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Going by the old school definition of what domestic abuse and violence can be is a major crippling factor to the level of help victims can get. This is why the definition has been expanded to mean cases of control and power play that could lead to negative psychological, emotional and social impacts on the victims.
With the current rate of global advancement, it becomes important to consider the roles which technology is playing in the aspect of domestic violence so as to devise a way to combat abuse in any and all ways it could come in.
Understanding Digital Abuse
When it comes to physical violence, there are no two ways about it. The victim gets to know outright what the relationship has degenerated into, and that will signify their first red flags to flee.
Unfortunately, the same is not true for digital abuse.
In fact, a partner could keep a loving front at all times while perpetrating the abuse in stages till the point where the victim realizes they are too much in the deep. That is because this kind of abuse does not usually require physicality and the form of violence that has now come to be known with abuse – making it easy for the potential victim to discard occurrences as nothing serious.
Some of the common ways digital abuse begins is when a partner starts:
- Choosing your social media friends for you, blatantly telling you that you cannot be friends with some people.
- Sending you inappropriate emails and texts. These could include insults, threats and other such messages with negative vibes to them.
- Tracking and monitoring your activity online through social media websites and other online platforms you use
- Asking to be given your account password and login information. Most times, they are not willing to give theirs up. Even if they were, you reserve the right to consent to such an agreement, not be forced into it.
- Ravaging your phone with alarming frequency, looking through all of your chats, texts, DMs, pictures, videos, etc.
- Tagging you online in unkind ways, and so much more.
Other forms of the same digital abuse are:
- Sending you explicit pictures without your consent
- Demanding explicit images and videos from you
- Installing parental control apps on your devices to always know what you are doing on them
- Bugging your phones so that the abuser can always listen in on your calls, hack your GPS location, etc.
- Sending you constant, random texts that you have to reply to almost instantly lest you get ‘punished’ for being away from your phone, etc.
Looking at all of the above, they underline the goals of any form of abuse at all – to maintain power and control over the victim at all times.
None of the behaviors mentioned above should be treated as normal, and you should start working towards leaving the relationship if your partner has started exhibiting such signs.
Using Technology to Your Advantage
While the abuser might be using their knowledge of technology to carry out all the attacks mentioned above and more, you can always beat them at this game. To do so, you don’t have to look any further than technology too.
We will discuss important headings you should consider when securing yourself with existing tech, and how to do so.
Keeping your location confidential
If you are still involved in the relationship and planning a way out, you might be concerned that the abuser always knows where you are at all times, even when you haven’t shared such information with them.
Should you leave, they might start stalking you even when you don’t share your location information with them.
We explore some options below:
- Cell phone – There is a chance they have a parental control app, location tracker or bug installed on your phone. We recommend resetting and leaving your phone behind when you exit a toxic relationship like this so you can start afresh with a new device. Turn off your location settings and grant no application access to such.
- Social media – Stalkers know how to use social media to their advantage, and you should too. One of the best ways of doing that is not posting pictures immediately you take them. That way, your current location can’t be traced due to the picture.
Turn off your social media location features. Trust us: you can enjoy social media without having to let it broadcast your location to everyone.
- Friends and family – When friends and family don’t know what is going on, an abusive partner can reach out to them and ask for your locating harmlessly. These people will be none the wiser and may give up your location.
On escaping, intimate close friends and family only about your new location and contact information. Let them know of the situation ground too so they are never tricked into giving up your location.
- Car – Your car could come with a GPS, and that can be tapped to always track your location. You should take your car to specialist who can scan its components and computers for possible bypasses and foreign instruments.
Keeping your communications confidential
Besides your location, you also have to make sure the abuser does not have access to your communication – especially before you leave the relationship. Here are some of the common ways you could have a problem here:
- Emails – Do they have access to your passwords? It might be time to set up a new account. Ensure this account does not come with your personal details (e.g. email@example.com is better than firstname.lastname@example.org). Likewise, make sure this new email is not synced up to any device but used mainly as a web service so that you don’t risk being found out.
- Cell phones – A bug or listening device might be installed in your cell phone. We recommend not tampering with the phone till you leave the relationship. When you need to hold sensitive conversations, use burner phones.
You can pay for burner phones in cash since they are inexpensive, and you don’t even have to buy a carrier contract on them. Keep these phones turned off when you are not using them – and dispose of them if they are at a risk of being found out. You can always get many more.
- Other forms of communication – This includes social media, escape apps and so on. The best thing to do here would be setting up new accounts to reach out to your safety net, just like you have done with your emails.
Keeping your online details uncompromised
Abusers will waste no time in sharing poor information about you online. This, they will do to spark outrage against your person online, defame you (by posting intimate images, for example) or simply impersonate you to do other unspeakable things online.
The best thing to do in this situation is taking down the social media accounts till you can get out of that relationship and reawaken the accounts. That will save you a lot of stress. Should you need to reach out to others on social media, apply the tip from the section above this one – and only add up those you really need to be in contact with.
Keeping your documents safe
Speaking of power and control, abusers will often hold back something of importance from their victims to ensure they can always keep control of them. Crucial documents like ID cards, academic certificates, drivers’ license, etc. could be taken away.
Honestly, escape seems futile without possession of these documents.
But then, not if there is a way around it.
Scan all your important documents beforehand and save copies of them online. You can send these files to the secure email you created, or setup a cloud account with that email address (Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud accounts are recommended) so that you can access the documents from anywhere.
Even if you had to leave in a hurry, a printout of these files will get you through till you can file to have another, where necessary.
Keeping your finances in order
We probably don’t need to go deep on how important finances are – and how crippling it could be when sole access is taken away.
If an abusive partner maintains a joint account with the victim, or they have access to their bank login details, stashing some money away to fund the escape might not be as easy as it sounds.
Thankfully, money can be stored in more ways than just physical paper today. Services like PayPal, Payoneer, Neteller, Perfect Money and the likes have made it possible to hold funds in online accounts that could be accessed from almost anywhere in the world. Even if you are escaping to a region where the same physical currencies are not spent, all you have to do is exchange the funds in your online account to the local currency.
All of these accounts can easily be set up with the safe email you create above. In a case where you desire even more anonymity, cryptocurrencies (bitcoin is the most recommended of the bunch) can act as a safe haven for you.
Most Important Information
While we might have listed tips on how to stay safe while in the relationship, nothing spells safety like actually getting out of the relationship. A lot of the tips above will help make the planning of your escape easier.
By all means, you deserve better than where you have currently found yourself – and we believe you are strong enough to make that happen.