Sunday, March 04, 2012

High Tech Adds to Abuse of Women

Mobile phones and computers are increasingly being used as tools to abuse, control and stalk women, a report from Women’s Aid reveals.

Many of the 14,613 women who called the Women’s Aid helpline last year said telephone, surveillance and computer technologies were being used to harass and intimidate them.

Women reported:
* How their home and mobile calls were being monitored, as well as their texts by their partners and ex-partners.

* How their phone conversations were being recorded.

* How they discovered that cameras had been secretly installed in their homes.

* Their online use had been tracked and scrutinized, with partners demanding access to their private email and social networking accounts.

* Their partners or ex-partners had put lies about them up on internet sites.

"The use of technology in domestic violence situations is now a key part of the wider pattern of emotional abuse," said Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin.

Women have told Women’s Aid that they feel like they were being watched constantly, that their privacy had been completely invaded and controlled.

"We also heard from women who had been photographed and filmed without their consent, sometimes having sex and having the images uploaded to the internet," she said.

Ms Martin said the use of technology often prevented women from seeking help as they feared that their partner would discover that they had phoned a helpline, had looked at a domestic violence website or spoken of the abuse to their friends, family or colleagues in an email or text.

She said the abuse did not stop for many women who left a relationship, with one in five women revealing that they had been abused by their former boyfriends, husbands and partners.

"For many, technology played a part in the stalking and harassment they experienced," she said.

Women told how they had been bombarded with texts and calls, often telling them in explicit detail how they would be attacked or even killed.

Younger women reported that their current or former boyfriends were stalking them on social networking sites.

Technology is also a lifeline for women experiencing abuse, with almost 90% of calls to the Women’s Aid helpline made from a mobile phone, while its website received over 39,000 visits.

Women’s Aid has also expressed concern about women who are being abused during pregnancy and shortly after the birth of a child.

"We hear from women who are forbidden to breast-feed their child, who are raped in the weeks following childbirth and women who are beaten while holding their baby."

* Women’s Aid national freephone number in Ireland is 1800 341 900.

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