarter and it's all to do with technology.

Refuge, which is the UK's largest domestic violence charity, has seen a 97% increase in cases of complex technology abuse, something which their chilling new campaign aims to raise awareness of. "The numbers of women experiencing domestic abuse, especially in the arena of tech abuse, is rising – not decreasing," pointed out the charity's CEO, Ruth Davison.

Their cross-platform campaign, which was released in time to mark Refuge's 50th anniversary, includes a fake Smartphone advert designed to "create a dramatic rug pull effect on viewers," according to a statement released by the charity.

"The all new 5G smartphone, with maps in real-time so you can keep up-to-date with traffic in your area," the advert begins, before the tone of the clip drops. "And, her movements."

The voiceover continues: "With 10x the storage, so you won't need that extra space for those videos of her – manipulating her has never been easier. Compatible with home appliance apps, allowing quick and easy control of the heating and lights, even when you're not at home. So you can control her, from wherever you are."

Through the video, Refuge hopes to highlight how technology can be used as a form of abuse – such as remotely controlling the heating at home. "While the formal definition of domestic abuse is ever-evolving, power, manipulation and control will always remain at its core," the charity emphasised. "As technology becomes ever powerful as well as accessible, perpetrators have been able to adjust their tactics when plotting abuse against their victims. Products like smartphones, smart doorbells and smart heating, mean that abuse can be carried out invisibly and remotely."

The campaign reflects Refuge's own research, which found that 66% of women did not know where to source information to help secure the devices in their home if they felt they had been compromised by an abuser. On top of that, 41% of women in the UK said that a partner or family member knows the password to their personal devices – with 28% of these women saying that they did not give this password willing.

Speaking about her own experience of technology abuse, domestic violence survivor Amy told Refuge: "We are reliant on our phones and social media to socialise with friends, work and be part of society, but so many people still don’t realise how these technologies are weaponised against women by perpetrators of abuse, it’s very real and very scary."

She added, "This campaign shows the true story of what it is like to experience domestic abuse in 2021 as we all rely on these technologies that are supposed to make our lives easier, but for survivors of abuse like myself, can be the very tool used against us."

As well as the clip, Refuge has enlisted the help of influencers including Love Island's Zara McDermott and TV presenter Stacy Dooley to spread awareness of the warning signs across their social media platforms.

Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247), is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offers free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.

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