Although technologies such as the internet, email and mobile phones have provided benefits for victims of family violence, they have also opened up new avenues for abuse.
Trust your instincts
If you suspect the abusive person knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email, car use or other activities are being monitored. Abusers and stalkers can act in incredibly persistent and creative ways to maintain power and control.
Plan for safety
Dealing with violence, abuse, and stalking is very difficult and dangerous. Domestic violence services and police can discuss options and help you in your safety planning.
Use a safer computer
If anyone who is abusive has access to your computer, he/she might be monitoring your computer activities. ‘Spyware’ and ‘keylogging’ programs are commonly available and can track what you do on your computer without you knowing it. It is not possible to delete or clear all of the ‘tracks’ of your online or 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 public library, community centre, or Internet cafe.
Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account
If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email, consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access, in case it is monitored. Use an anonymous name, and account: (example: firstname.lastname@example.org – not YourRealName@email.com). Look for free web-based email accounts (like yahoo or hotmail), and do not provide detailed information about yourself.
Check your mobile phone settings
If you are using a mobile phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when not in use. Also many phones let you to ‘lock’ the keys so a phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. When on, check the phone settings; if your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off/on via the phone settings menu or by turning your phone on and off.
Change passwords and pin numbers
Some abusers use a victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or could guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently. Think about changing the passwords for any password protected accounts – online banking, voicemail, etc. Use a safer computer to access your accounts.
Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors
If you don’t want others to overhear your conversations, turn baby monitors off when not in use and use a traditional corded phone for sensitive conversations.
Get your own mobile phone
When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family mobile phone because the mobile phone bill and the phone log might reveal your plans to an abuser. Consider using a prepaid phone card so that you won’t get numbers listed on your bill.
Ask about your records and data
Ask government agencies about their privacy policies regarding how they protect or publish your records. Request that courts, government, post offices and others restrict access to your files to protect your safety.
Get a private postbox and don’t give out your real address
When asked by businesses, doctors, and others for your address, have a private post office box address or a safer address to give them.
See if your private contact information is can be found online. Go to Google and do a search for your name in quotation marks: “Full Name”
Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking
Messages left via texts/answering machines can be saved as evidence of stalking or abuse. Keep a record of all suspicious incidents. You can report abuse, violence, threats, stalking or cyber-stalking to police and the abuser can be charged with a criminal offence, or police can assist with applying for an Intervention Order. Cyberstalking is illegal in Victoria.
Legal intervention for cyberstalking
In 2003, Victoria was the first state to amend its Crimes Act to add ‘cyber-stalking’. The definition of the crime of stalking now includes stalking a person on the internet or via email, impersonating another person in cyberspace, posting false information about them on the web and publishing offensive material electronically.
- This Stalking brochure has practical advice for victims of stalking, like suggestions for to collect evidence and best use police support to pursue criminal charges. It’s made by the Victims Support Agency of the Victorian Department of Justice.
- Using the Internet Safely by Women’s Health West
- Family Violence Intervention Orders – Magistrate’s Court of Victoria
The information above was adapted from Technology Safety Planning with Survivors: Tips to discuss if someone you know is in danger (2005), by the Safety Net: National Safe & Strategic Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA). It was adapted by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria with permission from the Safety Net Project.