“I think this fills a really important gap [in knowledge] of a particular form of abuse, in looking at that perpetration and how that manifests.”
Led by Dr Asher Flynn, from Monash University, and Dr Anastasia Powell, from RMIT University, this involved conducting a survey of 4,586 Australians aged over 18 over two years (2020 to 2022), along with 30 interviews with victims and survivors and perpetrators of this form of abuse.
What is technology-facilitated abuse?
“Australian research has shown that TFA is a growing concern for service providers responding to domestic, family and sexual violence in particular, however to date, little is known about the extent of these harms within the Australian community,” it states.
I don’t think it’s understood how widespread it is.
ANROWS CEO Padma Raman
And, more women than men experienced TFA from an intimate or former partner.
‘It has no borders’
“This research gives us a little insight into it, alongside the other evidence that we have. It tells us it’s a further way of compounding the experience of abuse that particularly vulnerable women face.”
‘150 calls in two hours’
One study participant described calling an ex-partner about 150 times over a two-hour period.
I wanted an answer from her, and so I just called her about 150 times in, I don’t know, a two-hour period. And she didn’t pick up, but I just kept doing that.
One victim reported that her ex-partner would text and call her up to 50 times per day. When she would block his number, he would contact her on different platforms, such as through her work’s Facebook account.
Every form of media I blocked him on, he’d find another way to contact me or make a new identity to contact me. Some of it was to tell me I’m a horrible person, I destroyed his life. The next one will be, ‘You’re my soulmate, I love you, the love of my life, can we please just talk, can we please just …?’
In some cases, this occurred while the couple was still together; in others it began as the relationship was breaking down or after they had broken up.
‘I needed to retain hold of that life’
In intimate partner relationships, perpetrators mainly identified feeling angry and upset, citing a loss of control at the end of a relationship and losing daily contact with the victim and survivor.
I needed to retain hold of that life, and that control of that person I guess, and I felt like if I could just track all that stuff, I could do that somehow.
But in reality, she said, the harms experienced by victims and survivors can be lasting, complex and wide-ranging.
Why understanding technology-facilitated abuse matters
“We need to understand the controlling behaviours a lot more. And often it is technology related.”
But the researchers say police, internet platforms and other basic service providers -such as banks and gas or electricity providers – have inconsistent approaches to addressing abuse.
The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491.