A WOMEN'S refuge in Cork is facing mounting pressure as abusers find new ways of controlling their partners through the use of technology.
A social worker from Cuan Lee in Cork city, which offers crisis accommodation and support for women and children affected by domestic abuse, spoke of how computers and mobile phones are enabling abuse of the most sinister nature.
The charity provided help to one woman who had discovered a tracking device on her car.
It transpired that the gadget had been fitted to the vehicle so that her every move could be accounted for.
“That happens regularly,” said Cuan Lee social worker, Caithríona O’Neill.
“When the man with the tracking device realised his partner was aware of it he found other ways to spy on her. He would hide a second phone underneath the car seat and leave the location services on to keep a record of everywhere she had been.
"A tactic like this is easy to fob off. The person will usually just say they had lost the phone and were looking for it for ages.”
Ms O’Neill deals with women who have been subjected to disturbing threats relating to mobile phone images.
“Pictures have been taken of women while they’re sleeping with very little clothing and used against them.
"The partner will often threaten to send the image to all their contacts. Physical abuse may not even be the main issue," she said.
"Often they can intimidate them with their presence. In some cases, they will break their phones. This can be to limit their communication with the outside world or destroy something that is of value to them."
She added that some women are led to believe they are suffering from a mental illness.
"Often bank accounts and social media passwords will be changed.
"The abuse is so intricate and deeply thought out and technology like mobile phones is only making it easier.
"Something that comes up a lot here is accounts of women being made to feel like they have a mental illness. The partner will orchestrate their lives to plant seeds of doubt.
"Women end up really questioning their sanity. They'll follow this tactic through with friends and family, claiming they are worried about their partner.
"Concerns will be expressed about mental health issues like depression. This abuse can escalate when the man knows their partner has nowhere else to go."
Victims are often conditioned to believe this is not abuse, said Caithríona.
"Women will play down their experiences a lot.
"Often they'll say 'he's not great but he's not abusive'. They think that nobody will believe them.
"The bottom line is that everyone should be able to feel safe and respected in a relationship."
:: For more information on the charity visit cuanleerefuge.org.
Anyone in search of help from the organisation can contact 021-4277594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org