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Charity Overview

Refuge is the country’s largest provider of specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse and gender-based violence. On any given day Refuge supports thousands of women and their children, helping them rebuild their lives and overcome many different forms of violence and abuse including domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological abuse, technological abuse, economic abuse, so-called “honour-based” violence, human trafficking, modern slavery, and female genital mutilation. Refuge runs the 24 hour Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline: the national gateway to services across the country.

Project Summary

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone.

Although many of the women Refuge supports will have experienced physical abuse, at Refuge we are increasingly concerned about the intricate ways that technology is being used to cause harm. Of the women and their children Refuge supported in 2022-23, 56% experienced abuse involving technology, and the number of survivors our specialist team has supported rose by 258% between 2018 and 2022.

In the wrong hands technology can be misused to perpetrate many kinds of abuse. It can be used to isolate and control. Women come to our services bombarded with calls, texts and abuse via social media, terrified as their partner seems to always know where they are, and have often been told no-one can help, or even that they are making it up. 

Refuge is the only frontline service which has a specialist “Tech Team” to support women experiencing this insidious and complex form of abuse.  At Refuge we want to empower survivors to use technology safely and ensure that they’re not forced offline. 

The impact of last two years of funding from ICAP has been phenomenal – it has helped us support 1,408 women in our tech abuse service. With the result that on leaving the service 96% said they finally felt safer. 

These women may have experienced many kinds of abuse from perpetrators using surveillance to monitor their movements through to using their children’s gaming devices to stalk and control. The Tech Team will work with survivors firstly to give emotional support and reassure them that this behaviour is not normal then to understand their needs and help them to feel safe. This could involve supporting them to document the abuse to use as evidence to report to the police, or to purchase and set up their own equipment safely.

The other important outcome of ICAP’s support has been that we’ve been able to translate our external resources into other languages. One fifth of the women who use our tech abuse service do not have English as a first language so thanks to ICAP’s support we’ve been able to translate our website first into Polish and now into Urdu so women can access help in their mother tongue. The website received almost 10,000 visits over the last year alone.

No-one should have to feel that tech abuse is normal or ok. So a massive thank you for ICAP’s continuing support to fund the Tech Team’s important work to support survivors across the country.