Help & Advice by Hollie Burnham
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Refuge, one of the UK’s largest domestic violence charities, found that in 2019 alone, 4,004 of the women who contacted the charity; almost three quarters of the total; had experienced domestic abuse via technology.

The charity said that women were reporting tech abuse on an ‘alarming scale’, with the abuse taking many forms such as online harassment, the use of smartphone apps to track their location, GPS tracking of their whereabouts, impersonation of their identity online, and the sharing of so called ‘revenge porn’. Tech abuse is almost always experienced alongside other forms of domestic abuse, however the charity said that such cases have gone unreported because oftentimes victims aren’t aware it is happening.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said, ‘As technology becomes more advanced and more readily available, perpetrators will continue to find new ways of using it to facilitate abuse.’

‘Often, the devices and social media platforms that represent a woman’s vital line of communication to the outside world will be the very same ones used by her perpetrator to isolate and abuse her.’

Coercive control

Tech abuse is the misuse of everyday technologies by perpetrators to control, intimidate and humiliate their victims and can be used as a form of coercive control. Domestic abuse is not strictly limited to physical violence. It can involve emotional, financial and psychologically manipulative behaviour and often includes repeated patterns of abusive conduct to maintain power and control in a relationship. The current cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse defines domestic abuse as:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. It can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional”

Coercive and controlling behaviour was introduced as a criminal offence on 29 December 2015 and marked an enormous step forward in tackling domestic abuse. This change in law recognised that domestic abuse does not always involve physical violence and can often take the form of coercive behaviour designed to isolate and manipulate a person, exploit and humiliate them, take away their independence, and/or regulate their everyday life.

Examples of coercive behaviour are;

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Restricting access to finances
  • Sharing sexually explicit images of you with others
  • Monitoring your everyday activities and movements
  • Repeated name calling, putting you down or telling you that you are worthless

There are a number of legal steps you can take if you feel you are a victim of coercive control or any form of domestic abuse. We can support you through the process of applying to the court for a domestic violence injunction to protect you from further abuse or to exclude the perpetrator from your home. There are various emergency applications which can be made to protect you and your children. Speaking to someone is the first step and our paramount concern is to give you the best legal advice in order for you to take back control of your situation.

You can contact one of our expert Family Law specialists or make an appointment by calling us on 0191 263 6200.

Sources: Refuge.org.uk, ‘What is tech abuse?’ Independent.co.uk, 9 January, ‘Three-quarters of domestic abuse victims trying to flee partner hit with ‘insidious’ technological abuse’.