Technology – opportunity or oppression in domestic violence?

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Report by NewsroomPlus.com Contributed by Women’s Refuge

This year the Women’s Refuge annual appeal highlights the increasing role technology is playing in fueling domestic violence.

Women’s Refuge Street Posters – click to view full-sized image

“Domestic violence isn’t always about physical violence,” says Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury. “Everyday technology, such as mobile devices and social media platforms are increasingly being used as tools to monitor manipulate shame and control women easily and at a distance.”

Refuge advocates come across daily examples of how text messaging and other use of technology is being used in what is becoming known as ‘cyber abuse’.  Technology is available to track a woman’s movements and monitor her phone and computer use. Identity theft is another issue women face in violent relationships, especially as they attempt to leave.

Women’s Refuge is supporting women who use their services to learn about how to deal with some of the risks technology can have on their safety.

Bold posters that display women holding cell phones with messages like “one of the most common tools for abuse is in your pocket,” or, “abuse – now available for download,” are being shown in bus shelters and magazine advertisements this month.

However Dr Jury says women should not be dissuaded from asking for help. “There are ways to mask your on-line activity and you can also use a library PC or a friend’s cell or iPad to seek information about personal safety or call our 0800 REFUGE line 24/7.

Women’s Refuge statistics:

  • Women’s Refuge is New Zealand’s most significant family violence organization with a 40-year history of providing comprehensive services for women and children.
  • In 2012-13, our refuges provided 76,000 safe beds for women and children who did not feel safe to sleep in their own homes – this was an average of 209 women and children each night.
  • The average length of stay in a safe house in 2012-13 was 24 days for a woman and 29 days for a child. This is an increase from the previous year which was 20 and 26 days respectively.
  • On average, of the women who seek our help, 64% report psychological abuse; 49% report physical abuse; 23% report financial abuse; 21% report harassment and stalking; 12% report spiritual abuse; 12% report sexual abuse and 11% report that weapons were used. 24% of women reported that children witnessed or heard the abuse. (note most women experience multiple forms of abuse so these figures will not add up to 100%)
  • 56% of Women’s Refuge clients are under 36 years of age.
  • 35% of children are under the age of five and 86% of the children we deal with are under the age of 10.
  • Women’s Refuge receives an average of 82,000 calls to its Crisis/Support lines every year. This means we answer a crisis or information call every nine minutes of every day.
  • In 2013 we had 821 staff with 477 unpaid or volunteer staff. Half of our workers – paid or unpaid – identify as Māori.
  • Women’s Refuge responded to 1,500 Police Safety Orders in 2013 which is a huge increase on the previous year which had 880 PSO responses. We are not paid for this work.
  • Police refer more than 27,000 Family Violence Interagency Response referrals to Women’s Refuge each year. We are paid for only 2200 of these referrals.20,000 women and children needed the help of Women’s Refuge in 2013.

According to the Women’s Refuge Annual report 2014,the Ministry of Social Development provided funding of $7.909 million for the 2013-14 year. Total expenses incurred by the organisation was $8.729 million. Thus Women’s Refuge need to find other sources of income to meet their needs.

To donate to Women’s Refuge visit www.womensrefuge.org.nz

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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