Surveillance Is a Huge Issue For Domestic Abuse Victims, So the Government Is Stepping In

domestic violence

Trigger warning: this article deals with the topic of domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers. 

The federal government has announced that it will invest $104 million over the next five years into domestic violence funding in order to combat the growing issue of technology-based abuse.

The rate of perpetrators of abuse using various means of surveillance to track their current or former partners has seen an alarming increase in recent years, adding another layer to the already deeply complicated process of victims breaking free from their abusers.

In a 2021 interview with The Latch, investigative journalist and host of See What You Made Me Do, Jess Hill, spoke of the growing problem of technology and the ease with which perpetrators of violence can acquire surveillance equipment.

“This is the sort of thing that makes being in the DV response sector so complex,” Hill said. “Because they’re having to deal with not only tracking devices in cars but invisible surveillance apps on phones. And these are really just handing perpetrators pretty much every piece of information in that phone and can even turn the phone into a recording device.

“The effect of that is that you have someone, even once the relationship has ended, having access to all this kind of information that they can then try to use and to use in a way that may enable systems of abuse. It’s a really, really complicated extra element to be dealing with.”

Following a national survey by WESNET, which revealed that almost all women experiencing family violence suffered from technology abuse, the government will invest close to $55million in a program that will provide technology checks in order to mitigate the opportunity for further harassment.

The program will include services to check a person’s phone and computer for GPS tracking programs, bugs or other forms of surveillance as well as searching for hidden cameras in survivors’ homes.

The new funding will be utilised by the government’s Keeping Women Safe in their Homes program to enable the service to help survivors consistently, no matter where they are located. The investment is expected to help the program increase its reach from the  2,300 women it currently assists to 6,000.

The technology package also includes $20m in grants that will fund GPS tracking trials, to be run by the states and territories and a further $27m to be spent on online safety initiatives, including more funding for the eSafety Commissioner.

In a statement, Minister Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said, “Expanding the Keeping Women Safe in their Homes initiative means we can support thousands to remain in their home or a home of their choice, where it is safe and appropriate to do so, through safety planning and the provision of personal safety alarms, security cameras, dash cameras and other technology solutions.

“Technology is a great enabler and we want it to empower victim-survivors but, distressingly, it has become a weapon of choice for perpetrators of family, domestic and sexual violence.”

The Latch encourages anyone who is struggling and needs support to call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Both of these services provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also talk to someone from 1800RESPECT via online chat. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.

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