New funding helps women take back the tech
“Gaslighting” is a form of psychological abuse where someone manipulates another into doubting their own sanity. It’s a tactic commonly used by family violence perpetrators to undermine their victim’s version of events, making them doubt the severity of an incident, or even that the violence occurred at all.
“Women will have varied experiences of how insidious this sort of abuse is,” explains Emily Maguire, DVRCV CEO. “We know it’s exceptionally common in family violence situations, and that perpetrators ‘gaslight’ their partners to intentionally to undermine their confidence in their own sanity and memory, which is highly distressing when you are in a violent relationship that is characterised by control and coercion,” said Ms Maguire.
“Over the years it became quite obvious that this was a deliberate strategy,” says Lisa (not her real name), referring to her abusive ex-partner’s gaslighting behaviours. “...And that's why I'm using the [SmartSafe+] app – so I've been able to document and show evidence to my lawyers, so you've got that belief of what's actually happening.”1
Since its launch in 2015, the SmartSafe+ app has been used by hundreds of women to safely collect and store evidence of family violence via electronic ‘diary’ entries, photos, videos and voice recordings, allowing women to counter the effects of gaslighting and provide high-quality evidence when applying for an intervention order or seeking to prove a breach, thus expediting court processes.
Ms Maguire says, “Smart Safe+ has empowered women to provide evidence of family violence and demonstrate patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour. This funding from the Public Sector Innovation Fund for SmartSafe+ 2.0 will help even more women feel more in control of their safety and their choices.”
With this new funding, DVRCV will be able to add a new feature that enables women to develop a personalised safety plan, which is a key tool to for women managing their safety and that of their children, particularly during the high-risk periods surrounding separation from a violent partner.
“This new feature on the app is so important for the estimated 60-70 percent of women experiencing violence who do not contact specialist support services,” said Ms Maguire.
SmartSafe+ 2.0 will also include a safe place to save important documents such driver's licence, bank account details, birth certificates, intervention orders, Family Court paperwork or immigration documents, ensuring women can retrieve the documents they need to access financial and other supports any time they need to, including if they chose to leave their violent relationship.
This next phase of the app will be supported by a workforce strategy to ensure practitioners understand the app and feel comfortable recommending it, and will create a model for ongoing rollout in Victoria, with the potential for national scale-up.
The SmartSafe+ app is part of a broader SmartSafe initiative which protects women’s right to be online and connected to friends, family and other supports by providing tools to help them access technology safely, to understand their experience of violence, and to access the justice system if they choose.
How to access the app
SmartSafe+ is available free of charge from the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). In order to gain safe access the app, please call us on (03) 9486 9866 (Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. From Radio National Law Report, 12 July 2016: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/app-to-monitor-dv/7547872