Published: 2nd July 2021

Commissioner commends Refuge Tech Safety Website for survivors of  abuse

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire is encouraging survivors of domestic abuse to use a new resource designed for them, by Refuge.

Refuge, has launched www.RefugeTechsafety.org which is a dedicated resource for survivors of domestic abuse, after the provider saw an increase in the number of referrals of complex cases of tech abuse.

The new Tech Safety Website has been created in consultation with survivors and provides women with resources for recognising tech abuse and using technology safely.

Between April 2020 and May 2021, Refuge has seen on average a 97% increase in the number of complex tech abuse cases requiring specialist tech support when compared to the first three months of 2020. In the last 5 months, this number has jumped to an average of 118% more complex tech abuse cases compared to before March 2020.

Complex tech abuse cases supported by Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team often involve perpetrators using multiple accounts and devices to abuse, control and monitor their partners. The technology harnessed can range from everyday devices and accounts, to sophisticated, malicious software. A recent report from Refuge’s partner Avast found a 93% increase in the use of malicious stalkerware apps when compared to the same time last year. Such abuse commonly happens alongside physical, sexual, emotional and/or financial abuse.

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, commented:

“It has been widely reported that as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that domestic abuse cases have increased. It can often be hard for a survivor to escape the situation in its entirety, and this resource from Refuge offers survivors additional help to enable them to break the technological ties with their abuser without isolating victims further. 

“The resource explains in a simple, step by step way how to alter settings to prevent technology facilitated abuse on a range of devices, in a variety of different languages.

“I would actively encourage anyone to take at look at the advice and educate yourselves about the steps that can be taken.”

Ruth Davison, Refuge Chief Executive Officer, said: 

“Refuge is thrilled to have launched www.RefugeTechSafety.org, created together with survivors, to empower women and children to use technology safely. In the past yearmany of us will have turned to technology to keep in touch with loved ones and to connect with the world. However, at Refuge we’re aware that perpetrators of domestic abuse often use technology as a tool of abuse – this can force survivors offline and further isolate them from their support networks. No survivor of abuse should feel the need to stop using online spaces. No woman should feel too afraid to use her devices. No one should have to face domestic abuse alone and without support.

"In the past year, we’ve seen growing numbers of complex tech abuse cases that require our specialist support. That’s why we’re now sharing our resources and expert knowledge with the public, so women can protect themselves from abuse and not be forced offline due to domestic abuse. For any woman experiencing tech abuse, you are not alone, Refuge is here for you.”

Amy Aldworth, survivor of tech abuse supported by Refuge, said:

“Refuge’s Tech Abuse Team supported me when I was being stalked and harassed online by a man I had met via a dating app. At the time, the abuse felt insurmountable and my mental health and ability to work were severely affected. My Refuge Tech Advocate supported me to secure the privacy and location settings of my online accounts, helping me feel safer online. She also assisted me in gathering evidence for the police and with her support I was able to secure a Stalking Protection Order against my abuser.

“Often women in my situation may not know where to turn to or what their options are which is why I’m so pleased to have been involved in the creation of www.RefugeTechSafety.org. Along with other women Refuge has supported, I gave my insights to ensure the website works for women experiencing tech abuse. It’s great to see that the resources that helped me through such a difficult time of my life will be available to other women in similar situations.”

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, added:

“Living with domestic abuse is not ok, and it‘s important that those people who are currently living in fear of their partner reach out and seek help. There are organisations out there who can help, no-one should suffer in silence.“