(07) 3262 9877        info@wwild.org.au        Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM
(07) 3262 9877

Technology increasingly used to ‘victimise and control’ women with intellectual disability – ABC News

By disability affairs reporter Nas Campanella and the Specialist Reporting Team’s Celina Edmonds


Excerpt of article: 

Women with cognitive and intellectual disability are increasingly being abused through technology, with perpetrators monitoring their behaviour, tracking their movements and encouraging them to share naked images, a new Australian study has found.

Mobile phones, smart technology, social media, dating apps and even GPS devices secretly attached to wheelchairs are all being used to “victimise and control” women.

Researchers heard firsthand from women with intellectual disability and the domestic violence workers who support them, about incidents where abusers controlled household lights, threatened to disclose personal information and even tampered with hearing aids.

The research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) was commissioned by the eSafety Commissioner to fill the “huge gaps” in knowledge about the abuse of women with intellectual disability, develop resources to inform them of their rights and support frontline workers.

Over the last nine years, Gillian O’Brien has been working in Brisbane to help women with cognitive and intellectual disability deal with abuse and sexual violence.

Gillian O'Brien wears blue thin-framed glasses and a polka dot shirt in a headshot.
Gillian O’Brien works with the WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention Association. Supplied: Gillian O’Brien


“The most prominent thing we see is image-based abuse,” Ms O’Brien said.

“There’s a lot of pressure from partners, ex-partners, strangers, people who are seeking women out over social media platforms and then pressuring them to send intimate images of themselves or videos.”

Ms O’Brien works for the Sexual Violence Prevention Association with Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities (WWILD), which was one of QUT’s research partners.

“Women with disability have every right to be engaging in sexual relationships and to be sexting if they’re of age,” Ms O’Brien said.

“But it’s about being able to make an informed choice, free of coercion and pressure.”

She said it was “increasingly common” for GPS tracking devices to be used on cars, wheelchairs, and even concealed in toys.

Baby monitors have been identified as devices used by perpetrators of abuse to monitor conversations and movements.

Women with disability ‘silenced and overlooked’

The pandemic limited the university’s research to a focus group of women with intellectual disability and frontline workers in Queensland.

Associate professor Bridget Harris, who led the research, said women with disability experienced violence at significantly higher rates and with more severe impacts than the broader population.

“What alarmed me was really how silenced and overlooked women with cognitive or intellectual disabilities are,” Dr Harris said.

“They often encounter prejudicial assumptions about their capabilities or their trustworthiness, and that can be something that perpetrators exploit.”

The research showed women with intellectual disability used technology for many parts of their lives including entertainment, games, dating, banking, fitness and health care.

“It’s really not practical to just tell somebody to stop using technology,” Dr Harris said.

“That really ignores the impact that would have on their lives and the isolation.”

Dr Harris said the women they spoke with feared not being believed when they reported technological abuse, and losing custody of their children.


To see remainder of article please click on the LINK


WWILD has assisted the E-safety Commission in the research and Gillian O’Brien was interviewed by the journalists who wrote this article and has been quoted above. if you would like to find out more about the E-safety Commission and their work please go to LINK.  If you would like to report any kinds of online abuse please click on LINK


Accessing the E-Safety Commission Research and Resources:

If you would like to access the E-Safety Research please click on this LINK

If you support or work with people with disabilities, and want use the E-Safety resources please click on this LINK