I started working as an Advocate supporting survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking in 2007. In my first year of advocacy, I interacted with survivors whose abusers were using technology against them. This looked like sending intimate images to their workplaces, creating fake Craigslist ads with rape fantasies, or simply just repeated and unwanted contacts via many platforms.
When I was approached by Dana Lockhart of SPD’s Victim Support Team in 2016 to start doing more work on this space in our community, not enough had changed. I felt I still wasn’t giving survivors sufficient solutions to what we now call Tech-Enabled Coercive Control (TECC). Dana began organizing the Tech-Enabled Coercive Control (TECC) Working Group; and we partnered with community-agencies, the University of Washington, and other City of Seattle departments to start digging into what we could do.
We trained advocates. We also developed a community-based resource in partnership with New Beginnings called the TECC Volunteer Clinic. This clinic pairs a survivor with a specially trained volunteer who can help them to see if there is spyware on their device, develop safe passwords, new accounts, etc. It is essentially advanced tech safety planning.
We have to move beyond thinking of domestic violence as incidents of physical abuse. It is a pattern of behavior designed to terrorize and control. TECC extends the pattern of using threats of harm, dependence, isolation, intimidation, and/or physical forms of violence to include the ways technology facilitates coercive control. Forms of TECC include cyberstalking, monitoring, impersonation, harassment, and distribution of intimate images.
Recently, my research partner, Dana Cuomo, PhD., and I released our research paper, “Gender-Based Violence and Technology-Enabled Coercive Control in Seattle: Challenges and Opportunities.” This was based on interviews with folks who work with survivors, ranging from advocates to police to prosecutors, and interviews with survivors themselves. Our goal in conducting this research is to provide a resource for advocates, the civil and criminal legal systems, policy makers, and others in the community to better serve survivors who are experiencing TECC. We helped identify the ways that TECC is showing up, and how we can disrupt it. Now we hope to partner with public and private sector folks, to really dig into the recommendations and make conditions safer for survivors in our community. We can’t let the landscape evolve around us, we have to evolve too.
Natalie Dolci, LICSW, currently works as a Planning & Development Specialist with the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
If you are concerned about the dynamics in your relationship after reading this, or want to support a friend, Natalie encourages you to New Beginnings at 206-522-9472 or reach out to the National DV Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.