WESNET recently prepared a submission to the Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence being conducted by the House of Representatives, Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.
Through this inquiry, the Committee will seek to inform the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
In our submission, WESNET focused on one of our key areas of expertise, namely the intersection between technology and violence against women. Over 150 submissions were received by the inquiry.
Our CEO, Karen Bentley was called as a witness on 8 September and had an hour with the Committee to discuss technology-facilitated abuse in the context of domestic and family violence and other forms of gender-based violence against women.
In her opening remarks, Karen Bentley noted that WESNET has a long-standing interest in the intersection between Technology and Violence Against Women. We first became aware of this issue in around 2010 when we started hearing from our member organisations that women coming into refuge were being followed and located by their perpetrators. Since then we have trained over 10,000 frontline workers and others, including police, magistrates, and vulnerable customer teams in corporations such as Telstra and Uber.
In terms of the impact on victims, one practitioner recently summed up Tech Abuse as follows:
“It is a tool and an enabler for them. It gets him access to every part of her life: it lets him be the puppet master of her abuse, yet at the same time, it is not treated as seriously as physical abuse so it helps disempower her as, so frequently, she is told to block him, or ignore him. It allows him to sit back probably comfortably in his own home if they live apart, and destroy her life from a safe distance. It is used to intimidate, harass, stalk, threaten, abuse, assault, isolate, financially disadvantage, shame, manipulate, terrorise, torture, set-up, frame, render her powerless, infiltrate every aspect of her life, make her seem crazy, gaslight her; well, basically, they use it to facilitate every form of abuse I can think of.”
The Committee members went on to ask detailed and relevant questions touching on a wide range of aspects on technology-facilitated abuse.