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Digital Tips for Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence refers to any behavior aimed at gaining power and control over an intimate partner or a family member. When most people hear the term domestic violence, they usually think of physical assault that results in visible injuries to the victim. That’s not always the case. Domestic violence is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence can take many forms, and the consequences of any form of domestic violence can be devastating.

Domestic violence stems from control issues. Controlling behavior is a way for the perpetrators of domestic violence to maintain dominance over their victims. Usually, domestic violence starts as emotional abuse and later evolves into physical violence. This can happen to anyone. If you are in an unsafe, abusive relationship, you might be thinking about leaving. It’s not easy, and you don’t have to do it now. But having a plan will help you know what to do when you decide to leave.

Technology and Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence is linked to serious physical and emotional problems. Leaving an abusive relationship, no matter how difficult it can be, is the only way to guarantee safety. Technology can be used as a weapon to harass and intimidate victims even after they’ve left the relationship. At the same time, technology can help you get out of an abusive relationship. This article highlights some of the ways to get out of domestic violence with digital help.

Tech-Enabled Domestic Violence

The use of technology by perpetrators of domestic violence to harass and abuse victims has increased in the age of smartphones and smart homes. Using technology to intimidate or harass someone is known as digital abuse. Technology-enabled domestic abuse is more common among teenagers and young adults who use tech more often, but it can happen to people of all ages, at any stage of the relationship. Here are some common signs of digital abuse:

  • Possessiveness and Control. Be wary of a partner who insists on deciding who you can or can’t follow on social media and controls who you message or text. Also, a partner who demands your constant attention online and makes you feel unsafe for failing to respond to messages instantly can be dangerous.
  • Sexual Coercion. Watch out for behavior such as taking pictures or videos of you without your consent, sharing photos and videos of you with others, and demanding that you send explicit photos and videos that you are not comfortable with.
  • Monitoring and Stalking. Be wary of a partner who uses location tagging or spyware to track your location and monitor your internet activity. A person who looks through your phone and computer without your permission and steals or demands to know your passwords is a potential stalker and abuser.
  • Bullying and Harassment. Posting someone’s embarrassing photos online after a break up is a form of digital abuse. Digital abusers also tend to tag their victims in hurtful posts, and send threatening or insulting social media messages or texts.

The fact that technology now plays a major part in domestic abuse doesn’t come as a surprise, given the ubiquity of digital communications. Tech facilitated domestic violence affects hundreds of people every day, whether it’s in the form of GPS tracking, threatening text or email, or social media stalking and harassment. Tech-facilitated domestic abuse makes the victims feel as if their abusers are in their lives forever, even after they have left the abusive relationship.

Fighting Digital Abuse

Abusers often use technology to monitor, track and harass their victims even after the relationship has ended. This magnifies the victim’s sense of imprisonment, continuing the emotional abuse that the victim was suffering in the relationship. So, how can victims of domestic violence use technology to protect themselves and take back control of their lives both online and offline?

Reset Your Phone

It’s common for abusers to install surveillance apps or spyware onto the phones of their victims to keep tabs on them. The abuser can track your location at all times and monitor your internet activity if they’ve bugged your phone. Remove any apps that may be monitoring your activities by restoring factory settings on your device. After that, set up a passcode to ensure that no one can access your device without your consent.

Smart Home Technologies

Smart home technologies, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), can also be used by perpetrators of domestic violence to terrorize their victims remotely. Make sure that nobody else has access to any smart technologies that you may have installed in your home. Also, have a professional sweep both your home and your car for bugs and GPS trackers.

Secure Your Personal Data

Abusers usually take important documents such as driver’s license, medical records, immigration papers, birth certificates, etc. from their victims. This is a tactic to maintain control on the part of the abuser. Take back control of your life by securing personal data and records beyond their reach. For instance, you can scan all important records and upload them to the cloud. Make sure your accounts are password protected. Even if someone takes the hard copies, you will be able to move on with your life using the scanned copies.

Protect Your Online Presence

You need to protect your online presence, including social media and email accounts, to prevent intrusion. Use two-factor authentication to protect your social media and email accounts. Abusers commonly use social media to stalk their victims. Social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can give away your location to a stalker. To avoid that, don’t tag your location in your social media posts. You might also want to consider removing location permissions from apps altogether.

The use of technology as a weapon against tech-facilitated abuse and coercive control is to hold abusers to account. Therefore, victims should not, for instance, be told to forsake their online presence. Telling victims to abandon their digital lives is counterproductive. The goal is to stop abusers from further terrorizing their victims through the use of technology, not to drive the victims off of social media and other online platforms.

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by ashish padhy

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