The scary ways stalking has gone hi-tech
AUSTRALIAN women are being stalked by drones and sent up to 1500 abusive text messages a day by an automated bot by their jilted ex-partners.
Many are unknowingly being tracked by $15 internet-bought GPS tracking devices slipped into their handbags or in the lining of their shoes.
Some who are still in relationships with their violent and controlling boyfriends or husbands are being spied on by CCTV in their homes.
And others are having fake social media accounts set up in their names in an attempt to destroy their online reputation.
Stalkers are using drones fitted with cameras to track and harass exes.
These are just some of the shocking examples of technology-facilitated abuse that our police, ambulance and frontline workers are coming across in larger numbers - and they're worried, very worried about the rise in severity of cases.
News Corp can reveal the shocking new ways technology-facilitated abuse is being perpetrated towards women and the world-first training our frontline workers are getting access to from today (Saturday) to try and help identify the abuse sooner.
We can also reveal that revenge porn cases have increased in the first six months of this year. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has received total of 179 complaints of image-based abuse faced by Australians since January 1.
That's up from just 77 reports by December 31, when the reporting portal was launched in October last year.
The government said it would get tough on image-based abuse (known as revenge porn) and implement a civil penalties regime with fines of up to $105,000 for individuals and $525,000 for companies like Facebook and Twitter. But it is dragging its feet on introducing legislation to the Lower House after it passed the Senate in February this year.
Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, said the impact of technology-facilitated abuse on women, including revenge porn, could be "devastating" both physically and psychologically.
"The way technology is misused by partners or ex-partners is evolving at a rapid rate - women are being subjected to drones peering through their windows, watching them late at night and keeping tabs on who comes into their house," Ms Inman Grant said.
"We also know that veiled and sophisticated tracking devices continue to be used by perpetrators as a way to maintain control and instil fear into victims."
News Corp was told by frontline staff and those training them about the new ways women were being abused.
Some involved women escaping their partners and moving towns only to hear the buzzing of a drone overhead, which was their ex stalking them or trying to video them inputting the security code for their home.
Others involved an automated bot sending abusive text messages - in one case sending a text message more than every minute of the day.
"We have seen a significant increase in family violence technology offences involving harassment over the past five years," Acting Assistant Commissioner Family Violence Command for Victoria Police, Libby Murphy said.
Lesley Harrison who trains frontline workers across the country to identify technology-facilitated abuse said some perpetrators were making fake social media accounts on behalf of their former partners to embarrass them. Others were purchasing cheap tracking devices online to keep tabs on their victim and show up to places they knew they would be.
"There are dozens of devices for purchase online from $15 upwards and they are being placed in weird places like the stroller, inside teddy bears, the lining of shoes, a handbag, anything that the woman normally carries with her regularly," she said.
Karen Bentley national director of the Women's Services Network said technology wasn't to blame.
"It is the abuser who is misusing technology," she said.
Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer said the government would do all it could to help reduce violence against women.
"The Turnbull Government has zero tolerance for violence against women. Stalking or violence against partners, or former partners, is completely unacceptable," she said.
Opposition spokeswoman for women Tanya Plibersek said if the government was serious on tackling violence against women it would expedite the image-based abuse civil penalties legislation.
"The Liberals have refused to criminalise image based abuse and now they're stalling on their watered-down civil-penalty legislation too," Ms Plibersek said.
"These new forms of technology based abuse are horrifying - the government needs to take strong action now so that women's safety is not at risk."
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner will today launch a new world-first online training for frontline workers dealing with domestic and family violence to more easily be able to identify the signs of technology facilitated abuse.
The training will allow police, ambulance, psychologists, legal aid and anyone at the coalface of domestic and family violence to train at their own pace, in the hope of reducing the impact on women at risk.
If you are a frontline worker or someone connected to helping victims through family and domestic violence, visit: https://frontlineworkers.esafety.gov.au/