Literature scan of tech-based family, domestic and sexual violence
The rise in the number of people using digital technologies means more people are at risk of harm, and support workers in this field are struggling to respond to the growing need.
The scan of literature was done as part of a broader co-design process to develop a proposed support service for victim-survivors dealing with tech-based abuse within family, domestic and sexual violence.
The purpose of the scan was to provide a summary of the nature, prevalence, impacts and responses to the issue. It identifies barriers and enablers for responding to and helping victim-survivors, and highlights the support that is currently available in Australia.
Digital technologies including social media platforms, mobile phones, tracking devices and online accounts are being used by abusers to dominate, control, monitor, stalk and harass victim-survivors. Technologies are also being used to facilitate sexual violence online and in-person.
The literature scan revealed the following:
- Women, men and people who are gender-diverse can experience tech-based abuse in family, domestic and sexual violence situations, but their specific experience and its impacts differ according to their gender.
- Some victim-survivors are more likely to experience tech-based abuse within family, domestic and sexual violence and struggle to access support. These include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, sexuality and gender-diverse people, culturally and linguistically diverse women, women with disability and women who live in rural areas.
- There are a number of barriers preventing victim-survivors from accessing support. Victim-survivors are often fearful of retribution, or of being punished, for reporting or telling others about their experience. They may be worried about losing their privacy and access to technology and they may be concerned about being blamed for the abuse. Additionally, victim-survivors may be unsure of whether the law can help them to deal with the abuse.
- Support workers in family, domestic and sexual violence organisations are struggling to respond due to a lack of technical knowledge and many don’t have the right support and training to equip them to respond. Many find it hard to protect the safety of victim-survivors, especially when they’re trying to help them stay safely connected with their family, friends and their community via technology, despite the risks.
- Australia is currently governed by legislation and policies across jurisdictions which are continually evolving and depend on the specific form of tech-based abuse within family, domestic and sexual violence. There are also many different organisations providing help and resources to support victim-survivors at the national, state and local levels.
The scan showed that the needs of victim-survivors and service providers within family, domestic and sexual violence are not being met. A multidisciplinary, whole of community, coordinated approach is needed. This includes education and awareness raising and more support for victim-survivors. It also requires proactive prevention and safeguarding by technology companies that operate platforms, services and devices which are almost always used to facilitate tech-based abuse. The industry would benefit from a support service with coordinated and consistent oversight, information and guidance at the national level.