Technology and Victimization: What Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Can do to Support Victims

This blog post was written in partnership with Rachel Gibson and Detective Bryan Franke who is a 31-year veteran of the Longmont Police Department. He is assigned to and instrumental in forming the Cyber Crimes Unit as well as the development of the Boulder County Forensics Lab.

The misuse of technology in cases where violence is prevalent has seen an increase over the last few years. More victims of violent crime may also experience technology facilitated abuse. “Estimates suggest that between 18 percent and 37 percent of adult Americans have experienced severe online harassment, including physical threats, sexual harassment, stalking, and sustained harassment (Anti-Defamation League, 2019; Duggan, 2017).” Victims and witnesses who have experienced intimidation and retaliation in their communities, may also encounter technology facilitated abuse. As we work with PSN sites, it is important for sites to understand the ways in which technology-facilitated abuse shows up and how it can manifest in cases where physical violence may be prevalent. “Scholars have noted that technology-facilitated behaviors are not uncommon tactics in the perpetration of stalking and interpersonal violence (Baum et al., 2009; King-Ries, 2011; Lenhart et al., 2016; Marganski and Melander, 2015).” So while victims of technology-facilitated abuse may not always experience other forms of violence, there are indicators that other tactics of abuse like stalking can be used to further the violence.

It is important for those working with victims of crime to understand that the use of technology to harass, stalk, and incite fear, is more common in crimes as we see the ways in which technology is more integral to everyday life. A safe home, a safe neighborhood is no longer just the physical aspects of life, a safe home and a safe neighborhood also includes digital lives.

If victims do not feel safe online, feelings of isolation, shame and the results of trauma may keep them from seeking out help.