Webinar #3: Using Technology to Support Victims

The third in the series of weekly webinars hosted by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) took place on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 9:00 AM Washington, DC, USA time. This time the topic was “Using Technology to Support Victims During a Public Health Crisis”.

The webinar addressed the question of how to use technology to help victims of gender-based violence within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Cindy Southworth, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Karen Bentley, WESNET (Australia)
  • Paula van den Boom, SafetyNed (Netherlands)
  • Pille Tsopp-Pagan, Women’s Support and Information Center (Estonia)
  • Uma Shah, Saathi (Nepal)

Regional Updates

  • Joy Lange, St. Anne’s Home (South Africa)
  • Alicja Switon, Women Against Violence Europe

NNEDV presented their well-established tech accessibility program, which was ready to go when the coronavirus crisis hit. Erica said survivors should be offered multiple options, including text, chat, phone, and e-mail.

Karen shared good practices for online counseling, such as stabilizing the camera, using hand movements, dressing in the same way you would when visiting clients, and paying attention to the background. Helping clients understand that the session is over is also important, so as not to leave clients hanging.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia, there has been a huge increase in demand for the free smartphones WESNET offers survivors of violence, Karen said, adding that there is currently a market shortage of cheap smartphones.

Paula reported a 20-50% increase in domestic violence in locked-down European countries. We will only know full extent of the crisis after lockdowns are lifted, and women who were not able to make reports can get out of their homes. WAVE is currently conducting a survey into the situation.

In the Netherlands “intelligent isolation” is being promoted, which means teachers and social workers actively check on vulnerable children and women.

Pille noted that in Europe at the start of the pandemic helpline calls dropped, but later increased dramatically. This is a trend that has been noted in other disaster situations.

Resources from the Webinars


What are the best programs for distance counseling with clients?
What’s going to work best for your program and the survivors you work with may be different than what works for someone else. What is available also changes by country. I’m not sure where you are located, but you can find some information and choosing and implementing digital services at the following links.

Do you have any recommendations for text lines our service can use? We are also getting less calls but have had a dramatic increase in violence in our community.
One option that many programs are looking into is ResourceConnect. They have a secure chat option as well as a text option built from a privacy by design framework so the company does not have any access to information or content shared.

We want to make sure facilitation with survivors is engaging, easily understood, and effective. What are some recommended tools or strategies to think through when deciding on platforms or applications to engage with survivors?
Here are some links from TechSafety.org on mobile advocacy using mobile phones and other mobile devices.

Previous Recordings

Below are the links to register for the upcoming weekly webinars with the Global Network of Women’s Shelters:

Registrants of the three webinars already held will receive an invite to join the GNWS announcement list if they are not already subscribed. This list is used to share information on upcoming webinars and other information.