Report shines light on tech-facilitated coercive control

Content type
Media release

June 2023

A new practice guide released by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) aims to shine a light on technology-facilitated coercive control – and dispel the myth that victims withdrawing from technology lessens the impact.

Technology-facilitated coercive control includes accessing accounts without permission, harassment on social media, publishing private or sexual content without consent, threats sent via SMS, and stalking using GPS data.

The evidence-based resource will help practitioners – including social workers and psychologists working in the child and family sector – to recognise the signs of technology-facilitated coercive control and use strategies to support victims.

Project lead, Dr Jasmine MacDonald from AIFS, said that until now there has been a tendency to advise women who are being abused or controlled online to stop using technology, which can be counterproductive.

'Switching off or deleting accounts may not improve safety as some perpetrators make up for this loss of control by becoming more aggressive or violent in person,' Dr MacDonald said.

'It is important to place the responsibility on the perpetrator and not expect victim-survivors to be disconnected from friends and family.  

'There are also circumstances, such as shared parenting, where women are not able to stop using digital communication completely, so another option must be found,” Dr MacDonald said.  

Dr MacDonald said health and social services professionals may come into contact with women and children impacted by technology-facilitated coercive control without realising it and so it is important to be knowledgeable in this area and offer tangible support to victims.

'People experiencing technology-facilitated coercive control are also likely to be experiencing stalking, physical abuse and sexual abuse,” Dr MacDonald said.

'Victim-survivors currently have limited ability to seek support because they are being constantly monitored.'

AIFS Research Director, Dr Rae Kaspiew, said although policy-makers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of technology-facilitated coercive control, and some states are taking steps to criminalise it, there is still a knowledge gap.

'Because behaviours build up over time or are ‘explained away’ by perpetrators, some women may not even realise that what they are experiencing is coercive control,' Dr Kaspiew said.

'The more health and other professionals that are upskilled in this area, the greater the likelihood that women will have a safe place to report, and to mitigate the impact of controlling behaviour.'

Although anyone could be impacted by technology-facilitated coercive control, research suggests that women from migrant backgrounds, women with disabilities and women living in regional, rural or remote areas may be at elevated risk.

Technology-facilitated coercive control can result in the victim-survivor being isolated from family and friends; experiencing stress, fear or anxiety; becoming more dependent on the perpetrator and less able to seek help from police, health providers, family or friends; having reduced confidence and self-esteem; and being at increased risk of self-harm.

The practice guide is part of a broader evidence package on coercive control. It was developed in partnership with six practitioners, service leaders and researchers who are expert in domestic and family violence.

See the full practice guide: Technology-facilitated coercive control

AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them.

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]