How Online Harms and Tech A...

How Online Harms and Tech Abuse affect the people we support

February 2023

2 Min Read

Graphic reading "Safer Internet Day 2023", followed by the Changing Lives Logo.

For Safer Internet Day 2023, Changing Lives Net-reach would like to highlight how online harms and tech abuse affect those we support across our service.

During 2020, we observed a huge increase in the number of women suffering financial hardship as a result of job loss, delayed benefit payments and ending furlough schemes, who turned to online sex work and sexual services in order to make ends meet. With our online presence, we also witnessed alarming numbers of people taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities and situations[1] [1].

More recent research undertaken by Changing Lives found that young people are among the most acutely affected by the rising cost of living, as they typically receive lower amounts of benefit than other people we support[2]. During the time of our research, young people aged 18-25 made up for over half of all ads on two Adult Service Websites (ASWs) nationally. One person we reached out to via an online ad offering sexual services on a free ad site told us:

“I didn’t have enough money to even feed myself and was feeling very low... I turned to this because I got the cash to help me and because of the attention that people wanted me, as I was very lonely. It did make me feel dirty that I had to turn to this, as it shouldn’t be that way.”
(Female, aged 21)

We have also seen a rise in the number of cases of Intimate Image Abuse (also known as Revenge Porn) as well as sexually coerced extortion (also referred to as ‘sextortion’). The impact of these crimes can have an absolutely detrimental effect on a person’s life, including their mental health, social/family life and even employment.

As an organisation, we are dedicated to supporting people to live safe and fulfilling lives, free from harm. In many cases, this takes a multi-agency approach working collectively with partner agencies and organisations nationally. Doing so, allows us to advocate for those who have experienced abuse and improve pathways to effectively safeguard where necessary.

To provide support for victims of these crimes and raise awareness of online harms, we have now developed and mobilised our national Net-reach project as a result of Home Office funding under the Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Supporting Children (PVSC): What Works Funding (WWF). The funding has enabled us to expand our existing services across Northumbria, Durham, Darlington, York, Doncaster, Merseyside, Wolverhampton and Walsall.

If you feel that you would benefit from any of the services, or would like to know more information around the support we can offer please contact: