Tech Companies Join Advocates to Increase Online Safety for Victims of Violence
July 28, 2014
For a woman escaping a domestic abuser, leaving a digital trail can compromise her safety and lead the perpetrator to her door. But in the age of smartphones and social media, going "offline" is not only impossible, it also further isolates survivors from the support of friends and loved ones. Often, victims are told that if they don't want to be harassed by their abusive exes, they should just quit using technology. Fortunately, tech-savvy advocates and law enforcement officers are coming together to devise ways to protect survivors while helping them continue to harness the power of technology to maintain their privacy.
"Abusers stalk victims where we live our lives – and, in this digital age, much of our lives are intertwined with technology," said Cindy Southworth, founder of NNEDV's Safety Net project and Vice President of Development & Innovation. "Domestic violence survivors deserve to be safe in their homes, safe at their offices, and safe online. That's why we're here."
Today through Thursday, NNEDV is convening its second annual Technology Summit. Almost 200 advocates, law enforcement officers, and technology experts will converge on San Jose to learn how to help victims of violence escape abusers who are misusing technology to stalk or harm.
Technology is a powerful tool for advocates and practitioners and, unfortunately, is also misused by offenders. In a 2012 survey , 89% of local domestic violence programs reported that victims are experiencing intimidation and threats by abusers via technology, including through cell phones, texts, and email. On the flip side, 60% of local programs reported that they are creatively using social media to reach out to victims. "Technology is a phenomenal tool for survivors in danger when they are seeking safety, and a vital resource to help victims rebuild their lives," said Southworth.
With 27 sessions such as "Revenge Porn: A Survivor's Story," "Investigating Technology‐Related Crimes," and "Safety Apps for Survivors," the summit builds on over 12 years of work by the NNEDV Safety Net Project, which has trained over 65,000 victim service providers, law enforcement officers, and others on perpetrators' abuse of technology and on technology strategies to keep victims safe. Representatives from Facebook, Google, Verizon, Pinterest, and others will be discussing their ongoing efforts to help survivors by enhancing safety and reducing isolation.
The summit's diverse participants will hear the latest insights from experts on the ways technology can be misused and the tools needed to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. The numerous sessions at the summit include such topics as relocation and confidentiality; prosecution of technology-assisted crimes; and safe uses of social media. Participants will also an opportunity to see live demonstrations of various technologies.
"The Safety Net Project's annual Technology Summit brings together an extraordinary mix of technologists, victim advocates, and justice professionals working towards a world where violence against women no longer exists," said Kim Gandy, NNEDV's President and CEO. "By coming together and working in partnership, our collective efforts can truly make a difference to countless survivors of domestic violence."