Technology-facilitated abuse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research was commissioned by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to undertake qualitative research into the experiences of technology-facilitated abuse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in remote and regional areas. The research took a participatory approach and was framed by Indigenist feminist research principles, and involved partnering with local Indigenous organisations and training community-based researchers to undertake the data collection. The methods included yarning with 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and interviews with 15 frontline services in three regional and remote locations: Central Australia, remote Western Australia, and regional New South Wales. The thematic analysis of the yarnings and interviews found that women had diverse experiences of technology-facilitated abuse; this was further complicated by living in the regional and remote context. The key findings were used to identify key recommendations to inform eSafety's police and practice, as well as implications for other service providers, government agencies and other institutions. This research is further important because it contributes the evidence base in regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women's experiences of violence, as well as addresses a key gap in the evidence base as it contributes to the emerging and establishing scholarship regarding technology-facilitated abuse (TFA). 
 
Report prepared by:
Chay Brown, Mandy Yap, Annick Thomassin, Minda Murray and Eunice Yu
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra 

The key findings from the research are listed below:

Types and forms of TFA 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women most commonly experienced TFA from a current or former male partner within the context of intimate partner violence;  
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experienced different forms of TFA, and the most commonly reported behaviours were threats, harassment, monitoring and stalking, followed by impersonation; 
  • Different forms of violence were associated with different technology-facilitated abusive behaviours, for example, impersonation was commonly linked with lateral violence perpetrated by women, whilst monitoring was most commonly linked with intimate partner violence; 
  • The tools and tactics used to perpetrate TFA against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were many and varied, but the most commonly reported vehicles were messaging, phone calls, fake social media accounts, and monitoring apps or platforms;  
  • TFA against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is primarily driven by jealousy and gender inequality;  
  • TFA perpetrated by women against other women was often driven by jealousy and usually in response to perceived sexual misconduct with a man;
  • There were also differing experiences of TFA across age groups. Those in the younger age groups were more likely to experience imaged-based and monitoring types of abuse whereas Elders were more likely to experience technology-facilitated financial abuse. 

Risk factors 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in remote and regional areas are vulnerable to technology facilitated abuse because of the lack of education around identifying TFA, and, particularly in remote areas, a lack of education about digital literacy and accessible services; 
  • Close social networks and kinship structures can be sources of strengths to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing TFA, but they can also inadvertently make it easier to for the perpetrator to gather information and locate women, increasing women’s vulnerabilityto violence from multiple abusers; 

Benefits of technology 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women receive a lot of benefits from using technology, including safety and the ability to stay connected to family and friends; 
  • Technologies, particularly phones, are reported to be critical to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s safety, and as a result, were often withheld or damaged by their abusers; 

Response and prevention 

  • Awareness of TFA and women’s rights, and education on digital literacy and online safety is pivotal to preventing TFA of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; 
  • To minimise the impacts of TFA, and to support women experiencing abuse, there needs to be culturally appropriate and accessible services, good relationships between the community and services and police, and there needs to be clear and consistent legislation; 
  • Social media and technology companies must have some accountability and play a role in preventing online abuse; 
  • Banks and financial services must be involved in addressing the financial aspects of TFA;
  • TFA must be taken seriously by the criminal justice system, and addressed prior to the abuse escalating into physical violence.  
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Audience

Public

Network

Gender Institute

Date posted

Monday, 9 August 2021

Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute