How to support clients exposed to technology-facilitated coercive control

How to support clients exposed to technology-facilitated coercive control

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Welcome everybody to today’s webinar, How to  Support Clients Exposed to Technology-Facilitated   Coercive Control. I’m Dr Jasmine B. MacDonald.  I’m a senior research officer in the Child and   Family Evidence and Evaluation team here at AIFS,  the Australian Institute of Family Studies.   I’d like to start by acknowledging the  Wurundjeri, Woi Wurrung and the Bunurong   people of the Kulin Nations, who are the  traditional owners of the lands in Melbourne,   where I’m speaking to you from. Also, I’d like  to pay my respects to elders past, present,   and emerging, and I’d like to extend that respect  to Indigenous Australians joining us today.   So, today we are focussing on tech-facilitated  coercive control, and this is the use of digital   media technologies to coercively control  a current or former intimate partner,   or also children as well, and we’ll unpack  the difference there in our webinar today.  

In tech-facilitated coercive control,  technology is a means to extend perpetrators   ability to monitor and maintain surveillance,  harass, threaten and shame victim survivors,   to manipulate their social relationships,  and to ensure compliance with demands.   So, today we are going to discuss international  research, literature on tech-facilitated coercive   control, we’re going to draw on our own  AIFS evidence synthesis in this space,   as well as have original research exploration  that’s been conducted by Dr Evita March. Evita   is a senior lecturer of cyber psychology at  Federation University. And one of her areas   of expertise is online intimate partner  violence, including cyber stalking,   and cyber dating abuse, amongst other things.  So, welcome Evita, thank you for joining us.   The first practice issue that we’re going  to unpack today, is supporting young people   experiencing tech-facilitated coercive  control. Guiding us in that discussion,  

we have Niamh O’Connor. Niamh is a currently a  counsellor with the Therapeutic Services Team at   Relationships Australia, Canberra in region. Her  previous role was group facilitator for the Got   Your Back Program, which is a program for young  people aged 12 to 25, who’ve been impacted by   family and domestic violence. So, welcome Niamh. Finally, we want to unpack this aspect of the   requirement increasingly for services to provide  some support in an online context, because this   creates a kind of unique risk survivors  of tech-facilitated coercive control. So,   to unpack this issue, we’re joined by Kristen  Poel, the Regional Services Manager at Better   Place Australia. So, Kristen has managed the  delivery of family and children counselling  

services, as well as family dispute resolution.  She has a particular interest in the impact   of tech in the context of family violence.  So, welcome Kristen, thanks for joining us.   It’s lovely to have the three of you here. So, for those of you joining us for the webinar   today, we’ve used the registration questions  that you’ve sent through, to develop a focus   of our discussion today. And broadly, there was  a really nice overlap in the kinds of things that  

you’re interested, and wanted to know about,  with what we were already planning to discuss.   And we’ve made some tweaks along the way, to make  sure that it reflects what you’re interested in.   And we want to acknowledge as well, the  particular appreciation that we have for   the role of people with lived experience, and  practitioners with lived experience, the role   that you play in advocacy, and the development  of practice approaches. So, thank you.   Okay, now what you want to hear, actually from our  esteemed guests here today. If it’s okay Evita,  

I’d really like to start with you. So, I remember  when we were first having discussions around this   topic, you mentioned that the research space is  muddy, and I thought that might be a really nice   place for us to start – what do you mean by that,  and what should people be thinking about?   Thanks, Jas. So, technology-facilitated  coercive control, wherein coercion and abuse   are enacted by a new technology, such as social  media and smartphones, it’s still an emerging   field of research. And technology-facilitated  coercive control often co-occurs and shares   a reciprocal relationship with offline or  face-to-face forms of coercive control.   Now, research has largely explored both online  and offline coercive control simultaneously,   and this is where it gets a bit muddy. By  exploring these two forms simultaneously, it is  

somewhat difficult to then discuss the research  on technology-facilitated coercive control,   without referring to the broader coercive control  literature. So, that technology-facilitated form,   has largely been captured in the  broader coercive control literature.   So, the research is somewhat muddy and unclear,  as definitions and measurement of coercive   control vary considerably. And to give you  an idea of just how much variation exists,   one study identified 22 different measures  of coercive control in the literature.  

That means, that in the research, coercive  control is being defined and measured in   many different ways – 22 different ways to  be exact, and that’s just what we know of.   And this is problematic for researchers,  as such variability impacts the   consistency and validity of findings. So, there’s a range of limitations facing   researchers of technology-facilitated coercive  control. Ideally, identifying potential risk   factors of this behaviour occurring in  relationships, would assist tremendously   in developing early intervention, and prevention  programs. But this can be really challenging as   we are assessing a covert behaviour, that  people may not be particularly honest about   either perpetrating or experiencing. So, this  further compounds the fact that even some people   might not even be aware that the behaviour  they’re experiencing is coercive control.  

