Oxfordshire Learning from a Domestic Homicide Review
Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Update
Guidance regarding advising victims on how to gather evidence, keep safe online, and deal with unwanted or intimidating electronic communications.
Victims of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) can face abuse and intimidation by perpetrators via digital technologies. In the February 2018 update, for the first time, the Sentencing Council’s domestic abuse sentencing guideline includes a reference to abuse which is perpetrated through use of technology, such as email/text, social networking sites or tracking devices fitted to a victim’s car, since these are increasingly common methods by which domestic abuse can occur.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recognises that “The landscape in which VAWG Crimes are perpetrated is changing…Online activity is used to humiliate, control and threaten victims, as well as to plan and orchestrate acts of violence.”
“Domestic abuse is likely to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it continues. Therefore cases may involve evidence of social media offending, such as harassment, cyberstalking, or controlling or coercive behaviour through texts and emails, followed by an escalation to more serious non-social media offending, such as physical assaults.”
As professionals working with people experiencing VAWG, it’s essential we recognise the significance and severity of the use of digital technologies as part of a pattern of the perpetration of these abuses, and include this in risk assessment wherever relevant. When working with people experiencing VAWG facing abuse online, advise them to:
- ensure all communications are screenshotted and retained to preserve all the evidence
- log what is happening including time, date and details of what happened
- contact the police if they think they are at risk of harm
When professionals encourage victims to ‘block’ or ‘ignore’ abuse perpetrated via digital technologies we can miss crucial evidence of escalation and increased risk.
We recommend not advising victims to change their phone number or block perpetrators on social media, instead if they feel comfortable, safe and able to do so,
get an additional phone number and social media account for personal use. Ask the victim to consider setting up a new personal email address, if appropriate, and
choose a user name which keeps them anonymous, so they do not identify them. The old numbers/accounts and emails can be monitored either by themselves or by
a trusted friend or family member if better for their emotional wellbeing.
If you have any questions or comments please contact
Sarah Carter, Strategic Lead for Domestic Abuse, Oxfordshire County Council