ANROWS study finds 1 in 4 Australians will commit tech-facilitated abuse l SBS News

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This story contains references to domestic, family and sexual violence.
One in four Australians will use technology to commit abuse in their lifetime, according to new research, which found gaining or maintaining control was the primary motivation.
The Australian National Research Organization for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) report also found that one in two Australians will experience technology-facilitated abuse (TFA), with one in three recent experiences occurring in a current or former relationship with an intimate partner.
ANROWS CEO Padma Raman PSM said the research offers new insights into what should be understood as “another form” of abuse and how, in some cases, it manifests as an indicator of possible risk domestic and family violence.
“The important thing to think about is that technology is just another means of carrying out abuse, and we have not understood the extent and nature of how it is used as another form of control,” she told SBS News.

“I think it fills a really important gap [in knowledge] of a particular form of abuse, examining that perpetration and how it manifests.”

ANROWS released two new research reports on Thursday, complementing a national study that explored the extent and nature of, as well as responses to, TFA in Australia.

Led by Dr Asher Flynn, from Monash University, and Dr Anastasia Powell, from RMIT University, it involved carrying out a survey of 4,586 Australians aged over 18 over two years (2020 to 2022), as well as 30 interviews with victims and survivors and perpetrators of this form of abuse.

What is technology-facilitated abuse?

Technology-facilitated abuse (TFA) is a growing social, legal and economic problem, with research suggesting that perpetrators commonly engage in this form of abuse to harass, monitor, stalk and emotionally and psychologically harm victims and survivors, according to a report.
He refers to TFA as “the use of mobile and digital technologies in interpersonal harms such as online sexual harassment, image-based harassment or abuse.”

“Australian research has shown TFA to be a growing concern for service providers responding to domestic, family and sexual violence in particular, but to date little is known about the extent of this harm within Australian community,” he said.

I don’t think we understand how widespread it is.

Padma Raman, CEO of ANROWS

Research found that one in two Australians surveyed had experienced at least one TFA behavior in their lifetime.
Although it can happen in a variety of settings, about one in three victims and survivors said their most recent experience was in a current or previous relationship with an intimate partner.
The report found that women were significantly more likely to experience TFA perpetrated by a man, rather than a woman, during their most recent experience.

And, more women than men have experienced ASD from an intimate or ex-partner.

“There are no borders”

The report acknowledges that gender is only one predictor of this form of abuse. Three out of four LGBTIQ+ Australians, two out of three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and three out of five Australians with disabilities were among those most likely to have had an ABD.
Ms. Raman said temporary visa holders are particularly vulnerable to this form of abuse.
“The problem with technology is that the abuser doesn’t even have to be in the same country as the victim or survivor. There are no borders,” she said. .

“This research gives us a little insight into the situation, alongside the other evidence we have. It tells us that this is another way of worsening the experience of violence that particularly vulnerable women face.”

“150 calls in two hours”

Research found that one in four Australians said they had practiced at least one form of TFA in their lifetime.
The most common types were monitoring and controlling behaviors (33.7%), emotional abuse and threats (30.6%) and harassing behaviors (26.7%).
Around 24.6% of those surveyed said they had experienced sexual and image-based abuse – although the report noted that there were significant differences for some of these types of abuse based on gender.
Examples included sending abusive or threatening messages, surreptitiously installing malware on a victim’s and survivor’s cell phone, and repetitive and unwanted contact.

One study participant described calling an ex-partner approximately 150 times over a two-hour period.

I wanted an answer from her, so I called her about 150 times in, I don’t know, a two-hour period. And she didn’t pick up, but I just kept doing that.

Study participant

Research found that this abuse was often committed through multiple channels and platforms.

One victim reported that her ex-partner texted and called her up to 50 times a day. When she blocked his number, he contacted her on different platforms, for example through his work Facebook account.

Every form of media I blocked him on, he would find another way to contact me or create a new identity to contact me. It was partly to tell me that I am a horrible person, I destroyed his life. The next one will be, ‘You are my soul mate, I love you, the love of my life, can we please just talk, can we please just…?’

Study participant

Abusers typically engaged in surveillance and behavioral control, primarily in intimate relationships, including monitoring their current or former partner’s online interactions and technology use.
Victims and survivors have often said that their social media accounts were hacked, as well as monitored by CCTV, tracking devices, camera and audio bugs.

In some cases, this happened while the couple was still together; in others, it started when the relationship broke up or after they broke up.

“I needed to keep control of this life”

Research has found that gaining and/or maintaining control over the victim and survivor was the primary motivation behind this form of abuse.
One study participant said “it was just that feeling of control of being able to know where they were, what they were doing, who they were with.”

In intimate partner relationships, the authors primarily identified feelings of anger and upset, citing loss of control at the end of a relationship and loss of day-to-day contact with victim and survivor.

I needed to keep hold of this life, and this control over this person, I guess, and I felt like if I could keep up with all of this, I could do it somehow. .

Study participant

Research found that some abusers ‘minimized’ their behavior, with nearly one in three saying they thought the victim would be ‘okay with it’, one in six finding it ‘funny’ and a out of 10 thinking that the victim would be “flattered” .
“I think that tells us something about attitudes, and how maybe when it’s done about technology, there’s a sense of minimizing harm,” Ms Raman said.

But in reality, she said, the harm suffered by victims and survivors can be long-lasting, complex and far-reaching.

Why it’s important to understand technology-facilitated abuse

Ms Raman said understanding the motivations and behaviors of perpetrators was crucial to detecting and preventing this form of abuse – particularly in the context of
The term is used to describe a deliberate pattern of abuse occurring in intimate relationships and can include emotional and psychological manipulation as well as social, financial and technology-facilitated abuse.
Of the respondents who reported having experienced TFA, many also reported that the same perpetrator in their most recent incident had engaged in at least one form of additional abuse against them.
“I think we have traditionally thought of family and domestic violence as physical violence. And we increasingly understand that it is many other forms of violence that constitute family and domestic violence,” Ms Raman said.

“We need to better understand controlling behaviors. And often times it’s tied to technology.”

According to the eSafety Commissioner, many of the behaviors that fall under technology-facilitated abuse are crimes under Australian law and can be reported to police before going to court.
These laws cover behavior such as harassment, sending threatening emails and text messages, using tracking apps and spyware, online bullying, and sharing images or videos. intimate without consent.

But researchers say police, internet platforms and other basic service providers – such as banks and gas or electricity providers – have inconsistent approaches to tackling abuse.

Ms Raman said frontline services need to be able to understand and detect this form of abuse – and offer support.
“We need to equip our frontline workers with the knowledge of how this form of abuse is part of a wider range of abusive patterns, and equip them with the solutions and support that women may need when they are on the run. or experience family and domestic violence,” she says.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant – whose eSafety Women team was represented on the ANROWS Project advisory group – said the research reinforces what they have heard from services about online harm and the importance of support. targeted for women who are victims of domestic violence.
“Critical information about the motivations and methods of those who commit this type of abuse will improve the programs, training and awareness we provide to frontline services that support those who experience technology-facilitated abuse,” she said.
If you or someone you know is affected by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.

The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491.

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