So, the research, to summarise, is muddy,  because of variabilities in definition,   variability in measurement, but the variability  and people even identifying their experience.   It’s interesting and therefore kind of challenging  for listeners then, especially those of us that   might be new to this space, 22 different  definitions. I want to come back to some of   those challenges, but I want to throw to you  then from a positive perspective, that means   there’s a lot of opportunity, right? What do you  see are some key areas for opportunity here?   It does mean that there is a great amount  of opportunity, and I think one of the best   opportunities there is, is by subsuming  technology-facilitated coercive control   in the broader literature. Whilst that might  be problematic and perhaps obscure and muddy,   direct observation of technology-facilitated  coercive control, that means that there’s   a lot of research to be done. So, research is  still compiling a comprehensive understanding   of how abusers use technology to coerce  and control their victim survivors.   Now, some understanding has been built,  for example the power and control wheel   used by practitioners to understand and identify  intimate partner violence, has been adopted for   technology-facilitated intimate partner violence,  including examples of online coercive control.  

And Jas, I would just like to flag  with the audience that an example,   that wheel is supplied as one of the  handouts, so the audience can refer to that.   Now, one opportunity for research, is to use this  technology-facilitated power and control wheel,   as a guide when exploring online forms of coercive  control. And this could assist the development   of a reliable and valid measure of coercive  control, that’s adopted widely by researchers.  

Other opportunities include further building  the psychological profile of who is likely to   perpetrate technology-facilitated coercive  control, and who is likely to be at risk   of experiencing such abuse. For example, in  collaboration with a research student this year,   we found that insecure forms of attachment styles,   and dysregulation of emotions, were associated  with greater perpetration of coercive control.   So, a good opportunity for future research, is  to actually take findings regarding perpetration   and experience of coercive control, and  extrapolate that to the online environment,   does it look the same. So, such findings could  be reassessed in relation to technology.   Another direction for research in this area  is DIAD reports. Typically, research exploring   abuse in relationships, may focus on either the  perpetrator or the victim survivor’s experience.  

And DIAD reports from both parties, so both those  who may perpetrate the technology-facilitated   coercive control, but also the victim survivors,  would provide a more comprehensive picture   of the experience. Jasmine B MacDonald   That’s really interesting, and I think we  need to make sure that we are doing that in   terms of responsibility, right? And we don’t  want to just focus on victim survivors – and   that means that any implications drawn  from this is just focussed on them,   instead of placing responsibility on perpetrators.   So, that’s a really interesting point. What else do you think are the key things  

you’d point out for intrepid  explorers in this space?   Good question. A broad one, apologies.   That’s all right! There are a few recommendations  that I would say. So, firstly, I am also going to   highlight for intrepid explorers that –  and as you’ve just noted yourself, Jas,   it is really important, actually, to not just  focus on the experience of victim survivors   as well, but to get a more comprehensive  understanding, both those experience it,   but also those who may engage in the behaviour.  And even for different age cohorts – may not be   necessarily aware of what – the behaviour they  are perpetrating. And I think Niamh will talk   perhaps a bit more about different age cohorts. So, some guides for intrepid explorers, perhaps  

challenges. Firstly, to ensure some level of  consistency in approaches, I recommend awareness   of the three facets of online and offline coercive  control, as identified by research. So, the first   facet of online and offline coercive control, is  that the behaviour is intentional. And so, that   intentionality that they are intending to engage  in the behaviour, that is an important component.   The second facet is that there is a negative  perception of the behaviour by the victim   survivor. And thirdly, the abuse the abuser is  able to obtain that control through deployment  

of a credible threat. So, the threats that  they make, that coercion threat is credible.   It’s also really important to be aware,  that coercive control may not present   as a singular incident. Coercive control is,  and technology-facilitated coercive control,   is a pervasive pattern of behaviour. And so,  only looking for singular incidents of abuse  

that occurs online, will narrow the scope of  research, and the scope of the full experience.   Further, intrepid explorers should also be aware,  that technology-facilitated coercive control,   may differ across diverse groups, such as age,  culturally and linguistically diverse groups,   and gender identity diverse groups. So, for  example, we cannot assume that the experience   of technology-facilitated coercive control, is  the same across age cohorts. It’s very likely,   that adolescents and emerging adults, enact  and experience different technology forms   of coercive control, compared to  their older adult counterparts.   And these are really important points  Evita, because these kind of diverse   groups are yet to adequately be explored  in research, like you’re saying. So,  

perhaps this is something that we’ll unpack  a little bit, absolutely the experience for   young people compared to adults. But it  is yeah, an ongoing discussion – I think   we need to learn from practice wisdom, and  start exploring that more in research.   Okay, amazing. Thank you for getting us started.  Already a lot that quite meaty there. So,  

