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How are Start-Ups Tackling Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is an age-old problem waiting to be solved. During the pandemic, domestic violence significantly increased as couples and partners were stuck in lockdown. Even as we resume the new normal today, domestic violence remains a pressing but hidden issue for most. According to a study by the World Health Organization, 27% of ever-partnered women aged 15 – 49 years have experienced intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime. These figures, however, only count reported incidents. The actual numbers for unreported incidents are likely to be much higher, especially if you also consider male victims of domestic violence. Fortunately, emerging technologies and innovative startups are working on tackling domestic violence and bringing instances of domestic violence to light. In today’s post, we’ll look at how startup technologies are doing this and the extra steps we can take to secure our use of technology:

Startup tech against domestic violence

To understand how modern technologies fight domestic violence, it’s essential to understand the more traditional ways systems have tried to do so. Traditionally, police forces are required to assess the risk of domestic abuse victims being targeted repeatedly before taking the necessary actions to keep them safe and away from their abusers. This is conventionally done using questionnaires containing a standardised set of questions.

In enhancing this process of domestic violence risk assessment, AI and machine learning tools come into the picture. According to a study from the London School of Economics, machine learning systems can analyse information such as criminal records, calls made to the police, and reported incidents of violence to identify the risk of repeated incidents more accurately and much faster than current questionnaires.

Meanwhile, websites that allow for crowdfunding help identify victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment. This helps connect them with relevant authorities, organisations, and support systems they can turn to. Not only does crowdfunding help raise awareness on the issue, but they also bring a sense of urgency and transparency for action and change to take place, getting the attention of governments and policymakers.

Another form of startup tech that can help the fight against domestic violence is the rise of wearable tech, which can help potential victims stay safe or alert emergency contacts and authorities in case of emergencies. Wearable tech can support potential victims in gathering evidence of domestic violence through video or voice recordings without needing larger devices.

One Spring ACT project includes Sophia the Chatbot, whom potential victims can chat with anonymously if they are unsure about their relationship or need a discreet means of communicating their thoughts and feelings. Along with countless smartphone applications that provide mindfulness practices and guidance, many startup technologies today focus on providing potential victims with healthy and mindful ways to care for their mental health.

How to keep safe when using technology

As much as startups and tech firms do their best to keep users safe, things can still slip through the cracks. Ayima Kickstart notes how startups often struggle with costly, time-intensive development resources. As they focus on their software-based services, most startup developers concentrate on these projects rather than worrying about other website issues. As such, it’s always good for individuals to learn basic cybersecurity practices to keep their devices and online activity safe.

Abusive partners can use technology to further the extent of their abuse and controlling behaviours. Known as tech abuse or technology-facilitated abuse, this can range from tracking your phone, so they know about your activities at all times to demanding access to your rightfully private digital spaces, including e-mail and social media accounts. Social media settings these days can allow variations of a “private mode”, so abusive partners can’t stalk your online activity and use it against you.

Victims of domestic abuse need to take cybersecurity seriously so that they don’t risk getting found out by their abusers. This involves keeping passwords safe and using security features across devices to protect offline and online data. Smartphones these days can also enable or disable location-sharing features that victims can use to ensure their partners aren’t tracking them and to share their whereabouts with friends and family when going out. Additionally, using encrypted messaging apps can also help survivors communicate with people who may be able to help. Social media platforms that may seem like safe spaces to disclose your situation should be used with caution as they aren’t always as secure as they seem, with Twitter’s direct messages feature staying unencrypted despite cries from cybersecurity experts. As such, extra precautions should be taken to ensure that technology benefits — rather than harms — potential victims.

If you aren’t in an abusive situation but think someone online — a friend, an acquaintance, even a stranger — could be, you can help by gathering any relevant information you can find and alerting the local authorities. Victims of domestic abuse have difficulty reaching out for fear of being found out by their abusers, so outside help and intervention can go a long way. Be alert and sympathetic to what you see online, and don’t hesitate to reach out to available resource centres or organisations that provide assistance. With everyone staying vigilant and supporting one another with empathy, we can help make the world a much safer place.


Post contributed by Priscilla Shelly