Jacobi Medical identifies growing cyber domestic abuse

Speaking to staff members at Jacobi Medical Center recently was Caitlin Prior, training supervisor and staff attorney at Day One, an organization that works to end intimate domestic violence among teenagers and adults. She was there to help a cross section of employees better understand domestic violence using technology.
Photo courtesy of Day One

Jacobi Medical Center provided its healthcare providers with training about a growing problem: domestic abuse involving technology.

Members of the hospital’s staff – including doctors, nurses, social workers and other front line personnel – received training to better understand how technology can enable domestic abuse and learned to identify warning signs.

On Tuesday, October 17, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, medical center staff attended a presentation by Day One, an organization dedicated to ending dating abuse/domestic violence among young people.

Karen Cohen, Jacobi domestic violence coordinator, said that the workshop: “Understanding Tech Abuse in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence,” educated staff on how technology is used in corrosive relationships.

“Tech abuse is certainly on the rise,” said Cohen. “As technology in general grows, so have the ways that abusers have been using it against their victims.”

“Sometimes an abuser will send a threat through the app Snapchat, which apparently disappears really quickly,” she said, adding that if an abuser has access to ride hailing apps, for example, they use them to track their victim’s every move.

Having information about technology’s use in domestic violence situations can be helpful in giving staff confidence if they are faced with a patient who complains that their partner can track them everywhere, for example.

“The whole goal is to create better patient care,” she said, adding that trainings may help hospital workers ask the right questions.

A Jacobi spokesman said that in today’s world, many people have their electronic wallets, cameras, calendars, as well as a log of phone calls and text messages, all on a single device.

If a partner who is intent on abuse has access to this information, it can be used to intimidate their victim.

There are even apps that abusers can use to disguise their voices and the numbers they call from, said Cohen. These can be used to trick their victims into picking up the call.

Caitlin Prior, Day One training supervisor and staff attorney, who facilitated the training at Jacobi, said she believes that technology is just another “tool in the abuser’s toolbox.”

“What is important to me is making folks know that tech abuse is not always a ‘spyware’ infected phone,” said Prior, adding that abuse could be constant texts asking the partner who they are with and what they are wearing, or posting compromising photos to Facebook or Instagram.

In some cases, the victim may even have their phone numbers or addresses placed on websites related to sex, she said.

If someone is a victim of abuse, the goal is not make him or her get a new phone and create a whole new online identity, but rather to work with “tech in a positive way to increase their security,” said Prior.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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