I want to take this chance to throw to  our two practitioners, Niamh and Kristen,   and just get you to reflect in terms of that  set-up that Evita’s done for us with research.   Maybe starting with you first, Niamh? How does  that kind of sit with your experience in practice   of what tech-facilitated coercive control  looks like, or some of the key issues?   Thanks, Jas. And thanks Evita for that really good  set-up, and kind of graininess in the research.   Yeah, I think that the practice experience  that I have of seeing technology-facilitated   coercive control play out, is very much in line  with what Evita was talking about in terms of   the co-occurrence of technology-facilitated  coercive control, and a broader pattern of   coercive control, and other domestic and family  violence kind of tactics used by a perpetrator.   So, when we’re thinking about  technology-facilitated coercive   control and what you’ll see in practice,  you won’t just see behaviour limited to the   online environment, you will see that behaviour  extend into face-to-face interactions as well.   But knowing that, I guess technology, seeing  technology as a vehicle for coercive control is   important. So, it allows that coercive control  and that kind of influence of the perpetrator,  

to become significantly more pervasive, and  difficult to escape for the victim survivor. So,   being online allows such greater access to  victim survivors – makes it very difficult   for victim survivors to kind of,  escape that pattern of control.   So, I think in terms of practice, it’s really  important that we’re putting that lens of   the online world onto all of our practice and work  in the domestic and family violence space. So,  

being mindful, that in all of the  presentations that we’re seeing, there   may be an online aspect to this, and asking the  right questions to explore that a little more.   And then I guess in particular around  young people’s experiences, which I’ll   kind of speak to a little bit later, there  definitely is that sense of the blurriness of   what is normal teenage behaviour with their peers,  and in intimate partner relationships – but also   parents, in terms of their parents’ interactions  with them around technology. So, what kind of goes   from normal teenage behaviour, into what we may  be concerned about in terms of coercive control.   So, it definitely speaks back to that point  from Evita around the intentionality of the   behaviour, around the negative perception  by the victim survivor, and around the   credible threat. So, really understanding where  behaviour shifts from normal into concern for   your young person being at risk of abuse,  is really around those three things:   how they’re perceiving it, whether it’s a  credible threat or not, and the intention   of the perpetrator. Thanks, Niamh. The complexity of  

experience for the victim survivor, then obviously  translates to complexity for practice. So yeah,   thank you for that. Kristen did you have  anything you wanted to add there?   Thanks, Jas. And thanks to Evita and Niamh for  leading us in. I guess I’m imaging most of us are   here today, and who are engaging in this webinar,  are not specialist family violence services. So,  

for most, some of our clients engaging in  our organisations, this maybe the first   time they’ve used a service that would ask  them about violence, or forms of abuse. So,   they would never have had a conversation about  the behaviours of a perpetrator towards them,   or the actual behaviours of the perpetrator’s  behaviours towards a victim survivor.   So, what could be considered healthy and unhealthy  behaviours in a relationship, and what could   be considered normative. So, looking at strong  assessment and understanding of risk indicators,  

are really important factors for organisations. Also looking at, victim survivors may only just   be considering that how impacted they have been  by coercive control behaviours by a perpetrator,   and understanding and developing as organisation  supports for those people, and what they need   to consider in their digital footprint in  our current world and what they may mean.   And just to reiterate what Evita  and Niamh have talked about as well,   coercive controlling behaviours are unlikely  to have only just been used in the technology   space. And talking with clients, there are  generally indicators for coercive control   behaviours that are outside technology, in  the real face-to-face human as such world.   But my experience in the area with practitioners,  is that kind of picking up on risk indicators   through engagement in clients, important to be  able to name behaviours that are concerning with   clients. And some of the behaviours that we could  be talking about, could be using technology to   track whereabouts, using tracking devices to  monitor locations, sending excessive amounts   of voice calls or texts or snaps, or whatever  that particular platform people are using. Even  

denying access to being able to use technology,  as a means of isolating, as well as sharing   intimate and private pictures of a person via  online. And this is in no way an extensive list,   but just a touch on some indicators of  concerns that we would be addressing.   Absolutely. It’s really useful for those  as you say, non-specialists in the room,   to start thinking about what some  of these behaviours might look like,   absolutely. Thank you, Kristen. All right, I’d like us to shift our  

discussion to our first practice issue, and  lean more heavily in this part on you, Niamh.   Your work has been with young people, and  the literature on tech-facilitated coercive   control really tends to focus on adults, and  it really tends to focus on the context of   intimate partner violence, what’s happening  in a romantic or an intimate relationship.   But through our work together, the things  you’ve pointed out around the difference of   experience of a young person, perhaps within  that context of intimate partner violence,   but also that they often may be experiencing  tech-facilitated coercive control,   or coercive control more broadly from the parent  relationship, and how that impacts them.   So, let’s tease those out. Let’s start  first with your experience around young   people and tech-facilitated coercive  control in a relationship context.   Thank you, Jas. I just want to kind of say, before  I start into this, that I guess what we’ll talk  

about is applicable to clients of all ages.  So, this might be things that you see in older   clients as well. So, for those of you that don’t  work with young people, don’t switch off, this is   all transferable knowledge and information. But  yeah, I will kind of talk about it from a young  

