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Online safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in urban areas

The qualitative research summarised in this report comprised in-depth interviews and a discussion group with 27 service providers who support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing technology-facilitated abuse. The report focuses on women living in urban areas, recognising that there is considerable diversity in the living circumstances, service access and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women regardless of where they live. The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women live in urban and regional areas. 

Key findings from this research:

  • Service providers identified a range of technology-facilitated abuse including: abusive phone calls and text messages,  destroying or restricting technology access, social media and third-party abuse, monitoring and stalking and image-based abuse. 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not experience substantially different impacts of technology-facilitated abuse from those felt by other women. Some impacts, however, appeared to be amplified. These were: the risk of being socially isolated from kinship networks and fear of shaming and family retribution. 
  • A number of barriers to seeking support for technology-facilitated abuse were identified. Social barriers included low levels of digital literacy, community attitudes, awareness of technology-facilitated abuse being a form of abuse, the practice of sharing devices, changing phones regularly and lateral violence (violence towards peers). Other barriers to seeking support were shame and victim blaming, and fear of community retaliation. 
  • The noted service system barriers to seeking support for technology-facilitated abuse included justice system barriers, issues with police, challenges in providing sufficient evidence, fear of racial prejudice and fear of police brutality, barriers related to child protection and courts, and legislation issues. 
  • Given the complex circumstances facing many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in urban areas, a combination of responses is needed including, but not limited to, providing different types of media to get the message across about technology-facilitated abuse, using plain English and appropriate images and targeting information specifically to Elders. 
  • Combining responses of community leaders and place-based community groups with relevant agency responses, such as police and courts, will help to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to tackle technology-facilitated abuse.