Arc smartphone app
Women experiencing family violence have the opportunity to take control of their story with a free smartphone app called Arc that enables them to identify, document and record patterns of intimate partner behaviour that make them feel scared, unsafe, or intimidated.
With technology playing an increasingly integral role in today’s relationships and social interactions, the use of technology such as smartphones, tablets and social media platforms to perpetrate family violence is also on the rise.
The Arc app enables women experiencing family violence to track details of abusive behaviour by uploading photos, videos, audio and diary entries to create a record of what has happened, when it happened, and how it made them feel.
Tech-based family violence response
Developed by Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) with funding from the Victorian Government’s Public Sector Innovation Fund and the Department of Social Services, Arc keeps a record of information that may be used by a victim survivor to put the language of family violence around her experiences.
“A woman may call it jealousy, anger or a toxic relationship, or say ‘my partner gets upset or grumpy,’” says DVRCV CEO Emily Maguire. “If her sense of identity has been purposely chipped away by a perpetrator over time, abusive patterns can be hard for women to recognise, and many people aren’t aware that this type of behaviour is illegal.
“Arc gives women an opportunity to take a step back and sense check their experiences of family violence in cases where perpetrators gaslight or deny violent behaviour, providing victim survivors with reassurance that they haven’t imagined abuse.”
Arc may be used to help victim survivors explain their story to a friend, family member or a support service, to provide key information to police, in court, or with legal or family violence practitioners.
Using tech for good
A 2018 University of NSW study found women already take notes, photographs, audio and video recordings of abusive partners to document their experiences of family violence. Arc offers an easier and more secure way to collate these recordings than traditional methods such as diaries, or digital options such as Google docs.
Arc curates information about family violence in one place and stores it securely off-device – in the cloud – where it can’t be altered, deleted or lost. All Arc account data is password protected and stored securely on Amazon Web Services in Australia. It is encrypted at 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256). AES-256 and consists of 14 rounds of data transformation – among the most secure methods of encryption available.
The app design is discreet, and Arc can be deleted instantly from a device, and reinstalled at any time without loss of information.
Nevertheless, Ms. Maguire says women experiencing family violence must understand the factors that could increase their risk if they download the app to their device, and make their own judgement as to whether they feel safe to use the app.
“Women experiencing family violence make choices on a minute to minute basis about how to manage their own safety, and the decision whether or not it is safe for them to use Arc is another of those choices,” says Ms. Maguire.
“Arc isn’t designed to replace existing support services that are critical to women safely leaving a relationship or safely challenging their partner’s behaviour. It is one of many tools that can help women experiencing family violence take control over the situation and the decisions they make now, and in the future.
“The onus should never be on a woman to change men’s behaviour, or to change their own behaviour to keep themselves safe, but we hope that by giving her Arc we give her a tool that puts the control back in her hands.”