At Cause UK, we’re helping to support the launch of a new online tool – Minerva – that will help women take control of online abuse. Below is the latest press release, highlighting the very real need for the new platform, which is due to launch next year…
New Research Links Online Abuse to Offline Domestic Violence
Research by the University of Suffolk has found that women in the UK experiencing forms of online abuse are likely to be part of a wider pattern of offline abuse.
The research found high levels of cyber-abuse and cyber-monitoring of women by men who had been arrested for domestic violence.
Many victim-survivors of cyberstalking also reported transitions from online to offline stalking, or vice-versa.
The findings pose a growing concern in an increasingly digitized society.
Research fellow Megan Hermolle and Dr Katherine Allen, who specialise in Trauma, Injustice, Violence and Abuse (TIVA) at the Institute of Social Justice and Crime, conducted the research. Their report, Project Minerva, summarises six-months of research focussed on the forms of online abuse and its impacts.
Dr Katherine Allen said: “A survey of domestic abuse survivors found that 83% of women experienced behaviours such as smartphone coercion or social media abuse, suggesting an intrinsic link between online and offline abuse.”
Technology-facilitated violence against women and girls (TFVWG) includes surveillance and digital tech, such as GPS and spyware apps.
Dr Allen said: “The concerning thing is it’s not just a problem with specialist surveillance or tracking software, because increasingly our lives are dependent and integrated with apps and social media. Work, commerce and socialising largely require access to online platforms. We know too that online abuse against women gathered pace during the pandemic, as more people relied on online platforms.”
The most common forms of online abuse are:
- unwanted sexual messages (53.8%)
- cyberstalking or harassment (36.8%)
- receiving unwanted violent or pornographic content (28.2%)
- threats or blackmail (28.2%)
The research warned that frontline services supporting women experiencing abuse are at risk of being outrun by the fast pace of technology.
It also found help and support services for women were often fragmented, and mostly available only during working hours.
The research was commissioned to help inform the development of a new 24/7 secure platform – Minerva. It will help women take control of their digital spaces, signpost them to support, and help collate and report evidence of online and offline abuse to police.
SWGfL , which operates helplines for victims of online abuse, saw the need for a central platform to counter such abuse and SWGfL’s Revenge Porn helpline manager, Sophie Mortimer said: “Women who use our helpline tell us that those perpetrating abuse are increasingly using technology and digital platforms. The ability to weaponise technology outpaces not just the support services, but law enforcement too. The rise of online abuse is particularly overwhelming as it can lead to perpetrator omnipresence.”
Minerva is being developed by the charitable trust, South West Grid for Learning (SWGfl), in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), funded by the Tampon Tax Fund. It will be launched in March 2023.
Sophie added, “The research shows more needs to be done to reduce the ‘normalisation’ of poor behaviour and abuse of women online.”
For media enquiries contact Clair Chadwick, firstname.lastname@example.org M: 0753 194 8014
Notes to Editors
About South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL)
SWGfL is a charitable trust (charity number 1120354), with an international reputation working to ensure that everyone can benefit from technology, free from harm. Over 21 years old, the charity is responsible for award winning services, resources and campaigns as well as operating four Helplines that each support victims of differing online harms. It works with various Government Departments both at home and abroad and has addressed conferences across Europe, America and Africa.
SWGfL, alongside partners Childnet and Internet Watch Foundation, lead the UK Safer Internet Centre. The Centre is the national awareness centre and is responsible for raising the nation’s attention to online safety issues as well as managing online criminal content and supporting professionals and the public via its unique helpline and reporting platform.
Minerva is a secure platform for victims to report and remove harmful or inappropriate online content.
The project is led by the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), funded by the Tampon Tax Fund.
The platform is also being developed with law enforcement in mind as it will create a timeline of events, log reporting activity and time and date of incidents of abuse, both online and offline.
It will also provide advice, direction and signpost to appropriate and relevant support services.
Minerva will be launched in March 2023.