The use of modern technology has increased abusers’ abilities to monitor and track their partners’ activities. If you are not sure if someone is monitoring you, trust your instincts, especially if your abuser seems to know too much about your activities or things you have only told a few people. Abusers can be very determined and creative. A person does not have to be “tech savvy” to buy or use monitoring or surveillance technology. It is cheap and easy to use.
These days, most people have a cell phone. It can be a link to safety if you need to call someone for help. On the other hand, an abuser can use your cell phone as a tool to monitor everything you do, including viewing a log of your incoming and outgoing calls, reading your text messages, tracking where you go, viewing photos you send and receive, as well as websites you visit, etc. This is done easily by
downloading a hidden app onto your phone when you are not looking. Most phones also come with services or options such as: Caller ID, call logs, Call Return Service (*69), last number dialed, Global Positioning System (GPS), “silent mode,” or “auto answer.” Landlines may also carry some of these risks. Traditional “corded” phones are usually safer than other kinds of phones. Think of these things as you plan for your safety. Consider options such as not taking your cell phone with you if you leave or getting a prepaid cell phone, also known as a “burner” or “throw away” phone. Some domestic violence programs can give you a phone to be used for emergencies.
If the abuser has access to your computer, they can see what websites you have gone to and read your e-mail. Abusers can also monitor computer activities remotely by using keystroke logging technology or spying software. These send a report to the abuser’s computer of all the activity (e-mails, websites visited, instant messages, etc.) that has taken place on your computer. Be aware that changing passwords or erasing history could make the abuser suspicious. To be safe, use a computer at a library, community center, internet cafe, workplace, or a trusted friend’s house when you need to look for help or plan to escape.
Hidden cameras, such as “Nanny Cams,” are cheap and easy to purchase, install, and monitor. Abusers can easily hide a camera to monitor your actions. These cameras can be very small and will often appear as everyday objects. Even a baby monitor can be used for listening to conversations. As tempting as it might be, shutting devices off or removing them could make your partner suspicious. Weigh your options carefully and while you are home, be aware that what you say and do are being recorded or monitored.
Global Positioning System (GPS) devices are affordable, small, and can be easily hidden. An abuser can hide a GPS device in your car, jewelry, purse, shoes, and other objects that you carry with you. If you find an object you think may be a GPS device, do not remove it. Call the police. If it’s safe to do so, take photos.
Save proof of contact by the abuser, including e-mails, text messages, or phone messages. Saving everything can help show patterns, plan for safety, and provide evidence for police. For evidence, it is important that e-mail messages stay on your computer, even if you print them out.
You may consider taking steps to limit your abuser’s access to your information such as changing your computer/phone/e-mail account passwords and notifying your carrier to have your abuser removed from your accounts as an authorized user. Recognize that these steps or anything that you do could alert the abuser. You are strongly encouraged to make these and any other changes with the guidance of a trained domestic violence advocate who can help you adjust your safety plan accordingly.
Technology is constantly changing and evolving. For the most up-to- date information on technology safety, visit The Safety Net Project at bit.ly/safetynetproject.