Half of Australians will experience tech-facilitated abuse

One in two Australians will experience technology-facilitated abuse in their lifetime, but a quarter of Australians will also be responsible for such an act, according to a new study from Monash University.

In the first national survey of adult victims and abusers, researchers from Monash and RMIT universities also found that technology-facilitated abuse was experienced on a larger scale by members of the LGBTQ+ community, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities.

The most widespread cases of abuse take place in the context of a couple relationship, or a former relationship, and are generally suffered by women and perpetrated by men.

Based on two studies, a national survey of 4,562 respondents, and 30 interviews with victims and survivors, but also with perpetrators of abuse, researchers have attempted to better understand the experiences of victims, as well as the characteristics actions taken using technological means.

Also according to the researchers, the cases of abuse facilitated by technology are more broadly surveillance and controlling behaviors, emotional abuse and threats, harassing behaviors, as well as sexual and image-based abuse. .

For Monash University criminologist and project leader Asher Flynn, gaining or maintaining control over a victim was the primary goal, the study found.

“Participants mentioned experiencing abusive, threatening or repetitive contact, having their communications and even their movements monitored, and having their social media accounts hacked,” he said.

“There was also the common theme of surveillance – a sense of always being watched, and never being able to escape the gaze and control of the abuser. »

A third of the victims have not spoken of their experiences to anyone, and a large majority have never contacted the police, sought legal advice or even contacted a protection organization linked to the digital field, a type of agency that exists in Australia.

Also according to the researchers, the victims of technology-facilitated abuse experience psychological distress that corresponds to serious mental health problems.

“Victims and survivors have reported a range of injuries, including physical, emotional and mental injuries, in addition to indicating feelings of fear, paranoia and hypervigilance,” Flynn said.

The abusers, themselves abused

As for the participants who admitted to having engaged in abuse, there was a possibility, almost twice as often as usual, that they themselves had been the victim of abuse, at some time or another in their life.

A third of them mentioned that their motivation for their abusive acts stemmed from their desire to express anger towards the victim, and one in five people admitted to wanting to hurt the feelings of their victim.

According to the researchers, it is necessary to put in place new measures to combat this phenomenon, in particular by training more first responders, but also by asking companies with a technological flavor to be able to disconnect the accounts of customers linked to each other.

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