Technology serves as an extension of ourselves. From our devices we can communicate with others from any distance, keep an eye on our homes, play music, navigate traffic, share photos…the list goes on! In many cases, technology has helped us expand our networks and develop deeper connections with the global community. However, the darker side of these tech advances is their potential to become tools for isolation and manipulation. Specifically, technology adds a unique component to domestic violence (DV), and is a reminder that intimate partner violence is not always physical.
Recently, the New York Times published an article interviewing DV survivors and exploring the ways in which "smart" home devices and apps play a key role in sustaining DV. In sum, these devices afford abusers additional ways of controlling and intimidating their victims. These "smart" home devices are easily set up (without others knowing) so that household settings can be controlled and monitored remotely. The article sheds new light on the term "gaslighting", as one might liken this remote-controlled abuse to psychological warfare. Many survivors felt they were going crazy because doors codes would change unexpectedly, music would blast at random, and room temperatures would suddenly change. As the article states, "One of the women, a doctor in Silicon Valley, said her husband, an engineer, ‘controls the thermostat. He controls the lights. He controls the music.’ She said, ‘Abusive relationships are about power and control, and he uses technology.’” (New York Times, 2018). You can read the rest of the article here.
If you know somebody who is in an abusive relationship and you are trying to communicate with them or help them leave, please remember that if an abuser has access to their partner’s technology, they most likely can access that person’s emails, messages, social media, finances, and more. So, whether you are a survivor in an abusive relationship, or someone trying to help them, remember to disclose as little as possible online or through text. If at all possible, meet in person. To learn more about technology in the context of DV, check out https://www.techsafety.org. They have great resources, including tool-kits to help educate survivors, organizations, and the general public on the safe use of technology.
For further knowledge, below is the Domestic Violence Power & Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP). This wheel is meant to show the many ways in which DV exists and is exerted by abusers. It is easy to see how technology can fit into many of these categories.
This image was retrieved from https://www.theduluthmodel.org/
As the world adapts to and embraces new technology on a daily basis, it is important to gain a better understanding of how these digital tools can exacerbate patterns of abuse. Link Coalition Toronto is part of the movement that aims to educate our community about the realities of domestic violence. Our goal is to help develop a supportive and safe environment for women, their children, and their pets!
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