Smart technology is making domestic abuse harder to escape, say advocates

Smart technology - domestic abuse

Smartphones, connected vehicles, and other commonly used gadgets are increasing some risks.

Anti-violence experts are cautioning that current smart technology devices such as smartphones and connected vehicles are making it harder for victims of domestic abuse to escape.

These experts have stated that tech is increasingly being used as a part of domestic abuse.

Smart technology such as home devices, smartphones, vehicles and others are becoming some of the most commonly used tools used by domestic abusers.

“Methods that are sort of presented as advances in technology, whether it’s a smart home or a smart car, are just another method of surveillance that can be used to harass survivors in a variety of different ways,” said BC Society of Transition Houses executive director Amy FitzGerald. “Oftentimes, whatever gets reported might sound a little far fetched, but it turns out to be true.”

Smart technology - domestic abuse - tracking movements with smartphone

In many countries, intimate partner violence is becoming known as a “shadow pandemic”, as it became considerably stronger throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns and restrictions made it harder for domestic abuse victims to escape their abusers.

In Canada, data released by Statistics Canada in mid-October revealed that police-reported family violence rose in 2021 for the fifth consecutive year. In 2021, the total of victims reached 127,082. This equated to 336 victims for every 100,000 people in that country. There, a woman is killed by an intimate partner an average of every six days, according to the data agency.

Smart technology is handing abusive partners new tools for violence against their victims.

“Perpetrators are using technology as another tool for their old behaviours of power and control, abuse and violence,” explained Women’s Shelters Canada technology safety project manager Rhiannon Wong, cautioning that intimate partner violence by way of digital channels began a sharp increase in 2020. It was at that time that smart tech started heavy mainstream integration into everyday life.

Smart technology provides abusers with what they need for real-time tracking of their victims, while they can also post harmful content online without much likelihood of being required to remove it. They can also harass or threaten their victims, or could even impersonate them or people they love, said Wong.

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