Charity Awards 2024


Developing solutions to abuse perpetrated using technology

In 2017, Refuge analysed its data and identified from case workers’ records that women were increasingly seeking help as survivors of domestic abuse perpetrated through technology. Tech abuse takes multiple forms, including stalking via mobile phone trackers and online harassment. It can be distressing and relentless, and outside agencies often lack the skills and knowledge to help.

Many of the women the charity worked with in 2017 had been told to disconnect from technology to stay safe, an unacceptable and unrealistic solution in a tech-driven society, especially if it means survivors become isolated from support networks. Refuge also identified a strong link between tech and economic abuse.

RefugeTherefore, it planned to develop a dedicated team that could directly support survivors, research trends and design solutions for both survivors and frontline workers supporting survivors in other Refuge services, as well as using research and expertise to advocate for changes to technology policy and legislation. To achieve this, it needed new specialist staff and resources.

Since then, Refuge’s pioneering ‘Tech Team’ has directly helped 2,815 women experiencing tech and/or economic abuse, across the UK. In 2021-22, 96% of women said they felt safer when they left the service and 99% were confident about where to access help.

The positive impact of the work, and additional demand, has enabled Refuge to grow the team to 11 people. It has created an up-to-date, accessible tech safety website with resources to help survivors stay safe online. Over one year it had over 25,000 unique visitors.

Refuge has also trained over 500 frontline staff to recognise and respond appropriately to tech and economic abuse concerns, and has used learning from the Tech Team’s work to influence the Online Safety Bill.

Charity Awards judge Richard Hawkes said that all the judges in the category had scored the application highly, and it was obvious why: “This project is innovative, it’s interesting, it’s scalable, there was good reach, and it was value for money.”

CC Reg no. 277424