The abusive use of technology
Tirion Havard from London South Bank University shared some haunting and compelling research on technology and domestic abuse at the ECDV. For her PhD research she interviewed practitioners to find out how mobile phones are used in coercively controlling relationships. Havard described multiple ways in which mobile phone technology could be used as an extended form of surveillance, for example perpetrators texting or using apps to track or check up on partners and even face-timing to verify their whereabouts. Havard refers to this as a ‘modern’ form of domestic abuse. She argues that, given the widespread use of mobile technology and its capabilities (GPS, cameras, tracking and immediate access), policy makers and practitioners need a better understanding of how it can be used as a tool of coercion and control in abusive relationships.
These interesting findings link to a seminar by Bonomi and Eaton at NCHDV in San Francisco on the ways men can use technology to abuse women. This includes sexting, doxting (broadcasting private or identifiable information about someone), cyber stalking and harassment. Professor Clare McGlynn at Durham University is also carrying out extensive and timely work to reform the law around image based sexual abuse to include issues such as upskirting (taking a photo underneath someone’s skirt without permission) and revenge pornography (McGlynn and Rackely, 2016).
Although the relatively new phenomena of upskirting and revenge pornography may seem removed from domestic abuse these actions are all, arguably, on the same continuum of violence (Kelly, 1987). The Oxford Human Rights Hub refers to revenge pornography as an old problem on a new media.
Although much of this research is about adult behaviour, the findings are relevant to young people who live in today’s technological world. Young people's lives can be consumed by mobile phones, social media, sharing information online, lack of privacy or increased surveillance by peers or partners and it’s easy to see how the abusive use of technology could become normalised.
Mobile technology is increasingly a part of young people’s lives and it’s important that adults have an understanding of how young people use it - and how it could be a medium for abuse.
At ECDV, Christine Barter talked about the Safeguarding Teenagers’ Intimate Relationships (STIR) project. This is a school based survey exploring how young people send and receive sexual images and how this is associated with domestic abuse in their relationships. The study had an extensive sample of 4,564 teenagers aged 14-17 across five schools in Europe (Bulgaria, Cyprus, England, Italy and Norway). The preliminary findings suggest that sexual images (sexts) are often shared with others without the young person who sent the image giving their consent. And girls are more likely than boys to have negative experiences if their images are shared without permission, such as feelings of shame, victim blaming and bullying.