‘People Don’t Realise How Phones And Social Media Are Weaponised By Abusive Partners, It’s Very Real And Very Scary’

Refuge has seen a 118% increase in complex tech abuse cases compared to 2020 – and it's only getting harder to tackle.

Woman on phone

by Georgia Aspinall |

Domestic abuse charity Refuge has launched a new campaign this week marking their 50th anniversary protecting victims of domestic violence. Their new advert, titled ‘The Most Important SmartPhone Ad’, highlights the devastating rise in tech abuse, where perpetrators use technology to stalk, isolate and control women.

According to Refuge's records, there has been a 118 % increase in tech abuse cases compared to March 2020. These cases are fast-growing and harder to tackle since this form of abuse - using mobile phones and other smart devices, and even children's toys and other electronic devices - can be carried out remotely and invisibly.

‘As a survivor of tech abuse, I know how intimidating and terrifying it can be to be harassed online and via personal devices,’ Amy Aldworth, a survivor of tech abuse, explained. ‘For me it started by receiving numerous harassing messages via my phone and social networks. Being on the receiving end of threatening messages interrupted my everyday life and made normal tasks feel impossible.

'These technologies are supposed to make our lives easier'

‘We are reliant on our phones and social media to socialise with friends, work and be part of society but so many people still don't realise how these technologies are weaponised against women by perpetrators of abuse, it's very real and very scary,’ Amy continued.

‘This Refuge campaign shows the true story of what it is like to experience domestic abuse in 2021 as we all rely on these technologies that are supposed to make our lives easier but for survivors of abuse like myself can be the very tool used against us. Hopefully people will understand that abuse has become even more complex than when Refuge was formed 50 years ago and the need for support is bigger than ever.’

The campaign video, which mimics high-end tech adverts, showcases how easily tech can be used as a tool of abuse. You can watch the advert here:

With support from presenter Stacey Dooley and Love Island star Zara McDermott, Refuge hopes the campaign will reach more people than ever and better educate everyone on the scale of tech abuse.

‘50 years on from opening the world’s first refuge there is sadly little to be celebrating,’ Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO, said. ‘The numbers of women experiencing domestic abuse, especially in the arena of tech abuse, is rising – not decreasing. Refuge has never needed support from the public help raise awareness of and support its work more.

‘The rise of tech and smart products are of major concern to Refuge,’ Ruth continued. ‘It is our job to ensure we support women and meet their needs in a climate where abuse is becoming easier and more complex. It is our job to ensure that women are not forced offline, or to abandon their tech devices, but instead are empowered to e to use tech safely and confidently. But we can't achieve this on our own. We need support from the public and our funders more than ever – women's lives depend on it.’

Read More:

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‘We Are Still Being Killed By Misogyny’

Why The Government's Domestic Abuse Bill Needs To Tackle Emotional Tech Abuse

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