Queensland-based charity StandbyU Foundation has developed a new solution to reduce the incidence and impact of domestic abuse by using smart technology to ensure people at risk stay connected to family, friends and support workers.
The results of a 12-month trial funded by the Commonwealth Government with 100 Gold Coast women has demonstrated it offers a practical, long-term solution to the domestic abuse crisis.
The solution, called the StandbyU Shield, brings the person at risk's support network together through technology embedded in a standard smartwatch, allowing the user to discreetly and easily send an alert for help.
When an alert is sent, live audio and their location is transmitted to the support network, enabling them to organise the required intervention or assistance. The connection is secure, meaning a perpetrator cannot trace or tamper with it.
Key findings from the trial:
Out of the 3,000 alerts sent during the 12-month period, only one required police assistance. In other words, out of 100 women receiving support for being at risk of domestic abuse, only one required help additional to that of her personal network.
None of the 100 participants have required additional referrals for support. Case workers reported a reduction in the need for repeat support services.
93% of participants agreed it significantly increased their safety and 100% agreed it significantly increased their wellbeing.
Throughout the trial, more than 400 family, friends and community members became first responders – calls that may otherwise be directed to the police. These responders received training on how to provide the assistance needed, whether it be reassurance, intervention or escalation to emergency services.
With the StandbyU Shield’s discreet recording function, women and children reported feeling more confident to share their experiences with others. It also gave them the evidence to take further legal action if they chose to pursue it.
The power of the solution lies in how it creates connections between people at risk and their friends, family and support workers, by first encouraging them to reach out and share their story, and then giving them the tools to stay connected in moments of need. It breaks down the isolation that indicates and enables abuse, improving safety, confidence and freedom.
"Over the 25 years I've been working with impacted families, a lot has changed in the world, yet our domestic violence solutions have remained the same. It's time for change and connections are the answer. To tackle abuse at the source, we must overcome the isolation that enables it to continue. Friends and family want to help, they just need a safe and practical way to do it. Wouldn't you act to keep a loved one safe?"
- Chris Boyle, Founder of StandbyU Foundation
"Domestic violence disconnects people from those they can call upon for help. What we need to do is reconnect them with support and that's exactly what this solution delivers."
- Senator Amanda Stoker
The implications for domestic violence services and Government investment are significant. With friends and family as first responders, the response was not only more relevant and appropriate to the individual's needs, there was also less need for emergency services' time and resources.
To put it in context, in Queensland alone, the Police Service is on track this year to hit a record number of domestic violence occurrences with close to 100,000 incidents recorded - an increase of 8 per cent on last year.
A StandbyU Shield costs roughly the same as one emergency services call-out and three years' of protection is equivalent in cost to three nights in a refuge.
The trial was carried out on the Gold Coast in partnership with Act for Kids. Case workers reported improvements in the family's engagement and a reduced need for repeat services. None of the 100 participants have required additional referrals for support.
"I could see the physical change in her... she had less need to contact services because she felt independent again."
- Act for Kids case worker
The top-line trial findings are available here and the full research report has been presented to the Commonwealth Government for additional support and funding.
StandbyU Foundation is currently seeking investment and support to expand the solution further into the domestic violence and child protection sector.
When Carly* first met Joe* it was a whirlwind romance. Deeply in love, the relationship moved very quickly. Within a few months of being together, Joe had proposed and Carly was pregnant with their first child.
It is only looking back on their long-term relationship that Carly realises how coercive and controlling Joe's behaviours were. She never would have labelled it 'domestic violence'.
"I did not realise it was domestic violence, I knew it was not a healthy relationship, but I thought I was at fault all the time."
Joe's control over Carly was so severe that she was afraid to leave the house even when he was away. Suffering from post-natal depression and severe anxiety, Carly felt scared and controlled. It was several years before she approached the police or services for support.
"How could one go and explain psychological and emotional abuse because you don’t have any proof if you haven’t recorded it or someone has witnessed it? So many times, I cried myself to sleep wishing he would hit me so that I would have something to show."
Before receiving her safety watch, Carly thought no one could help. She was isolated and scared, and felt as though she was the one missing out on living her life.
"Going into a women’s refuge, [you] kind of feel like a prisoner... I know that there are safety measures for you and [your] protection, [but] you feel like you are the one being penalised."
The StandbyU Shield gave Carly the support she needed. The connection she has with her mother and friends means she is no longer isolated and vulnerable. She finally feels safe, both when at home and outside in her community.
"It just gives me my freedom back to freely choose what I want to do, where I want to go."
Her family also feel much better about her, and her children's, safety.
"My mum and dad have expressed their relief, [saying] 'I can see through your eyes’."
Carly hopes that everyone going through domestic violence can experience the benefits of having a StandbyU Shield. Her final words say it all.
"I can’t sing its praises enough, I think it is an amazing piece of technology and I feel so grateful and privileged that I have been fortunate enough to be granted one and I just wish that every woman who was in a DV situation could have access. It is indeed life changing."
*Names changed for safety reasons
Imagery, audio clips and participant quotes are available here.
Download the media release
For media enquiries, or to request a copy of the full report, please contact Chief Connections Officer Melinda Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org / 0407 910 037