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What is Technological VAW?

Technological Safety for Women Experiencing Abuse

Violence against women (VAW) is a societal issue that can manifest in many forms. In an increasingly technology-reliant world VAW has also gone digital, with perpetrators now employing technological means to harm women and girls. 

This technology-facilitated violence can accompany other forms of abuse, from stalking survivors of sexual violence to economic abuse. But how exactly do some abusers misuse technology to inflict violence on women?

What does technology-facilitated violence against women look like?

According to the BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH), technology-facilitated VAW can take place in the form of:

Harassment: repeatedly contacting, threatening, or intimidating women over text, email, or social media.

Stalking/Criminal Harassment: using technology to knowingly harass women causing them to reasonably fear for the safety of themselves or others they know. This can be done through using apps, location trackers and other stalkerware to keep tabs on a survivor’s movements, or using hidden cameras, webcams or apps to watch a survivor’s day-to-day activities. Perpetrators can repeatedly try to directly or indirectly communicate with survivors through apps, social media, or texting.

Impersonation: using technology to pretend to be someone else to inflict violence and exert control, potentially threatening a woman’s relationships or reputation. Perpetrators may send friends, family, or even employers messages or emails that the survivors themselves did not write, or by impersonating a new partner or friend to get close to the survivor (also known as “catfishing”). They also may close a survivor’s accounts, cancel their utility accounts, or change their passwords.

Monitoring/Surveillance: perpetrators can use physical or remote access to devices to follow a survivor’s communications and activities. Apps, spyware, key-stroke loggers, and family and friend location capabilities on devices help perpetrators keep track of a survivor’s location. Furthermore, they may place GPS trackers into vehicles or purchase GPS-enabled accessories to achieve the same means. They can also use strategically placed hidden cameras to follow the survivor’s offline movements or log into devices, email, or social media accounts to monitor online activity.

Threats: using language threatening to humiliate, harm, or extort a survivor through technology such as social media, email or text. Perpetrators may lock a survivor out of their online accounts (social media, email, banking, etc.) or threaten to post personal information or material if a survivor doesn’t comply with their demands.

Non-Consensual Distribution of Images: non-consensual sharing, posting, and distributing of private or intimate pictures or videos. This may be done by posting this content online or directly sending the images/videos to friends, family or colleagues to humiliate, degrade, and harm the survivor. While some survivors may face blame and judgement for sharing or consenting to take private images/videos, it is important to know that any violence inflicted against a woman is never her fault.

Doxxing: publishing private or identifiable information of a survivor on social media or websites without consent. Such information may be a survivor’s name, address, phone number, email address, or passport/SIN numbers.

Further Information

As technology evolves over time, it’s important to make sure your safety planning strategies are up-to-date to account for changing circumstances. It is also crucial to remember that there is always help available — community anti-violence support resources are there for you to provide additional assistance regarding your safety. You can reach Victim Link BC at 1-800-563-0808 or find a program through the BCSTH member directory.

Source: BC Society of Transition Houses, 2019

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