Men who use technology to stalk their victims are the target of a new program to tackle the increasing misuse of technology in domestic violence cases.
Men who use technology to stalk their victims are the target of a new program to tackle the increasing misuse of technology in domestic violence cases.
Men who use devices such as GPS trackers and computer spyware to stalk and harass their victims are the target of a new program launched by the peak national women's organisation to tackle the increasing misuse of technology in domestic violence cases.
Safety Net Australia is based on a US program which works with legal services, domestic violence specialists and corporate giants such as Google and Facebook to help women fleeing abusive relationships use technology safely.
Founder of the US program Cindy Southworth said new  technology meant abusers could easily monitor their victims' movements through devices such as GPS trackers, computer keyboard loggers or a webcam with remote access. 
"Tactics that abusers use haven't changed - it's about power and control," she said.
Advertisement
Ads by CoupScannerAd Options
"Decades ago abusers would monitor the odometer on the car to see if the victim had left the house during the day when she had been instructed not to leave the house without permission from the offender. Now instead of checking the odometer they can check the GPS on the phone or put a freestanding location tracker on the car itself. Same behaviour, new tools."
Safety Net Australia is being rolled out by the Women's Services Network, with chairwoman Julie Oberin saying the case of Simon Gittany, who murdered his partner Lisa Harnum, illustrated how offenders use technology to intimidate.
"He surveilled her every movement," she said.
Under Safety Net Australia, domestic violence specialists will learn about new technologies and those escaping violence will be taught how to increase privacy settings on their devices and how to identify when their digital security has been breached.
Ms Oberin said women who complained their abusive former partners always found out their whereabouts were previously thought to be paranoid or delusional.
"But now we know the men are tracking these women," she said.
"Often a perpetrator will smash a woman's phone, then buy her a new one which is already loaded so he can find out what she's doing, where she's  going and who she is talking to on his own iPhone or computer. We've had children with GPS tracking devices in their teddy bears."
Spyware and GPS trackers can be easily obtained, she said.
"They're cheap, you can get them almost instantly and even YouTube the instructions about how to set them up," she said.
Ms Southworth said companies which manufacture devices that can be used to spy should be more responsible but noted the flipside of technology misuse was that it could be used as legal evidence against the offender.
"It's an incredibly good tool for holding offenders accountable," she said. "Digital evidence is incredibly compelling."
The program has the backing of the federal government with Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, saying it would be an important tool for police, domestic violence specialists and survivors.
From The Web