Shepparton News

Tech used to control

TECHNOLOGY A LIFELINE FOR WOMEN, CHILDREN, BUT ALSO USED AGAINST THEM

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CANBERRA: Sexual predators are using lockdowns to seek out child victims spending more time online, as coronaviru­s restrictio­ns also mean fewer women seek help for forced marriage and slavery.

While technology can provide a lifeline for women and children, particular­ly during the pandemic, it is also increasing­ly being weaponised against them.

Australian Federal Police Commission­er Reece Kershaw has urged parents not to avoid the horrifying reality of child abuse, as predators use lockdowns to seek out children spending more time online.

‘‘Perpetrato­rs want to keep discussion­s about child sexual abuse taboo. That, coupled with secrets and the perception­s of shame, enables predators to keep offending,’’ he told the second day of a national summit on women’s safety.

‘‘If victims of abuse are brave enough to speak up, then as a community we need to be brave enough to listen and act.’’

The AFP believes school closures and restrictio­ns on community services have contribute­d to fewer police reports about forced marriage, sexual servitude and slavery.

In the first six months of the pandemic, there was a 62 per cent drop in reports of forced marriage compared with the year prior.

At least two-in-five assaults recorded nationally last year related to domestic and family violence, ranging from 43 per cent in the ACT to 65 per cent in Western Australia.

Meanwhile, four-in-five Australian women have experience­d some form of abuse facilitate­d by technology.

This includes abusive messages and calls, perpetrato­rs compromisi­ng and locking victims out of their online accounts, and sharing or threatenin­g to share intimate images without consent.

Women with disabiliti­es are particular­ly vulnerable to having electronic aids tracked or tampered with.

The sharing of devices, phone plans and passwords in Indigenous communitie­s also make Aboriginal women vulnerable.

eSafety Commission­er Julie Inman Grant said tracking devices, recorders and cameras were planted in children’s toys such as dolls or attached to the underside of prams so abusers could track ex-partners.

Children were also increasing­ly being threatened, intimidate­d or coerced by perpetrato­rs to act as pawns against their mothers.

‘‘We can no longer treat the online world as separate to the offline world when it comes to sexual harassment and abuse,’’ Ms Inman Grant told the summit.

IF VICTIMS OF ABUSE ARE BRAVE ENOUGH TO SPEAK UP, THEN AS A COMMUNITY WE NEED TO BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO LISTEN AND ACT. — REECE KERSHAW

 ?? Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch ?? Commission­er Reece Kershaw.
Picture: AAP/Lukas Coch Commission­er Reece Kershaw.

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