person’s perspective specifically. And yeah, I think just as I said,   technology allows the perpetrator of coercive  control, to create an environment where they’re   ever-present with the victim survivor. So, I guess  how that might look for a young person, maybe I’ll   give you an example of a young woman that  I’ve worked with, that might come help to   visualise what this might look like. So, this young woman was in a relationship with  

her ex-partner, and the ways that he was using  technology to create that everlasting presence   with her, was around monitoring her location at  all times. So, young people particularly do this   a lot through Snapmaps, a feature of Snapchat  where they can see each other’s location.   He would regularly Facetime with  her, and ask her to show him,   span her camera across the room, so he could  see where she was and who she was with. So,   that kind of escalation of that behaviour of  jealousy and controlling, “Who are you with? Well,   I’m going to Facetime you so you can  show me exactly who’s in the room.”   And this was a feature in her relationship,  and a feature I’ve seen in other relationships,   where sharing passwords becomes kind of almost  a next step in the relationship, an indicator   of our seriousness, we now share passwords with  each other as a sign of trust. But obviously in   this relationship, that left her very vulnerable  to his monitoring her messaging and activity   on her social media, and in her emails. Kind of puts the onus on her, right. Like, “If you  

have nothing to hide, then why would you not share  with me?” Yeah, that’s pretty problematic.   Yeah, absolutely. And then I guess in terms of  when she did decide to leave this relationship,   and did have the conversation  with him about breaking-up,   we saw an escalation of that  controlling behaviour. So,   that’s again something really common that people  familiar working with domestic violence will know,   that leaving the relationship time is often time  of highest risk, and the time where there’s an   escalation. And it’s the same kind of pattern  in technology-facilitated coercive control.  

So, the kind of tech side, the online side  ramped-up then at that stage, the kind of   monitoring of her. She would block him on one  channel, and he would create a new account to   get back in touch with her via that new account.  He would use a different platform, she would stop   communicating on Snapchat, so he would start to  communicate on Instagram. So, there was all the   different kind of use of different accounts and  different platforms, and fake accounts to kind   of monitor her without her knowledge, that  this was actually him behind the account.   So, lots of different ways that technology  can come into play. And particularly as I  

said for young people, because it’s  so intertwined with their life and   how they interact with each other, it really is  something that they are quite vulnerable to.   So, I guess it might be helpful at  this stage to extrapolate from that,   examples to think about broader tips for people  online today about what they might look for,   or how they might work with a client, particularly  a young person, or any client around this.   So, I think it’s really important to say  that nowadays, asking a young person to not   use technology, or at any days, asking a young  person not to engage in intimate relationships,   is kind of asking a fish to breathe out  of water – this is not really going to   happen. So, it’s important to be  realistic about what young people   need in their lives, and how they need to interact  with their peers. So, technology isn’t all bad for   young people, but it’s really important that  we are trying to prevent this by educating   young people on the warning signs, and on safe  technology use. So, around what is a healthy   relationship, and how do I keep myself safe  online, and how they interact with each other.  

So, the eSafety Commissioner’s website has some  really brilliant resources around guides for   parents, guides for young people about safe  online behaviours. For anyone getting kind   of lost in the world of all the new apps and  social medias, they have a brilliant list of   apps that explains what they’re used for,  and how maybe people might be vulnerable to   abuse on those apps, which is really helpful. I guess if you are concerned about   this behaviour for a young person that you  are working with, I encourage you to raise   the conversation with gentle curiosity. So, you  could even say, “I attended a webinar and heard   some interesting things, and I’m wondering  if that might be what’s happening for you.”   And like with all victim survivors, it’s very  important to be led by them – they are the   experts in their own safety. So, it might not  be as simple as turning off your location. I  

know for the young woman I worked with, when  she would turn off her location on Snapmaps,   there would be this escalation in contact,  phone blowing up, “Where are you, why have you   turned off your location, what’s wrong?” And then  possibly a shift into kind of an online risk, so   he would come around to the house to check, “Where  are you, why have you turned off your location?”   So, understanding it’s not that simple to kind  of just switch off from these technologies,   and being guided by them around what they know  or feel will keep them safe, and supporting   them to navigate this in a really sensitive  way. And then if they do decide to leave,   supporting them to take steps to change passwords,  and block accounts, all that sort of stuff. So,   it’s an ongoing conversation about your safety  online, and your safety in your relationship.   Some really good points, Niamh. I’m wondering  now, can we compare that kind of practice   context to what changes, or what do you  see different when the tech-facilitated   coercive control is coming from parents? Yeah. Well, again, this is a space where   understanding the context, and how power is being  used, and what the intention is, is important. So,  

it’s very normal and appropriate for parents  to have limits around their children and young   people’s use of technology. Most parents do,  and as they should. But I guess the line where   the purpose is to control, dominate, threaten,  humiliate, intimidate, that’s a line that we need   to pay attention to, when we are thinking about  young people and children as direct victims of   tech-facilitated coercive control. As well as  obviously the pattern of behaviour that this   fits into, so remembering that tech-facilitated  coercive control doesn’t occur in a vacuum.   So, again I’ll talk you through an  example of what that might look like,   and then build on some points that  people might find helpful as tips.   So, I’ll give you the example of a mother that  I worked with through the Got Your Back Program,   who had separated from her partner, because of  longstanding domestic and family violence issues.  

