Model claims abusive ex used smart tech to stalk and terrorise her
Women have, historically, been victims of gaslighting. Whether it's the media, boyfriends, or family members, women are told - either overtly or subconsciously - that their experiences are less important than they are, and that their "over the top" reactions make them "psycho" or "hysterical".
This is what happened to Ferial Nijem, after her ex moved out of the home they shared. Speaking about the experience, Nijem said, "It's almost as if the house [was] haunted."
But instead of your standard poltergeist, the only spirit haunting Nijem's home was her abusive ex-boyfriend, who used smart technology to terrorise her.
Having previously used their "smart home" to monitor Nijem - by watching her with security cameras, and having control of the mains system that operated the lights, heating, blinds and sound system - her partner went onto use the same technology to frighten her, in a move that Nijem now calls "tech abuse".
"It's very convenient: you have total access and control over your entire home," Nijem explained to CBC News. "But as my experience with home technology grew into [something] negative, then I realized the dangers and implications of what that type of technology can do."
"He was able to monitor me, you know, using the security surveillance cameras, even remotely, from thousands of miles away. You're never outside the reach of your abuser."
Things took a turn during a strained time in their relationship, when they were living apart. Nijem claims that her partner kept control of the house, and would use it to frighten her.
"In the middle of the night, I'm awoken, and my dogs are awoken, by this blaring music over the audio system. You have lights flickering on and off, TVs going on and off," she asserted.
"It's almost as if the house [was] haunted," Nijem continued. "It is only done to cause you trauma, to cause fear, to cause anxiety."
And she was powerless to stop it: her partner had set up the system, and she couldn't override it.
"Shutting down the system meant shutting down the house, shutting down the lighting system for myself as well."
Advocates for victims of domestic violence have since drawn attention to the fact that this type of technology can become another tool for abusers to subjugate their victims.
Laurie Lile, who works with the Women of Means program, said that any technology "can quickly turn into a method to control, stalk and cause mental anguish for the partner."
"For individuals with financial means, a smart home with the latest bells and whistles is becoming a more common way to abuse a partner via technology within the home."
Nijem went onto contact local law enforcement but was told that nothing could be done as her ex was listed as the owner of the house. She eventually got help from a women's shelter, and now works with organisations that help domestic violence victims by sharing her story.
"You can get through this," she concluded. "Join a program. Find a support group. Grab the tools and resources for healing. … Do trauma counselling, because PTSD is a big part of domestic violence."
"Domestic abusers, they always can find new and advanced ways to cause harm. But these companies need to catch up, the laws and the protective policies need to catch up, because ... tech abuse is a growing problem."