Gloucestershire's PCC to tackle worrying rise in tech-facilitated domestic abuse

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More people need to be aware of the dangers of technology as domestic abuse perpetrators are increasingly using it to control their victims, warns Gloucestershire's PCC.

It comes as one woman says her ex-husband stalked her every move using cameras and trackers.

Digital devices like mobile phones and laptops have been a lifeline for many during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, when they are used by abusers as tools to trap and manipulate their victims, they can have harmful consequences.

Martin Surl, Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This type of crime is an abuse of the technology which has been so essential to us all during lockdown.

"We have all relied on video calls and social media to stay connected or to work safely from home, but to see it used as a weapon is concerning issue, which deserves more awareness.”

It started with the introduction of mobile phones and got worse as technology advanced.

Throughout September Mr Surl is working with the county's police officers and support organisations to help people spot the signs of tech abuse and know where to get help.


Elizabeth Watkins, from Stroud, told ITV West Country her late ex-husband of almost two decades used cameras and trackers to follow her every move.

The technology was the big thing that kept me trapped because it meant I couldn't do anything without him knowing.

Elizabeth Watkins

Their family home was filled with CCTV so Elizabeth's ex husband could see everything she was doing. She says he persistently called her and looked at her internet history.

"I knew he checked the history of where I'd been looking so even if it had come to mind to seek help, I wouldn't have done", she explains.

Is this how you feel? See a list of support organisations below.

If you live in Gloucestershire, visit GDASS or call the National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Elizabeth's husband put CCTV in their family home.

Elizabeth was aware of the many ways in which her husband was controlling her through technology, but others can be more covert in their methods, according to the police.

Victoria Brinton, a Cyber Protect Officer at Gloucestershire Constabulary, says people need to ensure their phones are secure.

If not, Ms Brinton says, "Someone could install tracking apps to see where you’ve been; find out about your finances through banking apps; read private messages and emails; and could even listen to the things you’ve been saying to digital assistants like Google or Alexa."

Here are just some of the signs to look out for:

  • Persistent calls, texts or messages from a partner/abuser

  • Threats from a partner/abuser to publish information about you online such as screenshots of messages or photos of you

  • A partner/abuser knowing about conversations you have had without being present

  • A partner/abuser turns up unexpectedly wherever you go

  • Partner/abuser installs tracking apps such as 'find my iPhone' on your devices

To view an extensive list of tech abuse signs, visit Refuge.

Gloucestershire's police force has put together a checklist to help people who think they may be experiencing some form of tech abuse:

  • Use long and unique passwords for every account you have

  • Avoid obvious password choices like pets' names, family names, places, etc.

  • Check your passwords haven't been compromised -

  • Use two-factor authentication apps to add security to your accounts

  • Review social media settings to check what it being shared with who

  • Avoid telling users where you are by not tagging locations in photos

  • Make sure smart home devices are not linked to an account someone else can access

  • Change your internet banking password if you believe a partner/abuser might know it

  • Be wary of texts or emails that look as if they could be from your bank - they could be phishing attempts to get personal information

If you, or anyone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse there is a lot of help and support out there. Sites like Women's Aid, Refuge and Hestia all have options to leave the site quickly should you need to.

You can call the National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Other sources of support include: