New programme to tackle technological abuse

 

Refuge launches new programme to tackle technological abuse and empower women victims to unlock the opportunities technology brings

On 31 October 2017, Refuge launched a new programme to tackle technological abuse and economic and technological exclusion, caused by the growing misuse of modern technology against victims of domestic abuse.

Increasing evidence suggests tools and technology from mobile phones and social media to online banking and satnavs are being misused by abusive men to track, isolate, harass, and control their partners. Research from Comic Relief in 2016 showed 4 in 5 women who had experienced domestic abuse had seen their activity monitored by their partner.

Through a dedicated programme, funded by Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, Refuge will help protect women from this kind of abuse, and empower them to use technology safely and unlock the opportunities it affords.

The Google.org grant will allow Refuge to train 300 frontline professionals and set up a dedicated, expert unit to help Refuge’s clients stay safe. Refuge will also launch new digital resources and targeted campaigns to raise awareness and provide support.

Refuge is the country’s largest single provider of specialist services for survivors of violence – domestic violence,  modern slavery, human trafficking, rape and other forms of violence and abuse. Every week, two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. And every day Refuge offers face-to-face support to 6,000 women and children. Refuge’s new technological abuse and empowerment programme will ensure its expert team and the services it runs keeps pace with the new threats women face.

Euleen Hope, domestic abuse survivor says: “My ex set up a shared account for both of our phones to share apps – but that meant he could download software packages to track me. He exploited the fact that technology wasn’t really my thing – to control me and my life.”

Bethany Ashley, domestic abuse survivor, says: “The abuse made me feel harassed. I left my phone at home because he constantly messaged me. I’ve really struggled with anxiety ever since.”

Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge, said:

“I am delighted to announce the start of this fantastic new initiative which is being enabled by Google. Now, we’ll be able to tackle the misuse of technology and empower abused women to use technology safely and unlock the opportunities it affords.

“Imagine if somebody who wanted to humiliate you could access everything you do online. If somebody who wanted to control you could empty your bank account with the click of a mouse. If somebody who wanted to hurt you could follow your every move on his phone. For the thousands of women subjected to technological abuse, that is reality.

“With Google.org’s grant, and seed funding from Comic Relief and the Government’s ‘tampon tax’, we are going to deliver a transformative tech informed service for survivors of domestic violence. With world-class training and state-of-the-art data analysis, Refuge will build new tools and campaigns to keep women safe, whilst enabling them to take back control of technology.

“At Refuge, we listen to women. This project was born out of our clients’ experiences of technology-related abuse, and we will continue to make sure their needs and experiences shape our work in the years ahead. Together we can make sure that modern technology empowers women, rather than imprison them.”

Jacquelline Fuller, Vice President, Google and President of Google.org, said:

“Technology companies have a duty to ensure our platforms are used responsibly, and at Google we take this extremely seriously. With this partnership we want to help find solutions to these new challenges and positively transform the lives of women who are impacted by them. We’re excited to see the results of this programme in the years to come.”

Refuge’s technological abuse and empowerment programme

300 frontline professionals will receive pioneering new training which will equip them to tackle technological and economic abuse head-on, from learning how abusers can exploit technology to directly deleting spyware and other malicious apps and software.

To ensure this service keeps pace with the rapidly-evolving world of modern technology, a core team will receive world-class, high-intensity training to become Refuge’s in-house experts, monitoring trends in technology-related abuse and providing regular training to their colleagues.

To extend the impact of this project, Refuge will also create and distribute new digital resources and run targeted campaigns to explain the issue and provide support.

Beyond the front line, Refuge will be upgrading IMPACT, its unique case-management system, to provide first-class data on how technological abuse is closely connected to physical domestic violence. This will not only inform Refuge’s own advocacy work but will be widely shared with the police, other agencies, and government ministers to make sure they understand how technology is misused against women.

Euleen Hope

  • Euleen was with her abusive partner for 10 years. As well as abusing her physically and emotionally, he used technology as a way to track her movements. He tracked her calls and text messages, and installed cameras in and around her house
  • Her ex was convicted of GBH May 2015 and three counts of common assault after putting her in hospital. He was given three year sentence – 18 months in prison and 18 months on licence supervised by the probation service
  • She has since accessed support from Refuge which has helped her to rebuild her life – and she now volunteers to support other women experiencing domestic violence 

 Bethany Ashley

  • Twenty year old Beth is a blogger and a student who was with an abusive boyfriend when she was a teenager
  • After breaking up with him, he would use social media channels to harass and stalk her, her mum and her friends. When she blocked him, he set up new accounts
  • She deliberately distanced herself from social media because she didn’t enjoy using it any more – which isolated her as a young person and as a blogger
  • She is safe now and has moved away to study at university
  • She has been supported by Refuge to speak out about her experience and let other women know they’re not alone

For more information on tech abuse see our main tech abuse section on our website