They shared custody of their children through  orders of the Family Court. So, the children went   between her home and her ex-partner’s home. She had set-up her older child’s phone,   but the children’s’ father had bought a phone  for their younger child and had set that up. And  

a few months after that, she started to get a bit  concerned – she began to notice that her partner   was, knew details about what was happening in her  home, or where she and the children had been, and   she couldn’t understand why, or how he got that  information. So, we discussed the concerns, and   we supported her to engage with a group called The  Protective Group, and they are a group that have   expertise around online safety, and they supported  her to conduct some safety screenings around the   children’s phones. They were very delicate and  domestic violence informed in how they did that,   and made sure that that was done without alerting  the children’s father to what was being done.   But in the screening of their phones, they did  find that because their children’s father had   set up the phone under his own Apple ID, he had  access to the location of the phone, he had access   to the information about the apps that were being  used, the time that was spent on the apps, and   had the ability to monitor a lot of activity on  that phone. So, that was then putting the mother   and the children, while they were  with their mother, at risk of harm.   So, this is quite a common scenario – we’ll  often see the children be used as vehicles for   surveillance and stalking behaviour, and it’s  obviously quite concerning, because it leaves   the children in a really difficult position. So, again, tips for people who are dealing with  

situations like this. Again, be guided by  the victim survivor, they know how to keep   themselves safe, and they are the experts in their  situation. So, understanding that in this case,   when The Protective Group did the screen,  they didn’t change anything on the phone,   they just gave her that information. because  changing anything on the phone would have alerted   dad and caused an escalation of violence. So, she  was given a report that was written that she will   take to the police when she decides it’s safe to  do so. But she’s mindful that her children spend   half their time with this person, so she doesn’t  want to escalate the violence so that her children   are at risk when she’s not around. So, she’s  able to make those decisions very safely, and  

supporting her to do that is really our role. Engaging with specialist services like The   Protective Group is really helpful, so being able  to do screens on technology, to do screens of   vehicles for trackers, to do screens of homes for  cameras or surveillance devices is very helpful.   And then obviously educating clients on warning  signs. So, again, the eSafety Commissioner’s   website has a good list of warning signs,  information that they should know, things   that they should look out for, and help supporting  clients to be aware of that, and recognising maybe   if they’re starting to say, “Oh, my partner  has information, and I’m not sure how they go   it.” Or “I’ve clicked into my phone and something  strange is happening, suddenly my passwords aren’t   working.” Listening for things like that, and  picking up that maybe that might be a sign.  

Yeah, thank you for highlighting those points,  Niamh. And the program that practitioners can   access services like Protection Group,  is Safer in the Home, is that right?   Yes. So, Protective Group work independently,  but they also work with the Salvation Army on   a program called Safer in the Home. And that’s  a free program accessible across all states and   territories. So again, yeah, they’ll do different  levels of tech screening and tech assessments,  

depending on what is going on for the victim  survivor. And they’ll also support the victim   survivors to stay safe in the home, by doing  things like paying for changes of locks,   paying for security cameras to be installed around  the home, sensor lights, anything that could help   victim survivors and their children to stay safe,  without fear of any physical violence or threats,   or stalking around their home. All right, thank you. So, we’ve set   our research context, and now we’ve laid  over that, that there can be differences in   the experience of tech-facilitated coercive  control, or coercive control more broadly,   in terms of the experience from within the family  more broadly when it’s parents, or when it’s in an   intimate partner context. And we want to shift  now a little bit, you can see we’re kind of   picking at multiple threads, because this is a  complex space. But wanting to provide a broader  

view of the kinds of things that you might be  considering, or coming across in your practice.   So, I kind of want to now lean more on  you Kristen in this discussion, around the   different contexts in which practitioners are  working with clients. So, it would be nice if   we could talk a little bit about your experience  – you could kind of set that context up for us,   of the context that you are working within.  And maybe starting with some insights you have   of face-to-face work, and then maybe we could  shift to thinking about, what are some of the   unique risks with tele-practice as well? Absolutely, thanks Jas. Technology is moving   so quickly, that our ability to understand  its impact, the new forms of surveillance,   new apps that can be hidden, are developed  every day. That means practitioners have no   way of being able to keep up with what are all  the possible means of abuse, that could occur,   and could be occurring in the future. And in saying that, perpetrators  

of this do not need a degree in IT to be able to  access means of technology-facilitated coercive   control. So, we now live in a world where, that  lends itself to a majority of the population   having access to a smartphone, which  is essentially a handheld computer.   And the general population, I guess  has had a pretty big crash course in   digital literacy over the past three  years, with COVID, and our move to   different forms of engaging with our family, with  services, with other people. Which has really   shown some nuances around security  of engagement in the digital world.  

