Domestic abusers are using home tech to harass their victims

Expert tells John Hines how victims can get help

Dan Cook
June 27, 2018 - 2:03 pm

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Many people have an Amazon Echo or Google Home in their dwellings and find them useful for controlling all sorts of home systems. But did you know they could be used as a form of abuse?

Erica Olsen, Deputy Director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence told John Hines, “Many of these technologies, they are convenient, they’re fun, they are extremely helpful to us in our everyday lives. But unfortunately abusers can get pretty creative and many people are finding they can be tools to continue and further abuse, and really turning somebody’s home against them.”

Abusers have used these tech items to turn on and off lights and entertainment units at random to try and show victims that they’re in charge.

“What we’ve always know is that domestic violence is very much about power and control,” said Olsen, “And these kinds of behaviors really speak to that. Because it’s controlling somebody’s environment, it’s letting them know that ‘I’m here, I have control of things and you are powerless.’  And that’s what people feel. They feel powerless. They don’t know how to necessarily work against that and gain control back in their lives.”

These behaviors are often every bit as much in violation of existing laws as the behaviors traditionally associated with domestic violence.

“That kind of behavior, that tactic, it doesn’t change whether you’re talking about whatever kind of device you’re talking about that they might be using to contact 911,” Olsen said, “So it’s not always so much about the technology as it is the behavior. And so we encourage everyone to really look at the laws that are available and try to see how they already apply.”

The good news is that there is help available for victims of this kind of harassment and intimidation.

“In Minnesota there’s the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, lots of resources on their website,” Olsen told Hines, “And there’s also a statewide domestic violence hotline in Minnesota called Day One, and I can give that number, it’s 866-223-1111.”

Listen to the entire interview here: