Violence Against Women is an incredibly important issue affecting many women around the world. As information communication technologies (ICT’s) are now being used by a large majority of the worlds population to communicate, gather and distribute information they too are having an impact on violence against women.
Women that live in regions where violence against women is more common are more likely to experience increased levels of digital forms of violence against women. Also, it is often observed that in places where discrimination is higher for women, women are less likely to be able to access technology for their personal benefit due to financial and cultural constraints.
Technology is currently playing a role in all categories of violence against women including sexual, harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence. Things like telephones, computers and the internet can all be used to cause harm to a women, technology is extending the reach and creating new forms of abusive behavior. Technology can make a women feel unsafe as it threatens her geographic and spatial boundaries of safety. With a little bit of research and determination an online hacker can pinpoint the IP address of someone online, ie. the exact geographic location of a user. Regardless if technology is used at the root level violence against women is fueled by thought patterns of inequality and discrimination and her experience of violence is impacted by social factors such as class, race and age.
The United Nations estimates that 95% of aggressive behavior, harassment, abusive language and denigrating images on the internet are targeted toward women, and most likely come from current or past partners. http://www.apc.org/en/node/11452
It is important when considering the advantages that technology could bring to women that their potential value is often impeded by factors related to gender inequality and discrimination. Furthermore these benefits are only available to women that have physical access to technology and can afford it. Technology can be used to communicating facilitating safety and access to social media can connect women to inform and reduce isolation. Having access to the internet provides for opportunities for online counseling, training and education.
What Are The Factors That Distinguish Technology Related Violence Against Women?
- Anonymity – It is easy for online abusers to remain unknown to victims.
- Action-at-a-Distance – Abusers can easily conduct abuse without any physical contact whatsoever.
- Automation – Technology can aid in the automation of abuse requiring less time and effort on abusers end.
- Accessibility – Technology makes many more forms of abuse accessible to perpetrators via low cost and ease of access.
- Propagation and Perpetuity – Unlike traditional forms of in person abuse, online abuse created as text and images can multiple and last indefinitely.
Potential Consequences Of Technology Driven Violence Against Women
Technology has a reciprocal relationships to violence against women and is always changing. The consequences seem to be either similar or even more severe when compared to violence against women that does not involve technology. The severity of violence against women in general is impacted by a woman’s social status and and can affect all aspects of her life. Consequences may include:
- Psychological Changes (sadness, shame, depression, stress/anxiety, fear)
- Health Concerns (health concerns related to stress)
- Privacy Issues (embarrassment or fear associated with the belief that one is or has been watched or monitored; use of a woman’s personal information against her)
- Social Issues (compromised sense of security; social withdrawal; isolation; compromised productivity at work; loss of income; loss of reputation)
Categories Where Tech Plays A Role In Violence Against Women
Violence Against Women can be grouped into five major categories when considering technology.
- Harassment and Stalking – This is an example of abuse that occurs over a period of time repeatedly and causes the victim to have fear for the safety or the safety of someone close to them.
- Intimate Partner Violence – This is a form of abuse conducted by the intimate partners of either adolescents or adults.
- Sexual Violence – This covers any violence that is either psychological or physical carried out through sexual means or also by specifically targeting sexuality.
- Culturally Justified VAW – This occurs when someone uses a culture or religion to justify violence against women and or to create a culture of violence against women in general.
- Violence Targeting Women’s Groups/Communities – This happens when someone targets a women’s group or community because of their gender, sexual identity or political views.
Types Of Technology Related Violence Against Women
Hacking –Hacking is done when a person uses technology to gain access illegally to a system with the intent of obtaining personal information, and or modifying this information in order to slander a victim or victim organization.
Surveillance/Tracking –Perpetrators use technology to monitor and track users behaviors either in realtime or historically, this type of information can include geo-spatial coordinates accessed from a mobile phone, or keystrokes on a computer that recreate a users activities on a digital device.
Impersonating –This occurs when someone uses technology to assume the identity of a victim and access their private information leading to potential embarrassment or shaming of the victim. In some cases fraudulent identity documents are created or offensive emails may be sent from the users account.
Harassment/Spamming –Technology is sometimes used to continuously contact, annoy, or threaten a victim. This is generally a repeated behavior where a mobile phone will be filled up with texts, calls or voicemails so that no one else can leave a message.
Recruitment –Sometimes abusers will use technology to lure potential victims into violent situations. They can accomplish this through fraudulent posings and advertisements especially common on dating and employment sites. Often times human traffickers will use chat rooms, message boards and websites to communicate and advertise.
Malicious Distribution –Technology is often used as a tool for disseminating defamatory and illegal material related to victims and or victim organizations threatening to leak intimate photos/videos. Technology is also often used as a propoganda tool to promote violence against women.