So, the fallout from that in the sense of COVID,  is that the use of technology with our clients,   but also the abuse of technology  by perpetrators in this space. So,   as an organisation of Better Place Australia,  we were able to move to, and I don’t like to   say pivot, because that’s been overly used in the  last couple of years, but we’ve essentially moved   really quickly to delivering online services,  immediately after we were needing to move to work   from home when restrictions were put in place at  the start of COVID. We had systems in place that   we – well, we didn’t really have the understanding  or the guidelines on how to immediately   deliver a service that was safe to clients. So, the particular work we do at our organisation  

is varied, but the space that I work in, it is  family dispute resolution. So, we work with both   parents, we work with the carers of children,  we work with victim survivors, and we work with   perpetrators, in accessing our service. We look at mediation in this space, and so   we are needing two parties generally to engage  in this process. So, the particular work we do  

in family dispute resolution, does lend itself  to working with both sides of that coin,   of perpetrator and victim survivor.  So, we really needed some stringent,   an understanding of what that would mean. So, the role of a mediator in that space   is to assess the suitability for the mediation  process, and whether both parties are going to   engage in that, facilitate – and we facilitate  the safe conversation between parties. We also,  

a large part of our role is identifying  risk factors, and how that conversation   if it can occur, or what format that’s going  to occur in. So, is that a shuttle format.   So, I guess what else we know, is that family  violence research indicates that it’s a high-risk   time for people, at the time of separation. So,  we need to consider how we can engage with both   parties in a safe way, and COVID has given us some  opportunities to increase the safety of parties   engaging in different modes of Telehealth. So, however, just back to what you were asking   Jas, around in relation to when we are delivering  face-to-face appointments, and how we’ve been   able to increase the understanding of how we  can provide a safe environment for clients.   Previously, if we had to conduct a mediation where  there are indicators of risk, we would look at   parties attending the site at different times, so  someone would come early, someone would come a bit   later. They’d come in separate rooms, and they  would come in and out separate entrances. So,   while there was an aspect of a barrier between  the perpetrator and victim of family violence,   there is still a level of risk, that they  are in the same place at the same time.  

So, what we knew we could do, so I’ll go back  – we knew that at times, perpetrators could   turn up early, they could try and circumvent the  system and be in a carpark where they thought the   other person may be. But also, their behaviour  could escalate and put our clients at risk, and   our staff at risk as well. So therefore, instead  of continuing developing this model of separate   entrances, separate times, we really moved to  engaging in Telehealth, to be able to implement   a level of safety for those participating in  the process, and lessening the anxiety for those   participating in the process, knowing that the  other person isn’t in the building at that time.   However, when we’re engaging with a client  in face-to-face, and the client is attending   even an individual appointment, there were  some considerations we needed to make about,   discuss with them about their own digital  safety, and what that has meant.   So, we would talk to clients about, and  particularly given that often this is a   recent separation. So, some people may have  been separated for a period of time, this may   be a very recent separation for some. So, who has  access to devices or emails. So, organisations,  

and many of us do this, would send our appointment  confirmations or reminder letters via emails or   via texts. So, were the clients confident that  they were the only ones that had access to   this information? So, if they weren’t confident,  what referrals did we need to work with them on,   but also as an organisation, we would need to  consider how we would – do we need to turn off   our system for that client so they didn’t get  reminder texts of an appointment? Or did we need   to look at other options in communicating with  them, that wasn’t via that particular platform?   I guess other things we could consider  and have discussions with our clients   is around passwords. Because when we’re in  relationships as couples, passwords are shared,   and that is very often the case. And after  separation, and particularly when there   are risk factors, discussions with clients about  passwords being changed, is a very important time   to consider, and across a variety  of platforms. And because as humans,   we have got a tendency to use very similar  passwords across a multitude of platforms, and   we might mix up a number at the end, or a letter  at the start, or a capital here and there. So,  

they can, if you’ve engaged that, and the other  party may know, or the perpetrator may know what   that password is, that you need to really think  about changing passwords to something that is   remarkably different to what you’ve had before. I guess an example of this is case practice for   us as an organisation, is that we had a  father engaging in the assessment process   of family dispute resolution. And we had  identified there was some concerns about   perpetrating family violence, and some coercive  control behaviours. But this became very clear   during that session, when he attempted to engage  with the practitioner, in showing intimate photos   of his ex-partner that he had accessed via a  photo account that he was able to ascertain   the password for. And in this engagement of his  behaviour, it was really clear that this was an   attempt to shame the other party, and really  discredit the other party to the professional,   as a mother and as a human in this space. We see this pop-up especially in the US literature   Evita, right, the use of non-consensual  sharing of explicit images like that.  

