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Technology & Domestic Abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse, more commonly known as tech abuse, is a form of domestic abuse and coercive control.

As our lives become ever more dependent on technology, the use of tech to perpetrate domestic abuse has likewise grown in prevalence and complexity, affecting a huge number of people.

In 2019, the charity Refuge reported that 72% of women who accessed its services had been victims of technology-facilitated abuse.

Technology-facilitated abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse is a part of domestic abuse and is a method of coercive control.

Technology-facilitated abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse is a part of domestic abuse and is a method of coercive control.

  • Is technology-facilitated abuse part of other types of abuse?

    Perpetrators utilise different forms of technology to control, monitor and harass their victims and this is particularly prevalent within romantic relationships.

    Alongside tech abuse, abusers will often be financially, emotionally, and physically abusing their victim. This is often the case within romantic relationships or can also be post-separation.

    Sexual abuse often goes hand-in-hand with tech abuse, particularly the sharing, or threat of sharing, intimate images.

    Deepfakes are a large part of tech abuse. Deepfakes are used to sexually abuse victims by superimposing their face onto a pornographic image. These images are often used as a threat or a form of blackmail.

  • How do I know if I am a victim of tech abuse?

    There are signs and red flags to watch out for if you think you might be a victim of technology-facilitated abuse.

    Usually, your gut feeling is right and believing yourself is one of the first steps to identifying whether you are a victim.

    One of the first signs you are likely to notice is that the abuser seems to have a lot of information about you that you have not shared with them. For example, information about meetings and where you have been.

    They may start to show up wherever you are even though you have not told them where you are going or when you will be there.

    They may use information from conversations you have had with others against you.

    If you are going through the divorce process, they may have confidential details from your legal team.

    If stalker-ware has been installed on your phone without your knowledge or consent, you will most likely notice much faster battery drainage, and your phone being hot to touch. Your data usage will be much higher than normal. This is because your information is being synced to another device.

    Other signs to look for are emails appearing and then being read, and quickly clicked back to unread.

    You may miss messages because they have been opened before you get to them.

    There may be glitches in phone calls, sometimes with specific people but often with all your connections.

  • What do I do if I am a victim of tech abuse?

    Being a victim of technology-facilitated abuse can be extremely scary and stressful. Dealing with it can seem insurmountable, particularly if the perpetrator has command of all your devices, as sending messages, emails or making calls to support charities or networks will be monitored.

    Importantly, do not make any significant or sudden changes when you discover you are being monitored. This can alert the abuser and worsen the situation.

    Reaching out for support is essential. If possible, get a burner phone and make contact with the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247. Alternatively, approach a trusted person or a safe phone to do this.

    Refuge has a tech safe website that shows you how to secure your devices and technology:

  • What help is available?

    There is plenty of help and support available. If you are in urgent need, call the police immediately on 999.

    The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is a first port of call, along with Refuge, a charity committed to supporting women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

    The Refuge website provides key information about how to deal with technology-facilitated abuse.

    Family lawyers can also be excellent sources of support. If you are dealing with a separation or divorce, it is important to inform your lawyer that you are being abused so that they can assist in setting up means of communicating with you confidentially.

    This may include creating a new email account completely separate of your other one that the abuser may have access to.

    Stowe Family Law have a podcast relating to this topic where tech abuse is discussed in depth with Emma Pickering, Senior Operations Manager at Refuge.

    Charities like Refuge can help to protect children. Children can be used as vehicles of abuse, so it is important they are not overlooked and are protected in their own right.

Stowe Support
Click here for a range of tools to help you through your relationship breakdown and beyond.

How can I support someone who is a victim of tech abuse?

If someone confides in you that they believe they are being abused, here are some top tips:

  • Listen to them and believe what they are saying – do not victim-blame
  • If it is safe to do so, share their information on their behalf to the freephone helpline 0800 2000 247 or if the situation is urgent, call 999
  • Educate yourself on technology-facilitated abuse and how it can manifest
Post-separation abuse

Post-separation abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse can continue even when the survivor is out of the relationship, whether through divorce or separation.

Children can often be used as vehicles for abuse if the ex-couple are co-parenting, so it is important that communication is monitored. OurFamilyWizard is an app that helps ex-couples to parent their children by communicating in a safe way.

Set up security on your devices. There are guides on how to do this on Refuge’s website.

The court process can be abused by perpetrators in order to continue financially, emotionally and even physically abusing their ex. For example, the perpetrator may access confidential information your lawyer has sent to you or send lots of unnecessary correspondence to increase costs.

Ensure your lawyer is experienced in dealing with domestic abuse in divorce cases.

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