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  • Kenisha Ferreira

Event Report: Technology-Facilitated Abuse in Domestic and Family Violence Situations

Date: Thursday, 11 August 2022

Time: 1:00pm – 2:30pm AEDT

Venue: Zoom Webinar

Speaker: Leonie Burnham and Paula Smith (eSafety Women)

Price: Free


About the Presenter:

Leonie Burnham is the Program Manager – Capacity Building with eSafety Women. Leonie has many years of experience working in direct service across several sectors. Leonie has managed diverse programs in a community legal setting including legal advice and legal education for marginalised members of community. Leonie has steered many projects working with community leaders from diverse backgrounds to raise awareness of the barriers vulnerable communities experience when trying to access support services and social justice. Leonie has developed and delivered many training packages across a variety of settings including prevention programs for peer mentos, professional development as well as governance in community agencies. Most recently, Leonie worked with a peak body in the family violence sector to implement a recommended initiative from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. Working with state government, private security industry and specialist family violence sector, Leonie has a depth of understanding of the impact of abuse by technology on victim survivors of family violence and the impact of the huge work demand on frontline workers.


On Thursday the 11th of August, the Family Law Pathways Network Greater Melbourne ran a webinar on Technology-Facilitated Abuse in Domestic and Family Violence Situations. The event involved Leonie Burnham speaking about the prevalence of abuse against women facilitated through technology and the role of the eSafety Commission. The webinar included specialised training and resources for practitioners to build knowledge and skills to better support their clients and improve online safety policy development, practice and risk assessment.

Commencing the presentation, Leonie spoke about reportable online issues such as cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse and how technology is used as a tool to exert power and control over people, especially victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. Leonie gave an overview of the Online Safety Act 2021 which brought into effect the Adult Cyber Abuse Scheme. Adult cyber abuse is an extreme form of online harm targeting a particular adult. The scheme allows Australians to report to the eSafety Commissioner to request the take-down of content that is intended to cause serious harm and is menacing, harassing or offensive in all the circumstances. This includes intimate images or videos shared online without the consent of the person shown.

Leonie discussed the importance of using the correct term for instances of image-based abuse, to ensure that there is no implied fault on the part of the victim. For women in domestic or family violence situations, image-based abuse can be quite prevalent. It is also important to acknowledge that an intimate image includes showing a person without their religious or cultural attire.

Leonie spoke of the gender-based lens that eSafety Women bring to the work that they have been doing. This is an acknowledgement of the fact that more than two-thirds of complaints of adult cyber abuse come from women. eSafety Women also considers the intersectionality of women, such as CALD women who often have spousal visas, language barriers and low digital literacy which inhibits their access to assistance. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women may be more at risk due to the close social networks and kinship structures which allow for the sharing of devices and passwords. Women with intellectual or cognitive disabilities are also susceptible to ‘mate crimes’ and the tampering of assistive devices.

The eSafety Commission also seeks to elevate and protect women’s voices online through the Women in the Spotlight program. This is aimed at assisting women experiencing online abuse as part of their work lives.

Leonie highlighted the importance of services and practitioners being able to identify cycles of abuse and red flags in order to intervene early on. As technology-facilitated abuse can quickly lead to abuse, humiliation and isolation there is a need for support workers to be trained in the high-risk factors. Leonie shared Patrice’s story as an example of this, which may be viewed here.

To conclude the session, Leonie covered some of the red flags to consider in practice and shared resources that practitioners should provide to their clients to ensure their own safety.

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