While technological advancement is opening new opportunities for connection, the potential to misuse its power is creating increasing risks for victims of family violence.
A free public presentation held in Ballarat for White Ribbon Day on Friday will raise awareness of how family violence perpetrators can use technology to track, stalk and obtain personal details of victims.
Discussion panelists Elisa Zentveld, a family violence researcher, and tech experts George Fong and David Mulraney, will aim to empower victims with knowledge and actions they can take to protect themselves from technological abuse.
Perpetrators will often feel entitled to use any opportunities to be kept informed about what their ex-partner is doing and where they live.Elisa Zentveld, family violence researcher
This focus on technological abuse in Ballarat comes as Victoria Police is examining ways to restrict the use of technology to stalk, control and torment victims of family violence.
Assistant Commissioner for Family Violence Command Dean McWhirter told media last week the force would look at restricting the use of misused technologies to better protect victims.
This was also examined at a two-day Australia and New Zealand Police Domestic Violence Forum in Melbourne last week.
Dr Zentveld said family violence perpetrators had a strong desire to control the life of a victim and would often use technology to create an omnipresence that could be exhausting and overwhelming for victims.
"Separation from perpetrators is well recognised in research as a high-risk time for victims and their children," she said.
"Perpetrators will often feel entitled to use any opportunities to be kept informed about what their ex-partner is doing and where they live."
Research has revealed 98 per cent of family violence support practitioners have reported assisting clients whose perpetrator used technology as part of the abuse.
Victoria Police recognises the use of technology by an abuser to frighten or intimidate is another way perpetrators attempt to control and take power away.
Common examples of technology facilitated family violence include threatening or abusive phone calls, repetitive text messages and emails, hacking email accounts or monitoring internet use, non-consensual sharing of images, harassing or threatening on social networking sites, tracking the victim's location through apps, 'find my phone' services and smartphone spyware.
"Knowledge is power and if you understand technology victims can actually take some of that control back from the perpetrator," Dr Zentveld said, speaking of the free public presentation.
"For example, because children can create an ongoing link between the perpetrator and victim, it can be helpful for women to have two mobile phones - one to keep private and one for receiving court mandated communication regarding children.
"That way, they can turn on and off the other phone and not be constantly exposed to abuse and mentally prepare themselves for the messages by turning on the phone at suitable times."
White Ribbon Day will be recognised Australia-wide on November 22 to raise awareness of family violence.
Dr Zentveld said the free public presentation in Ballarat would be relevant for victims of family violence, departments or organisations that support victims of family violence and primary and secondary educators.
It will be held on Friday November 22 from 11am to 12.30pm in the Ballarat Technology Park at 106 Lydiard Street South, Ballarat Central.
Call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 for support.
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