Article by Alastair MacGibbon, the Children’s eSafety Commissioner
Many women in abusive relationships have found technology - usually a force for good in their lives - is used against them - to humiliate, threaten and control.
Social media is used to abuse and humiliate. Smartphones are used to harass and threaten. And at the extreme end, women are tracked without knowing it.
And when things turn ugly, few women have enough information to act quickly to make their devices and accounts secure.
Sadly, research shows that one in six Australian women have experienced violence from a current or former partner. A recent, smaller scale, survey also indicates the vast majority of domestic violence workers had clients who had experienced technology facilitated abuse.
My Office has spearheaded a new initiative – eSafetyWomen - to empower women to take control online. It provides practical information to help women use technology safely.
No matter their circumstances, this site ensures women can continue to connect and participate online - after all, going offline is simply not an option. Why should a woman have to cut herself off from ways of finding support and information?
eSafetyWomen is my Office’s contribution to the Federal Government’s Women’s Safety Package to stop the violence against women, recognising the disturbing increase in the use of technology to control, stalk and abuse Australian women.
Our new program is all about managing technology, so it can be used to protect rather than harm – from understanding and using safety features on iPads, iPhones and Android devices, to having safer experiences on social media.
Women’s stories on our website, based on true events, illustrate violent and controlling behaviour and how it can be countered. Practical advice is offered on addressing the abuse, and getting the support needed.
Women who are experiencing technology abuse need ready access to useful resources that speak to their experience. With this in mind, the eSafetyWomen site includes:
• Step-by-step guidance on how to enhance privacy and security on portable and home devices, when browsing online, sharing photos, and using apps and social media services.
• eSafety check-ups to check awareness of privacy and security with different technology.
• Virtual tours identifying the technological risks associated with the home, car and personal devices.
• Case study videos showing ways women can be empowered by technology.
We will continue to update the site with new information and resources so it remains true to its tagline -empowering women to take control online.
Importantly, eSafetyWomen is more than just a website. We will soon be rolling out training around the country to frontline professionals working with women affected by domestic violence, enhancing the support they provide to women on technology safety.
The eSafetyWomen training materials were jointly created by my Office and WESNET, with support provided by the Department of Social Services.
We’re pleased to be playing our part in tackling violence against women and their children. Let’s be clear, our role in delivering technology safety for women is a challenging one, as both technologies and abusive behaviours evolve. But, it’s a challenge we won’t back down from.
Tips covered in eSafety website include:
1.How to secure your car’s GPS navigation system to clear journey history.
2.How to protect your home alarm from remote activation or deactivation.
3.How to protect information on your wearable fitness device on your training route.
4.Adjusting privacy settings on all portable devices.
5.How to make your home computer and laptop safe from hacking and malware.
For more information go to eSafetyWomen.
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