When the words “domestic abuse” come up in conversation or literature, images of physical violence between intimate partners or family members are the first things that come to mind.
For a vast number of people, this remains a tragic reality, especially for women and children.
However, domestic abuse has taken a very concerning turn as the world became increasingly reliant on technology.
Behaviors aimed at intimidating, controlling, monitoring, and hurting victims have bled into the technologies that were originally intended to make life easier and safer, thus undermining and tarnishing their purpose.
What exactly is domestic abuse in the present, highly connected world?
How does it happen?
And most importantly, how do we prevent it from happening with the help of health tech? Read on to discover these and more,
What is Domestic Abuse?
Any behavior aimed at harming any individual in a domestic setting through the use of harassment, intimidation, gaslighting, monitoring, and other similar actions are considered domestic abuse, right beside the more recognizable forms which include physical violence.
In the present global climate of dependence on technology for interconnectivity, security, finance, recreation, and more, the definition of domestic abuse has also shifted to mean the use of any technology to harm others, such as intimate partners or family members.
The New Face of Domestic Abuse
The nature of domestic abuse has evolved with our times.
The paradox is that technology intended for the betterment of our quality of life are being leveraged by abusers to monitor, control, and harm victims.
This ranges from doorbell apps with motion capture capabilities that may be used to entrap, closed-circuit television networks originally intended to deter and identify criminals being used to monitor the day-to-day existence of victims and potentially capture footage that may be used for blackmail, credit card, and banking apps with purchase notification functions giving abusers a better grip on their victim’s lives by providing detailed information on their spending habits – the list goes on and on.
The Problem in Collecting Data on Domestic Abuse
While abusers are freely co-opting technology to abuse their victims, the government and non-government organizations aimed at ending abuse have their hands tied when it comes to collecting data on victims and their circumstances – data that may be crucial in saving lives and preventing other people from experiencing the harrowing reality of domestic abuse.
The prohibition of the Violence Against Women Act for agencies that provide services to domestic abuse victims from participating in homeless management information systems is a clear demonstration of this gap.
Homeless management information systems are an important part of helping survivors find new homes away from their abusers, yet victim service providers are not allowed to enter any client data into these systems, because it is the law.
Fortunately, software for victim services providers that are comparable to and functions exactly like full homeless management systems, but are scaled to suit the needs of the service provider, are available to address this gap.
With this, victim service providers are better able to help their clients get back to their feet and get a foothold on a better life that is free from abuse.
What Can Be Done?
The role of technology in fighting domestic abuse cannot be overstated. In order to stop abusers from co-opting the good intentions of technology developers, the tech must be designed with promoting diversity, guaranteeing privacy and choice, combating gaslighting, strengthening security, and enhanced intuitiveness in mind.
When the design takes into consideration the diverse lived experiences of end-users, allowing them to make actively informed choices that can be configured to suit their specific needs, has transparent and tamper-proof records of evidence, is geared towards safeguarding the data of users beyond the traditional models and trajectories, and is ready to take on the challenge of an ever-changing world, then it is a step towards the right direction.
What are your thoughts on domestic abuse and its prevention?
Share them in the comments – you might just be helping someone with your insight.