Technologies, such as Cell phones, GPS systems, the Internet are all tools that have become part of our daily lives. These tools of productivity can also make you vulnerable to an abuser.
It used to be that someone had to be very technically adept in order to tweak technology to use it for anything other than its intended purpose. However, our dependence upon these devices and the accessibility of information makes that dependence dangerous. When you use technology, you also potentially open a window through which your abusers can track your movements. By paying attention to some key rules, you can limit what your abuser knows.
Phone safety in domestic violence situations
- Remember that “corded” phones are more private than cordless phones or analog cell phones. Anyone can use a baby monitor or scanner to eavesdrop on phone calls from a cordless phone.
- After calling a domestic violence hotline or other safety resources, always call an unrelated safe number afterward, if your abuser hits re-dial, it will dial that number.
- Be aware you may not be able to reach 911 using an Internet phone or Internet-based phone service. So you may need to be prepared to use another phone to call 911. You should consider a secret cell phone hidden in an easily accessible location to call 911 if you need to.
- Use a donated or new cell phone. When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone billing records and phone logs may reveal your plans to an abuser.
- Contact your local domestic violence program, shelter, or rape crisis center to learn about free 911 cell phone donation programs.
- Check your cell phone settings. If you are using a cell phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when you are not using it. 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 phone settings or by turning your phone on and off.
Internet and computer safety in domestic violence situations
- If you think your online activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move.
- You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and internet activities – anyone can do it.
- You can delete your internet history from your computer, but if you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire internet history if that is not your regular habit.
- It is not possible to delete or clear all the “footprints” of your computer or online activities. If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for everyday activities, like looking up the weather. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs, apartments, bus tickets or to ask for help.
- It might be safer to use a computer in a public library or at a trusted friend’s house.
- Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call the Crisis Line instead.
- Create a new email account. If you suspect that anyone 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 can access, in case it is monitored. Use an anonymous name, and account: (example: firstname.lastname@example.org, not YourRealName@yahoo.com) Look for free web based email accounts such as gmail, yahoo mail or hotmail, and do not provide detailed information about yourself.
- Other safety suggestions: Change your password often, do not pick obvious words or numbers for your password, and make sure to include a combination of letters and numbers for your password.
- If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, you can print and save them as evidence of this abuse. These messages may also constitute a federal offense.
Erasing your online tracks
Clearing your history/cache file
If an abuser knows how to read your computer’s history of cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), he or she may be able to see information you have viewed on the Internet. You can clear your history or empty your cache file in your browser’s settings.*
- Netscape: Pull down Edit menu, select Preferences. Click on Navigator or choose “Clear History”. Click on Advanced then select Cache. Click on “Clear Disk Cache”.
- Internet Explorer: Pull down Tools menu, select Internet Options. On General page under Temporary Internet Files, Click on Delete Files. If asked, check the box to delete all offline content. Still within the Temporary Internet Files section, click on Setting (This step may make it harder to navigate pages where you would like your information to be remembered, but these remaining cookies do show website pages you have visited. Therefore, use your own judgment as to whether or not to take this next step). Click on “View Files”, Manually highlight all the files (cookies) shown, then hit Delete. Close that window, then on General page under History section, click on “Clear History.”
- AOL: Pull down Members menu, select Preferences. Click on WWW icon. Then select Advanced. Purge Cache.
Additionally, you need to make sure that the “Use Inline Autocomplete” box is NOT checked. This function will complete partial web addresses while typing location in the address bar at the top of the browser.
If you are using Internet Explorer, this box can be found on the MS Internet Explorer Page by clicking on “Tools” at the top of the screen, then “Internet Options” and then the “Advanced” tab. About halfway down there is a “Use Inline Autocomplete” box that can be checked or unchecked by clicking on it. Uncheck the box to disable the feature that automatically completes an Internet address when you start typing in the Internet address box.
*This information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. The safest way to find information on the Internet would be at a local library, a friend’s house, or at work.
GPS and other electronic devices in domestic abuse
An abuser can turn on a GPS system on your car or cell phone in many cases and monitor your movements.
For help call HAVEN’s Crisis Line: 586-4111 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224