Absolutely. And I think that’s a really  important point to make as well, in that   another way the research waters are muddied, is  the interchangeable use of terminology to refer   to what may have a very consistent cause. So, for  example, image-based sexual abuse, can often have   a coercive control component, threatening to  disseminate somebody’s sexual images online,   in an attempt to discredit them or whatever,  is a form of coercion. But these different   terms and terminology can muddy the waters,  in understanding what’s actually occurring.   Jasmine B MacDonald Absolutely, yeah. Okay Kristen, so   what about in terms of your service and experience  with working in tele-practice – I remember when   we’ve had a conversation before, there were real  pros and cons, of the strengths of being able to   engage more people, but then there’s the struggles  that come along with unique risks for people.  

Absolutely, thanks Jas. The increased use of  Telehealth has been a real game changer in   engaging with clients. So, it’s not about just  increasing the safety of our clients when being   able to use modality of Telehealth, but we’re also  able to increase access, we’re able to engage with   clients in rural and remote locations, we’re  able to engage with clients who have experienced   challenges in accessing services face-to-face. But what we have, has had some lessons on how to   increase protective measures for those clients.  So, there’s been some conversations we’ve had   to have. So, if we’re engaging a client in a  mediation session, then it may have been deemed  

appropriate that they would be able to do that via  Telehealth, and they may be able to see each other   via that Telehealth, as we can see each other in  this modality. But we want to talk to them about,   they would be in separate locations, so we’re not  talking about people who are sitting together,   that’s not a mediation process, that’s  with people who may be in their own homes,   or may be sitting with a support service  or another family member. But there are   some discussions we have to have with clients  about some protective measures in this space.   So, ensuring that whichever platform you are  particularly using, so whether it’s a Zoom   or a Teams, they often default to the name at  the bottom of the screen as your email address.  

So, if the other party doesn’t know your email  address, you’ve actually then just presented   right in front of them, an opportunity  for them to be able to access that. So,   just ensuring that you’ve been able to have a look  at what your screen may look like, and change any   identifying details in that space. So,  changing it to a simple first name, I would   recommend for people in those situations. Also considering the environment that you are   sitting when you’re engaging in a Telehealth  appointment. So, is there a window behind you,  

is there identifying street names  or landmarks. If you’re concerned,   if a victim survivor is concerned about the  perpetrator knowing where they are, then just   considering the references to geographical  locations as well. So, really simply, as if   we’re talking about engaging with that person and  talking about a supermarket on a particular road,   well they may know that’s where you shop. So, in the context of the work we do which   is quite interesting as well, it’s important  to discuss these considerations with a client,   so separated parents, if they have children  who are engaging with the other parent   via platforms such as Facetime, which many,  many do, and children can be the unintended   source of information for the perpetrator. So,  ensuring that you’ve once again, looked at the   scene behind where the child may be sitting, and  what’s identifiable, what’s in front of them –   school documents, school uniforms, those sorts of  things are really important to consider as well.   Another factor that’s come up recently that we  talk to our clients about, is that an increasing   issue, or increasing access for people using  home security cameras. So, they’re very DIY,  

they’re easy install, they are Wi-Fi, you can  pick them up and take them from one house to the   next. So, if someone has moved homes, you really  need to consider who has had access to that app   of that security camera previously, because there  are administration rights that sit under those,   and unless you’ve changed those, doesn’t  matter where you set-up the cameras,   people could be accessing that information. So, these are just a few, and certainly not   all considerations that we would be making,  in considering the impact of coercive control   in using technology in our sector. But I also need to reiterate the real   importance of referrals to specialised family  violence services, because as service providers,   we can’t be, and we shouldn’t be, all things to  all people. We have particular services that we   are specialised in, or that we provide. And  so, really engaging in specialist services  

to refer clients, and direct to those, and direct  support to those, I think is extremely important.   So, just to finish off this little area here  is, as an organisation, we recognise the need   for continual improvement on our knowledge and  understanding of coercive control, and what the   technology means in coercive control. So, for our  organisation in some ways that might be, what we   have done is committing to ongoing engagement in  evidence-based training for our staff, ongoing   clinical supervision that addresses these types of  issues, and really bolstering our service delivery   guidelines to address the nuances coercive  control brings to the impact of our clients.  

