Survey Results of National Network to End Domestic Violence
97% of domestic violence programs report that abusers misuse technology to stalk, harass, and control victims
90% of domestic violence programs report that abusers harass victims via text messaging and through social media
Get more information. Navigating violence, abuse, and stalking can be very difficult and dangerous. Victim advocates in your area can tell you about options and local resources, and help you create a plan for your safety.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-4673
National Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888
More information about technology, harassment, and abuse is in our Survivor Toolkit at TechSafety.org.
Consider using a safer device. If you think that someone is monitoring your computer, tablet, or mobile device, try using a different device that the person hasn’t had physical or remote access to in the past, and doesn’t have access to now (like a computer at a library or a friend’s phone).
Trust your instincts. Abusers, stalkers, and perpetrators are often very determined to maintain control over their victims, and technology is one of many tools they use to do this. If it seems like the person knows too much about you, they could be getting that information from a variety of sources, like monitoring your devices, accessing your online accounts, tracking your location, or gathering information about you online.
Strategically plan around your tech. When abusers misuse technology, it’s often a natural reaction to want to throw away devices or close online accounts to make it stop. However, some abusive individuals may escalate their controlling and dangerous behavior if they feel they’ve lost access to the victim. So before removing a hidden camera that you’ve found, or a GPS tracker, think through how the abuser may respond and plan for your safety. For example, some survivors choose to use a safer device for certain interactions, but also keep using the monitored device as a way to collect evidence.
IDENTIFY THE ABUSE
Look for patterns. Take some time to think through what kind of technology may being used to stalk, monitor, or harass you. For example, if the abusive person has hinted that they are watching you, think about what they know.
Does the abuser know where you are whether at home or out in the public?
Does the abuser know when you drive somewhere, or your destinations?
Narrowing down the potential source of technology can help you create a safety plan and to document the abuse. Read more about Assessing for Technology Abuse.
Document the incidents. Documenting a series of incidents can show police or the court a pattern of behavior that fits a legal definition of stalking or harassment. Documentation can also help you see if things are escalating, and help you with safety planning. For more information, check out our Documentation Tips for Survivors.
Report the incidents. You may also want to report the incidents to law enforcement or seek a protective order. If the harassing behavior is online, you can also report it to the website or app where the harassment is happening. If the behavior violates the platform’s terms of service, the content may be removed or the person may be banned. It’s important to recognize that reporting content may remove it completely so it should be documented prior to reports for evidence.
STEPS TO INCREASE SECURITY
Change passwords and usernames. If you think your online accounts are being accessed, you can change your usernames and passwords using a safer device. Once you’ve updated the account information, it’s important not to access those accounts from a device you think is being monitored. You can also:
consider creating brand new accounts for different platforms
create new email addresses without identifying usernames or other revealing information
create an email address that can be encrypted, and meant only for recipients to read (Proton Mail)
It’s important to not link these new accounts to any old accounts or numbers, and not to use the same password for all of your accounts. Read more tips about Password Safety.
Check your devices & settings. Go through your mobile device, apps, and online accounts, and check the privacy settings to make sure that other devices or accounts aren’t connected to yours, and that any device-to-device access, like Bluetooth, is turned off when you’re not using it. Make sure you know what each of your apps are and what they do. Delete any apps on your device that you’re unfamiliar with or that you don’t use. Look for spikes in data usage – these may indicate that monitoring software such as spyware may be in use.
Protect your location. If the person seems to always know where you are, they might be tracking you through your mobile device, your vehicle, or by using a location tracker.
Check your mobile devices, apps, and accounts to update the settings that best suit your needs
Check with mobile phone provider to ask if location sharing services are in use for the plan you’re utilizing
If you’re concerned about a hidden tracking device in your car or other belongings, a law enforcement agency, private investigator, or a car mechanic may be able to check for you
It’s important to safety plan and document evidence before removing a device or changing an abusive person’s access to your location information.
Get a new device. If you suspect that your actual device is being monitored, the safest thing may be to get a new device with an account that the abusive person will not have access to, such as a pay-as-you-go phone.
Put a passcode on the new device, and don’t link it to your old cloud accounts like iCloud or Google
Consider turning off location and Bluetooth sharing.
Consider temporarily keeping the old device so that the abusive person thinks you are still using it, and doesn’t try to get access to the new device.
Consider cameras and audio devices. If you suspect that you’re being monitored through cameras or audio recorders, it may be happening through hidden devices, gifts received from the abusive person, or even everyday devices like webcams, personal assistants (such as Google Home or Alexa), or security systems.
Consider using a camera detector, however detectors may be limited in locating certain cameras
Everyday devices or gifts may be able to be secured by changing account settings or passwords
Built-in web cameras can be covered up with a piece of removable tape
Remember to consider making a safety plan and documenting evidence before removing devices or cutting off an abusive person’s access.
STEPS TO INCREASE PRIVACY
Protect your address. If you’re concerned about someone finding your address, or a partner already knowing your current address, please consider the following:
open a private mail box (Find more information about P.O. Boxes)
see if you’re eligible for the Safe at Home program for California residents
your state has an address confidentiality program
tell friends and family not to share your address (if you’ve recently moved)
Also, look into what information is public in your state if you were to purchase a home so you know your options.
Limit the information you give out about yourself. Mostly everything we do these days asks for personally identifying information—whether it’s to make a purchase, open a discount card, or create an online account.
When possible, opt out of information collection, or only provide the minimum amount necessary
Consider using initials of your first and last name
Consider getting a free virtual phone number, such as Google Voice
Control your offline & online privacy. Our Survivor Toolkit at TechSafety.org has Online Privacy & Safety Tips, including more information about changing settings on your mobile devices, social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, and your home WiFi network. Follow those steps to increase your privacy and decrease risks for an abusive person to misuse those technologies, locate you, or monitor your activity.