Image source: Center for International Private Enterprise
By Giorgina McKay |@ggmckay11
In an age where technology and the internet are at the focal point of everyday life, victims of domestic violence are less safe than ever before.
Technology and the internet are ever-changing and growing, giving greater access to more users and, with it, greater access to information.
This accessibility means private information has never been more at risk.
Brandon Gaille reported last year 11 per cent of people who were online consistently had personal information stolen, including credit card numbers, bank account information, and identification documents such as drivers’ licenses.
Anyone can have access to an abundance of information with just a click of the button, and that’s particularly alarming for domestic violence victims.
Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) can provide the comfort of physical protection, but once technology and the internet become involved, it can be a trickier plain to navigate.
It’s much easier now for offenders to gain quick access to the personal information, photos, and whereabouts of their victims.
It also opens up a means of external contact.
This has made it easier for offenders to harass and stalk victims, leaving them vulnerable and unsafe in their own homes.
Unfortunately, there is not much victims or the police can do.
AVOs serve to prevent the offender from harassing, threatening, intimidating and stalking the protected person.
Victims can also request for offenders not to be able to phone or send messages.
In Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 states it is an offence to stalk or intimidate another with intent to cause fear of physical or mental harm and can lead to a maximum five-year prison sentence or a $5500 fine.
It is also an offence under the Criminal Code Act 1995 to access a computer or access data without permission and can lead to a maximum three-year sentence.
However, without the appropriate evidence, it can’t always be proven that the offender is actually responsible for the contact, especially if they’re not using a medium that can be traced back to them (mobile phones, third parties).
This means offenders often go unpunished or unreported, and in more serious cases, it can lead to the death of the victims.
So then, is it fair to say that technology and the internet can be truly blamed for the root of the problem? No.
The misuse of these services is a part of a wider issue that needs to be addressed by the Government and other bodies of power.
Little loopholes in the system continually allow offenders to walk away free, making victims feel unsafe and undervalued.
Crucial changes to laws and reforms need to be implemented to allow victims to report these incidents and for law enforcement to reprimand and punish these offenders.
Without these significant steps, the vicious cycle will continue and we’ll see more and more offenders use alternative means to stalk, harass, injure or kill their victims.