Technology & Safety
Technology can assist victims and their children successfully flee violent batterers and stalkers, yet it is important to remember that technology can put a victim's privacy and safety at risk. Domestic violence victims are often stalked, threatened, or harassed by abusers who exploit technology as a tool to control and manipulate their victims. There are many dangerous and potentially lethal aspects of various technologies, especially when they fall into the hands of abusive individuals.
Advances in technology occur rapidly making it difficult to keep up with the changes, benefits and dangers. For instance, spyware programs, originally marketed to help parents protect their children while using the computer, can be used by abusers to monitor a victim’s computer use. Tracking devices in cars, which use a network of satellites, can help abusers determine their victim’s location. And cameras, disguised as teddy bears, picture frames and other household items can be placed throughout the home to monitor a victim's activities.
With the improved development of cell phones, an abuser can use a phone to:
- Determine a victim's whereabouts using GPS (global positioning system)
- Send threatening text messages
- Phone the victim or leave voice mail messages with abusive content
- Take pictures
- Access social networks to harass a victim
- Use caller-ID spoofing to trick the victim into talking to them (this is done via a downloadable program that alters the way the offender’s phone number appears on the victim’s caller-ID so that the victim thinks that someone else is calling)
Tech Safety Tips
If an abuser has access to your computer, s/he might be monitoring your computer activities. Try to use a safer computer when you look for help, a new place to live, etc. It may be safest to use a computer at a friend's house, public library or community center. Remember, it’s impossible to delete or clear all of the “footprints” of your computer or online activity.
Create an email account that doesn't directly identify you- don't use your full name since that can be easy for an abuser to figure out. Have more than one email account and use them for different purposes.
Create a password using a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. Change your password frequently and don't use the same password for all of your accounts. Change your PIN numbers for bank accounts, etc. frequently as well.
First and foremost you should understand that nothing on the Internet or social media sites is every truly private. Always check the privacy settings on your social media account and set them to the privacy level that works for you. But keep in mind that even if you make your social network page (e.g., Facebook) private, it doesn’t guarantee that your information can’t be seen by others not on your approved list of “friends.” Sometimes the friend of a friend might be able to see it. And someone on your approved list of “friends” could always permit your abuser access to your information through his/her account. Also, you can talk to your friends and family to let them know what they can and cannot post online about you.
Look for information or photos of you on websites of organizations that you are affiliated with, such as work, school, organizations that you volunteer for, professional associations, sports teams, faith-based or community groups, etc. It’s good to be aware of what information is on the Internet about you and to remove it if possible. This is especially
important if you have relocated and don't want your abuser to know your new location.
If you are concerned that there is a monitoring device on your car or spyware on your computer don't take it into your own hands to locate it. It's best that you contact the police or someone who is trained in safety and obtaining evidence.
If you feel that you are in immediate danger, please call 911. You can also call your local domestic violence agency by calling the statewide, toll free domestic violence hotline at (888) 774-2900.
Additional Technology Safety Resources:
- National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Safety Net Project Technology Safety Resource page. Resources include:
- Cell Phone & Location Safety Strategies
- Online Privacy & Safety Tips, including tips for social media such as Facebook
- Who’s Spying on Your Computer? Spyware, Surveillance, and Safety for Survivors
- National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center