Digital Equity: Technology facilitated violence – by Susan Herman, MSW: Executive Director, Sonshine Community Services
This IWD we want to join our local and global community to focus on digital equity. What does this mean? It means we name the important role of technology in our digital era and the importance for women to have equitable access to safe use so their voice is heard, they have access to important resources and opportunities, and that we don’t stay silent when we see digital violence.
All violence is violence.
Women are often targeted on social media or other electronic means through harassment and threats, particularly women and girls in leadership and those who are a member of the BIPOC community. This can have a psychological impact, threaten their sense of safety, and have a silencing effect on women.
While technology does not cause violence, it has amplified the experience of domestic violence and abuse through experiences such as stalking, harassment, location tracking, monitoring, or denying access to technology.
Location tracking is one of the most common forms of tech facilitated violence and research shows it is most often facilitated through shared and cloud connected devices.
Accountability needs to rest with the person using technology to abuse. To encourage women to limit their use or stop using certain tech platforms is victim blaming and can increase their isolation.
When women reach out for support at Sonshine, our domestic violence professionals work with women to assess their risk of digital violence and create safety plans. Below are a few tips that may assist you or someone you love with smartphones.
How to Support Survivors through Tech Safety Planning
Narrowing down what technology is being misused can be difficult. Use the following strategies to help you use technology in a safer way.
- Lock your device: Use a passcode, pattern, fingerprint and/or facial recognition to avoid malicious tampering.
- Turn off location/ GPS and Bluetooth options when not required or use airplane mode: Smartphones can record your location. If the perpetrator of violence keeps finding you, or knowing where you are, it might be through the location settings on your phone or cloud connected devices. Snap Chat also has a location tracker called Snap Maps (it now requires an opt in).
Note: Airplane mode will not prevent incoming voicemail messages.
- Check all the security and privacy settings on your phone, including apps: Adjust all the security settings on your phone to ensure safety and privacy. Consider logging out of apps when you aren’t using them. Shared accounts or plans can provide remote access.
- Check settings on devices used by children and teens: Don’t forget to check the settings on your kids’ phones. Only do this if it feels safe.
Trust your instincts.
- Check who you have as friends or connections on your social media platforms as people can create fake profiles on social media and send friend requests. This provides access to pictures and gain info from social media posts.
- If you receive harassing calls, text messages, or voicemails, it is essential to keep the messages and call history as they can serve as evidence in court.
- Document abuse or threats: Print your call history (sometimes called ‘recents’) and text logs from your smartphone provider’s website or request a copy of usage from customer service. Use the screenshot function on your smartphone or take a photo of the screen with another camera to document threats or harassment.
- Air tags or pet GPS collars also can result in location being tracked.
While digital violence can have a significantly negative impact on a person’s life, there are ways to increase safety while using technology.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our counselling and outreach team. We are here to support our community through training, education, and counselling (virtual and in person).