Program Will Give Safe Smartphones to Australian Victims of Domestic Violence

By Denisse Moreno, Epoch Times
March 17, 2016 12:04 pm Last Updated: March 17, 2016 1:00 pm

Technology has been a tool for abuse towards victims of domestic violence, but a new program in Australia is empowering women.

The country’s prime minister announced that the government will allocate $2.5 million to the Women’s Services Network (WESNET), an organization that helps victims suffering domestic violence. The money will be used to provide women with smartphones and training for workers in online safety. WESNET said it will also provide safety training so that crisis lines know more about how technology abuse, such as cyberstalking, occurs.

WESNET will work with telecommunications company Telstra. Both began their program on domestic violence, Safe Connections, in 2014. The partnership will provide 5,000 new smartphones each year to women, along with $30 of pre-paid credit. The program will also educate women suffering from domestic violence on how to safely use technology, said Telstra on their webpage.  

“We are very grateful to Telstra for donating new smart phones. This means we will be able to help up to 20,000 women experiencing domestic violence to access a safer phone,” said Karen Bentley, WESNET’s Senior Technology Safety Specialist in a statement.

“And with the funding from Government, we will be able to provide support and training to specialist services, so they know and can recognize how technology abuse might be impacting women experiencing domestic violence,” she continued.

Telstra’s Chief Sustainability Officer Tim O’Leary also said that domestic and family violence is a very significant issue in society, and impacts around one in three women in their lifetime.

It’s critical for women and girls to become tech savvy and not shy away from technology.
— Julie Oberin, WESNET

A 2015 study by the ReCharge: Women’s Technology Safety project, which surveyed domestic violence sector practitioners, showed that the type of technology most commonly used by perpetrators towards their victims was text messaging. The second most common platform was Facebook.

The use of GPS tracking via smartphone apps was also another form of abuse commonly used by perpetrators. The study revealed that 40 percent of participants said that they were ‘sometimes’ tracked, while 34 percent said they saw this ‘often’ or ‘all the time’ in their work.

The study also stated that women are humiliated and threatened on social media by their abusers.

However, WESNET stated that they believe women should not have to steer away from access to technology in order to avoid abuse.

“It’s critical for women and girls to become tech savvy and not shy away from technology,” said WESNET’s Julie Oberin.

“Women need to embrace technology and know how to use it safely to access services and resources, and importantly how to collect evidence against perpetrators,” she added.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) to speak with a trained counsellor from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service.