Women face growing threat of online domestic abuse: experts

Wed Mar 11, 2015 6:32am EDT
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By Maria Caspani

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Online domestic abuse has become a growing threat for women around the world, with their partners using the Internet, smartphones and tablets to harass them and track their every move, experts said.

While technology has presented new forms of abuse, it has also yielded solutions to help battered women seek assistance, said the experts, who urged women not to allow abuse to deter them from using the Internet or social media.

"We can't allow technology to (become) another way to silence women," said Michaelia Cash, the minister assisting the Australian prime minister for women, at a panel during the U.N. 59th Commission on the Status of Women.

An Australian national survey found that 97 percent of domestic violence support workers said the women they assist experience technology-facilitated abuse, according to Julie Oberin of Australia's Women's Services Network (WESNET).

Moreover, offenders are resorting to increasingly aggressive ways to exert complete control over victims, for example through "revenge porn", in which rapists record videos of the abuse to blackmail victims.

However, technology can and must also be part of the solution to online gender-based violence, panellists said.

In Australia, developers have created apps that help women who face or are at risk of domestic violence seek immediate help through their phones.

The Aurora app, for example, contains emergency contacts, information on domestic violence and links to support services in Australia's New South Wales state.   Continued...