Sunday Mail

Domestic violence app in demand

- LAUREN NOVAK

GIRLS from as young as 16 up to women in their 60s have been given access to a unique mobile phone app that could save their lives from domestic violence abusers.

The software is monitored 24/7 and has already linked victims directly to police in 84 emergency situations.

Demand for the State Government-funded app soared last year when South Australian­s were isolated at home amid COVID-19 restrictio­ns.

Between March and August, 158 women applied for access, compared to 43 during the same period in 2019.

Women aged 16 to 67 have been given access, while the average age of users is 36.

Since its launch in October 2018, a total of 351 women have used the app, and the duress feature has been activated 84 times.

In one case, police officers were able to arrest an abuser who was stalking a woman and put in place a court order to curb his menacing behaviour.

Survivors of domestic violence have told the Sunday Mail the discreet app is a helpful tool because calling for assistance via triple-0 can escalate the risk they face, as it often triggers their abusers to retaliate.

Assistant Minister for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Carolyn Power said one woman using the app “told us it helps her feel safer and sleep easier at night knowing she can access help quickly should she need to”.

“The app could quite literally be a lifesaver for women who need to use the duress feature, which automatica­lly triggers an emergency response,” Ms Power said.

“Qualified domestic violence counsellor­s work with women to assess their situation and determine if the app would be appropriat­e as part of their safety plan.”

In response to the increased risk of abuse at home during COVID lockdowns, the government broadened the eligibilit­y criteria for access to the app.

It was designed by an Adelaide-based company but further details remain secret so that abusers are not able to identify the software on a victim’s device.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said women “as young as 16, right through to their late sixties, are using this potentiall­y lifesaving app” which helped them to “stay safe, supported and feel in control again”.

The government has committed $353,000 to continue the service. Statistics show domestic-related assaults reported to police in 2020 was up 11 per cent compared to 2019. TO REQUEST ACCESS CONTACT THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS LINE ON 1800 800 098

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