The man who hid a tracker in his daughter's toy frog to find out where she was also planted a second device in his former partner's car. That's called technology-facilitated abuse and new research shows it's soaring.
Two new reports by the women's safety research organisation ANROWS show one in two Australians have experienced technology-facilitated abuse over the course of their lifetimes, and one in four Australians are perpetrators. The reports reveal the shocking numbers but also tell the stories of survivors and perpetrators.
It can be as sophisticated as putting an AirTag into a child's toy or as simple as sending endless text messages during the day - but it's another tool in the armoury of abusers. About one third of respondents reported their most recent experience of victimisation occurred in a current or former intimate partner relationship. In one recent case, a perpetrator was able to track down the location of his former partner through the use of a shared Uber account.
Another perpetrator told researchers, "I wanted an answer from her, and so I just called her about 150 times in, I don't know, a two-hour period. And she didn't pick up, but I just kept doing that."
And, the researchers say, "Some perpetrators minimised the abusive behaviour, with almost one in three saying that they thought the victim would be "okay with it". One in six considered it was "funny" and one in 10 believed the victim would be "flattered" by their behaviour."
This behaviour, which includes sharing explicit images, sending abusive or threatening messages including on bank deposits and installing malicious software on mobile phones has become rife - and lawyers from ACT Legal Aid, who have been conducting site visits since September 2020 to all nine ACT public colleges to provide legal advice, say that it's an emerging issue for young people.
Lawyer Amy Begley, who heads the family violence team at ACT Legal Aid, says people under 18 have little recourse in knowing how to respond when intimate images, taken with consent, are then shared to others without consent.
"Young people don't want their parents to find out," says Begley.
The research findings of high prevalence of abuse are entirely consistent with what Begley's team is seeing in its work.
"The vast majority have experienced some kind of technology-facilitated abuse - even if they don't identify it that way," says Begley.
The prevalence report says that among Australians over the age of 18, three in four LGB+ Australians, three in four young and middle-aged adults (18 to 44 years), two in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and three in five Australians with disability, have experienced technology-facilitated abuse.
Sue Webeck, the CEO of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in Canberra, says her team is seeing more clients who have experienced technology-facilitated abuse as part of family and intimate partner violence.
"Technology plays such a large part of people's interactions and we are seeing an upswing as perpetrators find more nuanced ways of gaining power and control over the people they wish to harm.
"Technology provides a very invasive way of doing that," she says.
If you or someone you know is experiencing technology-facilitated abuse you can access support at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline (13 11 14) and, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 13YARN (13 92 76). You can also report online harm to eSafety: esafety.gov.au/report
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