This report presents findings and conclusions from a needs assessment conducted at the end of 2020 to determine how crime survivors and their communities have experienced “tech abuse” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The implications of the responses from just over 1,000 victim service providers provide insight into troubling trends in the misuse of technology to harm and control survivors while also promising new approaches to increase access to services, safety, justice, and healing for crime victims. The survey found that the most common types of tech abuse are harassment, limiting access to technology, and surveillance, which have apparently increased during the pandemic. Phones, social media, and messaging were the technologies most often used as a tactic of tech abuse. Internet of Things (loT) devices, next-generation location trackers, and other emerging technologies are increasingly being used in tech abuse. On the other hand, survivors’ lack of access to technology, sometimes called the “Digital Divide,” is a barrier to survivors in accessing services, legal support, courts, and other services and social supports. Although victim service providers expanded services through video, text, and chat during the pandemic, most found that traditional phone service or meeting in person (with health precautions) remained as essential strategies. The overall conclusion from the survey is that technology can amplify abusive experiences while expanding the frequency and effectiveness of services to survivors. Appendixes provide references and copies of the questionnaires for the Advocates’ Survey and the Legal Systems Professionals’ Survey.