Technology Abuse: Experiences of Survivors and Victim Service Agencies
April 29, 2014
The newest infographics produced by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) show how technology is being misused by abusers against survivors, in addition to how victim service agencies are using technology in order to help survivors. Through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, NNEDV conducted a survey of more than 750 victim service agencies across the United States, including American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is one of the most comprehensive reviews of what survivors are telling victim service providers about how abusers misuse technology to harass, stalk, and harm.
Nearly 90% of programs report that survivors come to them for help after abusers intimidated and made threats via cell phone, text messages and email, and 75% of programs noted that abusers accessed victim’s accounts (email, social media, etc.) without the victim’s consent and oftentimes without their knowledge. Intimidation, threats, and access of information about victims aren’t new tactics within the context of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or trafficking. However, the use of technology as a tool to facilitate these tactics means that the harassment and abuse can be much more invasive, intensive, and traumatizing.
Technology has given abusers more methods of controlling and monitoring victims. Seventy-two percent of programs reported that a survivor’s location is being tracked by smart phones or other devices; more than half of the programs report that survivors are saying abusers are spoofing caller ID (manipulating caller ID so that it appears as though someone other than the abuser is calling); and nearly 70% of programs report that abusers are posting pictures or videos of victims online for the purpose of distressing or harming the victim. Programs also report that survivors are asking for help on how to manage their technology and stay safe while using them. Survivors frequently ask for help with cell phones (71%); followed by how to manage location privacy, whether through cell phones or other location devices (62%), and computer or laptop use (56%).
NNEDV’s Safety Net Project responded to the results of this survey by developing and presenting a series of webinars on technology use and survivor safety. In the spring of 2013, NNEDV hosted a webinar series, “From Cell Phones to Facebook: Technology Safety in a Digital World, a Webinar Series for Victim Service Agencies.” Nearly 1,000 victim service providers registered and participated in this series. In the spring of 2014, NNEDV continues to respond to these needs by developing resources that will be helpful for both survivors and victim service agencies trying manage their own technology use. As reported in the survey, many agencies are also concerned about how their use of technology may impact the survivors they work with. “We’re worried that when we communicate with survivors, the perpetrator or someone else will gain access to that information. This could be dangerous for survivors,” one program reported.
The survey results shows that more than 95% of programs use email, phones, and faxes to communicate with survivors or other providers about survivors. Ninety-four percent of programs use email to communicate with survivors. Programs can’t just stop emailing survivors; however, establishing policies and procedures to maximize safety and privacy when using email is something agencies can do. NNEDV will develop resources and continue to give guidance to local programs to help establish those policies and procedures.
For more information about NNEDV and NNEDV’s Safety Net Project, as well as updates about the resources in development, visit www.nnedv.org/safetynet and www.techsafety.org. Check out our blog on this topic and to see the full-sized infographics below!
This survey was conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence and was funded under grant 2011-VF-GX-K016, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this survey are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department Justice.