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Domestic Abusers and Technology During the Lockdown

The COVID-19 lockdown measures that have been implemented across the world since the outbreak of the pandemic have created many ruptures and shifts in society. There is hardly an area of our day-to-day lives that has escaped the impact of this global crisis. Quarantine and lockdown measures have played a huge role in creating many of these social shifts. Across the world, most people have spent the past year radically reducing their movement and the number of people they come into contact with. While this has understandably proven challenging and distressing for a large portion of the population, it must be remembered that there are some groups in society for whom the pandemic has proven to be a danger for more than just health concerns.

Indeed, for those who are victims of domestic abuse, the need to stay at home and reduce social contact has proven to be an incredible risk. Whereas before the pandemic, these unfortunate victims may have had support networks and social contacts that offered them some escape from their abuse, these networks have been cut short by the impact of the lockdowns. These scenarios are worryingly more prevalent in minority groups of society who are already at greater risk of social disadvantage.

As with many areas of life affected by the pandemic, social distancing has meant that the role of new tech has rapidly increased in importance. Assessing the relationship between domestic abuse and technology makes for an incredibly pressing and valuable topic for a domestic violence essay and helps to illuminate the current situation of victims in light of anti corona measures. Here we’ve put together an overview of the interplay between domestic abuse and the role of tech and how this has become especially important to pay attention to during the era of social distancing.

How abusers use technology

Technology affords us many advantages in day-to-day life, but as is the case with any tool, it can also be put to negative use. Unfortunately, these same gadgets can often be harnessed by domestic abusers in order to aid them in their abuse. Control is a major element of abuse in many domestic relationships, and technology is a powerful tool to achieving this kind of control.

Many sufferers find themselves subject to constant surveillance, and abusive partners will use their personal gadgets such as phones or laptops in order to keep tabs on where their partners are and to whom they are speaking. Many sufferers have experienced an even greater increase in this level of control and privacy invasion throughout the COVID lockdowns, as their spouses have increased access to their personal technology. Given the inescapable proximity brought on by quarantine measures, it has become a worryingly common scenario for ill-intentioned spouses to demand access to their other half’s private messages, email addresses, and personal accounts.

A manipulative and calculating abuser can now easily demand full disclosure of their partner’s private data and use this to essentially spy on them. The methods of spying that are most commonly used against a person include monitoring calls and messages, tracking phone usage, and installing software that allows them to use mobile usage. In the United States, it is estimated that 71% of domestic abusers monitor the survivor’s personal device usage, and in the UK, it is estimated that tech plays some sort of role in up to 95% of cases.

Whereas pre-pandemic sufferers in abuse cases may have been able to access support unbeknownst to their spouse, quarantine measures mean that just about any support has to be accessed via the internet. Fear of infection has also caused many individuals to avoid seeking safety with friends and family in a situation where they otherwise might leave the house.

Furthermore, seeking support online can be very difficult for many victims to do covertly if their tech usage is being monitored by their spouse, and as such the lockdowns have made it easier for these abusers to exploit personal gadgets, track usage, and gain greater control over their other half’s lives.

How technology is being used to help victims of abuse

The power of a tool is all in its usage, and as such, there are, of course, positive elements to the relationship between tech and domestic violence. Vault apps, for instance, are one common tech measure being encouraged in the fight against violence in the home. Vault apps are apps that, on the surface, appear to be something mundane such as a calendar or calculator but are, in fact, secretly disguising another app. They can be used by survivors in order to hide a messaging site, making it that little bit safer to reach out to others free of surveillance.

Many social media sites have introduced campaigns over the past months offering aid to people currently suffering from domestic violence and experiencing an increased risk to their personal security. Ad campaigns backed by the platforms themselves and grassroot hashtag campaigns have offered survivors a window out of their situation by creating access to help that is just one click away. Hashtag campaigns have also helped greatly to harness tech and social media in order to spread awareness of this pressing and urgent issue. Everyone has a role to play in addressing this issue, and something as simple as sending a text to check in on those you are worried about could make all the difference in this challenging time.

Fortunately, the pressing nature of this issue is being recognised, with efforts taking place across the curb to acknowledge the strong and ever-growing link between domestic abuse and technology. The UK, for example, has introduced new legislation to its Domestic Abuse Bill that explicitly seeks to add extra protection from tech-related abuse. Only through continued efforts such as these, both on an individual level and a societal level, will the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on domestic abuse be curbed. 

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