Utah domestic violence advocates concerned about new tool used by abusers – Smart-home technology

WEST JORDAN, Utah – A new form of domestic violence is emerging. Abusers are using Smart-home technology to exert control over victims.

According to a New York Times article, when smart-home gadgets are misused, its features can make someone fear for their safety.

30 domestic abuse victims, lawyers and shelter workers were interviewed and described a disturbing trend.

“Abusive partners are doing things like changing the locks on the doors through smart home technology when they have a keyless entry pad,” said Jenn Oxborrow, Exec. Dir. Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

“They’ll make life really intolerable by changing the temperature in the home through the smart home thermostat system.”

Other incidents included randomly blasting music, recording conversations, and monitoring cameras to see who’s coming and going.

“We know that men and women both can be the victims of domestic violence and abuse. But overwhelmingly, this is a crime perpetrated by men against women. About 80 percent of the time,” said Oxborrow.

Local advocates are hearing similar horror stories on their helpline. They’re working with national advocates to receive proper training. The challenge is getting victims to come forward.

“Sometimes this can sound unfathomable. Sometimes it sounds paranoid. But we always try to listen and start by believing,” said Oxborrow.

So, what can victims do? Disable the devices and change the Wi-Fi password. Because technology is still too new, there are some legal recourses. This behavior falls under the stalking code so you can file a protective order. Work with an advocate or law enforcement official to weigh all your options.

“We all have a right to keep things to ourselves that we want to keep to ourselves. And it’s not ok for someone to control our daily activities and monitor where we’re going,” said Sgt. J.C. Holt, West Jordan Police Dept.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, there is help available from the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

For confidential support and resources please call:

1-800-897-LINK (5465)