Technology-Assisted Abuse

General
Technology can be very helpful to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking; however, it is important to also consider how technology might be misused. Abusers and perpetrators can use technology to harass, threaten, coerce, surveille, exploit, and violate their victim(s). The resources below explore the extent and nature of digital abuse and offer strategies to enhance the safety and privacy of children, teens, and adults experiencing abuse through various digital mediums.

ditigal-1.jpgMTV's A Thin Line is a campaign developed to help individuals identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in their relationships and peer groups. Topics include sexting, constant messaging, spying, digital disrespect, and cruelty. The Digital Rights Project outlines a community-generated "bill of rights" for online engagement.

Stalking/Surveillance
Technology has led to tremendous advancements in our society but has also brought more danger to victims of stalking and given more tools for stalkers to use. Stalkers may misuse technology to: send multiple emails or text messages a day, monitor a victim’s computer activity through Spyware, track the location of a victim’s vehicle using GPS, watch the victim through hidden cameras, intercept phone calls and messages, and/or impersonate the victim (NNEDV SafetyNet Project, 2009).
The resources below review the tools and tactics used by abusers to stalk, describe the legal protections available to victims, and offer recommendations for enhancing safety and privacy when using various digital mediums.

"The motivations and techniques of stalkers have remained remarkably consistent over the years. The tools stalkers use, however, have changed over time... Stalkers exploit technology and use it in ways that the creators never intended or envisioned. Technology has given stalkers new tools, enabling them to reach their victims from afar while infiltrating even deeper into their victims’ everyday lives" (Fraser, Olsen, Lee, Southworth & Tucker, 2010).

Bullying/Harassment
The use of communications technology to harm, threaten, or otherwise victimize another person is often referred to as "cyberbullying." Harrassing behaviors in the digital world have been described as "constant messaging," "textual harassment," and even "digital disrespect" in youth culture. Experiences of digital harassment and bullying are as varied as the multiple platforms and mediums used by digital abusers, such as cell phones, social networks, virtual worlds, and gaming communities. The resources below review some of the ways that abusers use technology to harass and bully, and describe some of the protections available to their victims.

Nearly three in 10 of 14-24 year olds surveyed said their partner has checked up on them multiple times a day online or via mobile – asking where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing – (27%), or read their text messages without permission (27%) (Gatti, 2011).


Human Trafficking
Traffickers of women and children use technology to facilitate communication between and within networks, communicate with and recruit victims, advertise trafficked women, and identify markets for the purposes of sexual abuse, exploitation, and domestic servitude (Maltzahn, 2006). The resources below review some of the ways that technology has been used in human trafficking and provide recommendations for addressing the problem.
Child Sexual Abuse/Exploitation
Parents, educators, caregivers, and others can help children make responsible choices on the web and develop healthy online relationships. According to iKeepSafe, resilient digital citizens recognize and seek out 3Cs —appropriate contact, content, and conduct — in all digital settings including iPods, instant messaging, chat, computer games, game consoles, cell phones, text messaging, and webcams. The resources listed below provide starting points for providing guidance to children and youth in safely navigating their own online presence, and review the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation online.

gameInternetSafety_icon.pngNetSmartzKids is a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement, the program offers resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations.

Sexting
Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually suggestive or explicit messages or images via communications technology. Depending on the circumstances and context, sexting might include illegal or nonconsensual activities, harassment, grooming or coercion, sexual exploitation, or impersonation (NNEDV Safety Net Project, 2011). The resources below review some of the implications and consequences of sexting.


thatsnotcool.pngThat's Not Cool is a campaign to help teens draw a "digital line" in their relationships when they experience pressure or disrespect through the use of various communication technologies. The website offers callout cards and an online forum for discussing topics including textual harassment, pic pressure, constant messaging, and rumors.

Social Media/Networking
The web has evolved into a place where its users are the primary generators of content. Social networks provide limitless opportunities for sharing information, photos, videos, links, art, etc. Not all information that is shared online is intended to be accessible to millions of viewers, and there are inherent safety and privacy risks that survivors may face when participating in social media. The resources below promote the informed use of social media by children, teens, and adults concerned about the risk of abuse.