Over one quarter of domestic violence cases involve children in technology-facilitated abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse is a factor in the vast majority of all domestic violence cases. However, a new research report from eSafety reveals that over one quarter (27%) of these domestic violence cases also include perpetrators directly abusing children through technology-facilitated abuse, or involving them in abuse that is directed at their mother.

The report, commissioned by eSafety and funded by the Department of Social Services under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010-2022, reveals that where domestic violence practitioners have knowledge of technology-facilitated abuse involving children, monitoring and stalking is the most prevalent type of abuse reported.

“This research highlights the serious impact of technology-facilitated abuse on children, and how widespread it is, with perpetrators misusing common devices and platforms, such as mobile phones, texting and social media,” said eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant.

“The perpetrating parent makes the children a pawn in the technology-facilitated abuse of the other parent, and this causes real harm to the child's mental health, to their relationship with the non-abusive parent, and to their everyday activities.

The report also finds that of domestic violence cases where professionals had knowledge of technology-facilitated abuse involving children:

  • The most common type of technology-facilitated abuse directed at children - and unwittingly enabled by children, to get information about the non-offending parent - is monitoring and stalking. Professionals, including domestic violence workers, report that this occurs in close to half of those domestic violence cases.
  • Threats and intimidation delivered through technology are estimated to have occurred in 4 in 10 cases, while blocking communication is estimated in a third of cases.
  • For young people, abusive texts and harassing phone calls were the most common types of abuse they experienced. They described persistent abusive, controlling, threatening and manipulative technology-facilitated communication.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Hon Paul Fletcher MP released the research at the Together to #ENDviolence Solutions Summit today – part of a global campaign to end violence against children for good. Minister Fletcher told the Summit the prevalence of technology-facilitated abuse directed at children, as revealed by the report, was deeply troubling.

“It’s something we need to continue work to combat, as part of our overall effort to keep children safe online,” he said. “Keeping children safe online is a very clear priority for the Australian Government.”

Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston said everyone has the right to access technology safely and enjoy the benefits of being online.

“For those experiencing domestic violence and abuse it’s particularly important that they can have access to technology in order to access information and support, and stay connected to family and friends. But unfortunately that same technology can be misused to facilitate abuse,” Minister Ruston said.

“The Morrison Government is absolutely committed to supporting all Australians impacted by family violence which is why this financial year we have committed more than $11 million to support children and young people through Specialised Family Violence Services.”

The research findings will underpin the next stages of eSafety’s work to support children who are impacted by technology facilitated abuse, including the development of advice and resources. The findings will also be integrated into eSafety Women frontline worker training program so that children’s experiences and needs can be more closely factored in to safety planning and risk assessment.

 

Background:

  • This is the first study specifically designed to investigate children's involvement in technology-facilitated coercive control. It is the first to focus on children’s experiences of technology-facilitated abuse in domestic and family violence situations.
  • This research will inform a project report by eSafety women that brings together key research findings, findings from a 2019 roundtable, and other stakeholder consultations, to make recommendations about how best to support children in this situation
  • This research will be used to update eSafety Women’s core training program and to build tailored professional learning programs
  • The report was funded by the Department of Social Services and undertaken by Griffith University on behalf of eSafety.

What is technology-facilitated abuse?

'Technology-facilitated abuse' refers to abusive behaviours and activities that occur via internet-enabled devices and online platforms, for example using mobile phones, other devices, social media and online accounts including email or banking. The term covers four main behaviours:

  • Harassment – sending threatening messages or images, or bombarding with calls, emails or texts.
  • Monitoring/stalking – covert GPS tracking or hacking into email, social media or bank accounts.
  • Impersonation – creating a false account that results in harassment or abusive messages being sent to the victim.
  • Threats/punishment – posting or threatening to post embarrassing content or intimate images.
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