Absolutely. And it’s actually quite beautiful  to see the questions coming through,   and the responses, and the things that the  panel is describing, kind of ticking off the   questions as they come through. that’s a nice  indicator of maybe a bit of symmetry between   what was expected today, and the knowledge  that you have, so that makes me happy.   Yeah, I think in summary, wrapping-up what you  are saying there Kristen, kind of reflecting   across the whole group. One thing that stood  out to me in individual conversations with   each of you, reading the literature, and  then the group discussions we’ve had, is   for practitioners and friends and family to have  an appreciation of that higher level of demand   that’s on a victim survivor to have to be really  conscious of all these things all the time. Their  

safety, their children’s safety, that we might  not always be mindful of that if we haven’t   had this lived experience ourselves, of just how  hypervigilant – we might see it as hypervigilance,   but it’s actually, it’s really adaptive to be  consciously aware of these things all the time.   So, really important I think, Niamh  like you said early on, to take that   lens to all the work that you do. I’m not sure if we can really answer   this question. Something that’s come through from  the audience – I’m just mindful that what we’ve   focussed on is victim survivor experiences, but I  know that some of the work that we’ve talked about   here today is also with potential perpetrators as  well. And the audience are kind of interested in   what about when we’re working with someone who  might potentially perpetrate tech-facilitated   coercive control, but they’re not insightful  about that’s what they’re doing? Because we’ve   kind of talked about it from the perspective  of maybe a victim survivor doesn’t see,   or is insightful or aware that something  is happening that is problematic.   Can we respond to that, or do we think we  might need to point to other resources?   I’ll just actually pick up, I think, one  thing that’s quite important then perhaps.  

And I totally know that for some people – actually  I’m going to say two things here then. Firstly,   I think the age cohort is quite important  there, because I think that younger adults,   emerging adults, adolescents, younger ages  may perhaps be less aware, because some of   it could be modelling, could be peer influence,  could be perhaps less aware of the impact. And   that’s why education, as Niamh talked about  in that younger cohort, is quite important.   But what’s a really important component though  of the definition is, when you do look at   those three facets of coercive control,  intentionality is the first facet. Now,   it’s difficult to extract that, because the  research has tended to lump all of ages together,   and also tended to focus at adult cohorts. That’s  why younger adults are probably needed as their   own research. And I come from the research,  the science behind it, but if we were measuring  

technology-facilitated coercive control,  and we were measured in adults, we would   say that there was intention behind it, it  was deliberate, in an attempt to coerce and   to create that credible threat. But  that’s the research perspective.   Absolutely. Niamh and Kristen, do you  have anything you wanted to add?   Yeah, I think echoing Evita in terms of age  of the person perpetrating this behaviour,   definitely a lot of the young men that  I have worked with, would have been   at-risk of using this behaviour intentionally, and  going down a dangerous path with the way that they   viewed what is a healthy relationship, and what  is appropriate for me to ask of my partner. So,   a lot of that was that kind of psychoeducation. But really for me it’s more about what is a   healthy relationship, than how to operate  safely online, because when you’re   understanding what is a healthy relationship  that kind of flows in, just like we talked   about – this is online and face-to-face. A really lovely opportunity to talk to young  

men about that. I guess if we have an older man  whose perhaps got a pattern of perpetration of   domestic and family violence, I think engaging  more specialised services like Kristen was   speaking about, men’s behaviour-change services,  and services that are trained to work with male   perpetrators of domestic and family violence  is really important, because this work is very   specialised and nuanced. And I guess really, the  primary aim is do no harm, so making sure that if   it’s not an area where we are comfortable with,  we’ll refer them out for specialist support.   Yeah, absolutely. Anything you  wanted to add, Kristen?  

Just to add to that, I think that’s a really  important point is around identifying healthy   relationships, and in the work we do, healthy  co-parenting relations as well. So, we can   demonstrate those through resources, through  engagement of, in education and so forth. So,   putting that visual out there for people to get  an understanding of what that may look like.   It’s interesting to me, because we’re looping  back now, my research brain of thinking about   those levels of risk factors and outcomes. And we  were saying early on, the research has tended to   focus on those induvial things, and what’s  a risk factor for a victim survivor. But   now what we’re talking about is education, meso  family level systems, education systems, broader   societal context. So, I love that we’ve looped  around to that, that makes me quite happy.  

I want to thank the three presenters that we’ve  had today for coming and sharing your unique   experience and expertise, how kind and generous  you’ve been with your time. I have found this   really insightful, and I hope that the audience  have as well, and I’m sure they will have.   I want to thank everyone who has joined us today.  This is a really important and emerging practice  

issue, so we’re really keen to hear your feedback,  and we really hope that there were ideas and   insights that you’ve picked up on. Maybe it’s  not all new, maybe it’s confirmed some aspects   of what you’ve already experienced in practice.  And hopefully you’ve taken away some tips as well   about what you can do when you start to become  concerned that something is coming up around   tech-facilitated coercive control. I also want to do a shoutout to the  

people in the backend of these webinars, in  particular the AIFS Communications team, and   my broader team, the Child and Family Evidence  and Evaluation team. Two people deserve a special   shoutout, our communications specialist [Kyle]  00:55:49, and senior research officer, Melissa   Willoughby. So, thank you to the two of you  for helping us with this set-up and planning.   All right, so we’re looking forward to  you joining us for our next webinar,   which is December the 14th, Supporting  the Developmental Needs of Children   with Neurodiversity. And take care, we  look forward to seeing you again soon.

2023-01-31 19:43

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