Refuge launches Tech Safety Website

 
Refuge launches Tech Safety Website amid increase in numbers of women experiencing complex tech abuse
  • New website, created with survivors, offers step by step guidance for securing devices
  • Website also includes chatbot in multiple languages offering real time automated guidance

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, today launches its new website, www.RefugeTechSafety.org, with dedicated resources for survivors, after seeing an increase in the number of referrals of complex cases of tech abuse.

Between April 2020 and May 2021, Refuge has seen on average a 97% increase in the number of complex tech abuse cases requiring specialist tech support when compared to the first three months of 2020. In the last 5 months, this number has jumped to an average of 118% more complex tech abuse cases compared to before March 2020.

Complex tech abuse cases supported by Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team often involve perpetrators using multiple accounts and devices to abuse, control and monitor their partners. The technology harnessed can range from everyday devices and accounts, to sophisticated, malicious software. A recent report from one of Refuge’s digital security partners Avast found a 93% increase in the use of malicious stalkerware and spyware apps when compared to the same time last year. Such abuse commonly happens alongside physical, sexual, emotional and/or financial abuse.

Refuge knows that many women experiencing tech abuse feel they have no choice but to stop using online spaces or their devices, which further compounds their isolation. The new Tech Safety Website has been created in consultation with survivors and provides women with resources for recognising tech abuse and using technology safely.

www.RefugeTechSafety.org hosts a short, animated film which illustrates common forms and experiences of technology facilitated abuse. The website also provides 17 step-by-step support guides covering a range of device and account settings, created specifically with domestic abuse survivors’ safety in mind. The guides provide easy to follow instructions on how to secure the settings for a range of commonly used devices and accounts, with cautions provided throughout where an action could notify an abuser. The website also includes an interactive Tech Safety Tool (chatbot) with video guides for securing accounts and devices in English, Urdu, Polish and Spanish.

Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Refuge is thrilled to be launching www.RefugeTechSafety.org, created together with survivors, to empower women and children to use technology safely. In the past year, many of us will have turned to technology to keep in touch with loved ones and to connect with the world

“However, at Refuge we’re aware that perpetrators of domestic abuse often use technology as a tool of abuse – this can force survivors offline and further isolate them from their support networks. In the past year, we’ve seen growing numbers of complex tech abuse cases that require our specialist support. With the government’s Online Safety Bill due to be published today, Refuge is disappointed that the government hasn’t committed to ensuring that violence against women and girls is specifically addressed in a bill that has the potential to tackle tech abuse and protect women.”

No survivor of abuse should feel the need to stop using online spaces. That’s why we’re now sharing our resources and expert knowledge with the public, so women can protect themselves from abuse and not be forced offline due to domestic abuse. For any woman experiencing tech abuse, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.”

Amy Aldworth, survivor of tech abuse supported by Refuge, said:

“Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team supported me when I was being stalked and harassed online by a man I had met via a dating app. At the time, the abuse felt insurmountable and my mental health and ability to work were severely affected. My Refuge Tech Advocate supported me to secure the privacy and location settings of my online accounts, helping me feel safer online. She also assisted me in gathering evidence for the police and with her support I was able to secure a Stalking Protection Order against my abuser.

Often women in my situation may not know where to turn to or what their options are which is why I’m so pleased to have been involved in the creation of www.RefugeTechSafety.org. Along with other women Refuge has supported, I gave my insights to ensure the website works for women experiencing tech abuse. It’s great to see that the resources that helped me through such a difficult time of my life will be available to other women in similar situations.”

Sasha Wiggins, Barclays Group Head of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility said:

“Whilst technology is a great help and source of support for many – especially so over the course of the last year – some of this technology is sadly being misused by abusers to facilitate harm. Refuge play a vital role in raising awareness, providing support to, and empowering the survivors of this domestic abuse, and so we are proud to be supporting the creation of their new Tech Safety website, allowing Refuge to reach even more women across the UK.”

– ENDS –

With thanks to the Barclays £100m Covid-19 Community Aid Package which funded the creation of Refuge’s new Tech Safety website: resources designed to provide survivors and professionals with the tools to recognise, understand and respond to abuse perpetrated through the misuse of technology. Raising awareness and supporting survivor safety.

Visit Refuge’s Tech Safety Website at www.RefugeTechSafety.org for information on tech abuse, watch our animation and find guidance on how to secure your personal devices. For real time automated support Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.

You can call Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 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).

About Barclays Community Aid Package

Barclays £100m COVID-19 Community Aid Package is supporting charities that are helping vulnerable people impacted by COVID-19, and the associated social and economic hardship caused by the crisis. Alongside matching colleague donations and fundraising efforts, Barclays are partnering with a number of charities in the UK, Americas, Asia and Europe, delivering help where it is needed most.

For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk.