Free workshop on eSafety highlights technology-facilitated abuse

Jenny Lewis of the Port Pirie Victim Support Service is keen to see more country communities take up the free eSafety Women workshop.
Jenny Lewis of the Port Pirie Victim Support Service is keen to see more country communities take up the free eSafety Women workshop.

Technology is making it easier for violent and abusive partners to target women.

Alarmingly, one in four women experiences emotional abuse from a partner and in 98 per cent of these cases the abuse is technology-based.

This has resulted in a free eSafety Women workshop designed to inform frontline specialist staff and support workers in the domestic and family violence field.

In the Mid North, the two-hour workshop hosted Port Pirie Domestic Violence Action Group members and relevant stakeholders from Clare, Kadina and Port Augusta earlier this year.

Jenny Lewis, of the Port Pirie Victim Support Service, who instigated the workshop for the Yorke and Mid North region, said technology today is unfortunately making it easier for a perpetrator.

The support worker of 19 years was responding to confronting facts and case studies that were outlined to her atva similar training workshop in May last year.

"The training initiative aims to equip frontline service providers with critical skills and up-to-date knowledge to support women and families experiencing this type of abuse," Mrs Lewis said.

"It further provides tools from the eSafety women training so that then these people can go out and support their clients and give them tools."

She said the training also assists those who don't necessarily work in domestic violence, but in "a wide range of agencies across the region" whose work to provide a safe place for women

"While people understand physical violence as someone who has bruising, they don't often think about that emotional abuse, what we know as technological abuse, which is stalking," she said.

Mrs Lewis said it is easier for a perpetrator to harass a partner today due to myriad technology including mobile phones, GPS trackers, hidden lounge room devices and inbuilt smart technology in vehicles.

The opportunity to do the workshop again enabled Mrs Lewis to remember points of interest raised in the workshop like keeping an eye on low battery power on mobile phones.

"Victims of domestic violence may find an app may have popped up out of nowhere and it could be that something has been put on their phone so their movement can be tracked," she said.

She highlighted smart fridges as an example and their connection to the phone which have a number of good uses

"However, the flip side is it can also connect the perpetrator to the victim, and we know domestic violence is that crime of abuse and power of control, that one person has control over another," she said.

During the training, case studies are shared by experts to provide participants with information about the clever way perpetrators can control their victims.

Reported cases include a victim's vehicle being tampered with so the engine inconveniently stopped every few kilometres.

"We know that those concepts of domestic abuse is power of control," Mrs Lewis said.

The victim support service runs a program called Home Stay Safe to support women.

"It is to improve safety of women and children for a woman who wants to leave a domestic-violence relationship," she said.

"Whether she has children doesn't matter; if she wants to leave we do things like changing locks, but it is no use doing that if he has got a key to the lock.

"We do a lot of safety planning with them and that will include a code word and letting their neighbours know and provide them with a lot of safety technology as well."

Mrs Lewis highlighted how in her role, gender focus is made clear.

"We do use gender specific language predominantly as we know that victims are women and children and the perpetrators are men," she said.

The local domestic support service, with branches Australia wide, is complemented by the Port Pirie Domestic Violence Action Group which has run for 27 years.

"It is such an important group and is one of the oldest domestic violence support groups in South Australia," she said.

In that time, the group yearly hosts two commemorative events, a Remembrance Day in May to remember women and children who have lost their lives in to domestic violence and a White Ribbon Day.

The city is home to a beautiful garden near the library, created about 20 years ago by women for women and generously supported by council.

A few years ago roses were planted and a plaque was displayed to remember lives lost and the need for being united against domestic violence

For more details on eSafety women, visit www.frontlineworkers.esafety.gov.au

This story Technology presents new set of domestic violence concerns first appeared on Barossa & Light Herald.