Since March 2020, lockdowns and other safety measures enacted to control COVID-19 have exacerbated domestic violence. For some time, it became nearly impossible for survivors to escape abuse from family members and romantic partners.
The United Nations group, UN Women, reported that domestic violence cases rose exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic in parts of China, Argentina, Cyprus, Singapore, and Brazil.
In addition, cities in the United States such as Portland, OR, Boston, MA, San Antonio, TX, and New York City also experienced a concerning uptick, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.
And that’s where smart tech stepped in to provide education and other tools that help survivors identify the issue, leave the situation, and incriminate their abuser.
Smart Tech to the Rescue
A rise in domestic violence was only one of many negatives spawned by the pandemic. But like everything in life, all negative experiences have a positive side. In this case, smart tech made it possible for domestic violence survivors to get the help they need.
Software engineers developed Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots, panic buttons, and other tech to aid survivors. In certain instances, the tech already existed but needed to be made more accessible to survivors.
Here are some examples of life-changing tech that can reduce and prevent domestic abuse:
- Apps and SMS-Based Services: Kitestring, Watch Over Me, and Circle of 6 are safety apps and SMS services that educate users about domestic violence. These resources provide facts to people who may not know if they’re experiencing abuse. Armed with information, they can then get the help they need.
- Chatbots and Virtual Agents: Using AI, domestic abuse hotlines have made chatbots accessible to address the high call volumes on domestic violence hotlines.
- Wearable Tech: Bracelets, panic buttons, and other tools inconspicuously alert emergency personnel when activated.
- Social Media: During the pandemic, social media surpassed keeping people connected. Campaigns got even more leverage as the world sat captivated, especially movements like #StopFemicides, #YesAllWomen, and #WhyIStayed that raised domestic violence awareness.
Domestic violence was an issue long before COVID-19 forced us indoors. For many decades, speaking out was taboo, and survivors felt trapped by their circumstances. Thankfully, tech advancements have made educational and action-based resources accessible for all.
The Flip Side of Tech & How Legislature Can Help
Unfortunately, smart tech has a dark side in the wrong hands.
Domestic-violence charity Refuge says more than 70% of those it supports have reported tech-related abuse within a relationship.
BBC.com shared a story about a woman whose husband used an internet-connected security device to track her whereabouts with a motion-sensing camera. Another woman disclosed that her partner placed virtual assistants all over the property to monitor her. He did this by tapping into remote smart speakers to listen in on her conversations.
In response to these frightening incidents, a groundbreaking domestic abuse bill aims to make it illegal to use modern technology to track or spy on partners or ex-partners. The legislation discussed in the same BBC article covers England and Wales and includes an all-encompassing domestic abuse definition that acknowledges controlling behavior with smart devices.
To the perpetrator’s detriment, any information recorded by these smart devices could also be used against them. Hopefully, more countries follow the UK’s lead and enact legislation that can make pressing charges in these instances more seamless.
From there, smart tech can be used as intended: for good.
Unexpected Ways Smart Tech Can Stop Abuse
Forms of medical and business tech can also reduce and prevent domestic violence.
Listed below are ways smart tech could help medical personnel and law officials pinpoint abusive behavior and, more importantly, help a victim get out of harm’s way.
- Autonomous Vehicles: After an abusive incident, the idea of driving a car may seem impossible. Whether the survivor sustained injuries that impede driving or is in a state of shock, an autonomous vehicle can be a godsend. With access to a driverless car, a domestic abuse survivor can go to a hospital, police station, or loved one’s home with little to no effort.
- Diagnosing with Medical Imaging: Thanks to machine learning, diagnosing patients with medical imaging has become more accurate than ever. For domestic violence cases, smart medical tech could help prove broken bones, lacerations, or other wounds are conducive to domestic abuse.
- Smart Collecting of Crowdsourced Data: AI uses computer algorithms to assess situations and perform various activities, including perception, learning, problem-solving, knowledge representation, and others. Thanks to this form of smart collecting, researchers, practitioners, and law personnel can access consent-based crowdsourced data. From there, officials can spot patterns of abusive language and other concerning signs and use them to help a survivor put forth evidence against their abuser.
- Password Generation and Protection software: This can be particularly useful for survivors with children. Children can be particularly susceptible to online attacks from perpetrators trying to get into contact with or regain control of survivors, so smart tech that generates safe passwords regularly can be helpful for survivors.
Resources for Survivors
Domestic abuse can be confusing, especially if the perpetrator is someone you love. Domestic violence is defined as physical, verbal, or psychological abuse to injure or degrade a victim. If you or someone you love is suffering, there are resources available to educate survivors and get them the help they need.
With the help of smart tech, more survivors can escape their abusers and bring forth evidence for restraining orders or even jail time.