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Demand for Refuge’s service stays high as tech abuse increases

Calls to the national domestic abuse helpline run by Refuge are currently around 7,000 a month, a 52% increase on the 4,600 handled before Covid-19 struck in March 2020.

The monthly number spiked at 8,000 in the first lockdown and again in the second. “It’s now levelled off, but at a new level of demand,” Refuge’s CEO Ruth Davison was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

During the same period, the charity has seen complex tech abuse cases double. As well as misuse of social media, they include manipulation of smart heating, doorbell cameras and online banking. One case involved an abusive ex-partner implanting a listening device in the toy of a child with shared custody.

“We hear really quite awful stories,” says Davison. “It’s really very pervasive. There are many ways in which technology is being misused by perpetrators to harm women and children.”

With Refuge having reached its 50th anniversary, she hopes the need for it to exist will be greatly diminished in 50 years’ time. “Our vision as a charity is that we will live in a world where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated. That’s what we work for every day. There’s still a long road ahead.”



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