The Australian Institute of Family Studies has recently published a study that indicates that technology can increase the opportunities for sexual violence to occur. The study mainly focuses on internet related technologies such as social networking and smart-phones which are a part of almost every young person’s daily lifestyle.
The study which was published in February 2013 states that the availability of these tools combined with the fact that online life and offline life are increasingly becoming integrated are making it more and more easy for these crimes to occur.
The study does point out however that the technology is not the cause of the sexual violence but is simply a vehicle that facilitates the act of committing the crime. The actual causes of the sexual violence have not changed from their traditional causes which revolve around issues with the perpetrator with regards to believing in gender inequality as well as strict ideas on how relationships must proceed. These ideas are often ingrained already in the perpetrator and are not being altered by the use of the technology.
The range of incidents caused by using technology to commit sexual violence go from consensual all the way to extremely violent. Some of the incidents involve the perpetrator simply harassing the victim online or may actually result in a sex crime that takes place in real life. Some of the online behaviours include trolling and blackmail. The anonymity of the internet also plays a part in the sexual violence by allowing the perpetrator to hide his or her identity while continuing to harass the victim online.
The propensity for sexual violence has also increased due to the fact that the perpetrator can step outside his or her immediate social circle by searching for victims online. Therefore there is no longer a direct relationship required between the victim and the perpetrator for the crimes to occur. The sexual violence is also brought on by the fact that the perpetrator may feel a sense of connection to the victim despite having no relationship with the victim through online stalking and information gathering.
Another manifestation of the sexual violence, with both mobile technology as well as the internet, is that even if the sexual violence occurs in real life the perpetrator may seek to post videos or images of the sexual violence online or blackmail the victim by threatening to post unsavoury content online without the victim’s consent.
The findings of this research were gathered by the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault and was done by performing interviews with health professionals, law enforcement and services that seek to assist victims of sexual violence. Another proposal for these results is that they can be used as evidence to assist healthcare professionals in coming up with a framework that better promotes respect for others and the development of appropriate and healthy boundaries. This framework has not yet been developed but there are ongoing talks regarding these issues.