While new technologies are great when it comes to keeping in touch with family and friends and staying abreast of any changes in the lives of your loved ones, there’s a hidden cost. Unfortunately, the myriad ways we communicate with each other have opened up avenues that are subject to abuse.
Technology can be used to stalk, intimidate, and harass. In many countries, this kind of online behavior is illegal, so documenting any abuse you are facing is important. Armed with records of what you have been going through, you stand a better chance of bringing forward legal action. You’ll also be monitoring the situation to see if it’s escalating and will be better placed to spot any patterns that arise.
If you’re a survivor of domestic violence and are facing online harassment from the abusive person, tech safety and monitoring are even more important.
How to document online abuse and stalking
1. Keep records of what is happening including screenshots of messages, unwanted phone calls, and of online harassment in public forums. Make a log sheet and take note of the date and time the abuse occurred. Even if you prefer not sharing this information with law enforcement at the current moment in time, you may need to in the future.
2. Save emails. Email headers may contain valuable information about the sender’s IP address. If you’re taking screenshots, make sure the header is visible. Note that when you forward emails, any identifying info is lost.
3. The contents of text messages are only kept by the carrier for a limited time. If you’re facing abusive texts, screenshot the messages including the top of your phone where the sender’s number or name is visible. If you’re currently liaising with the police, ask them to send a preservation request to the phone company. The company will then keep all the data.
4. Depending on where you’re located, you may be able to record any threatening phone calls you receive. In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to record a person, even an abuser, without their consent.
5. Check whether the app or communication platform you’re using lets the abuser know if you take a screenshot. Some programs, such as Snapchat, inform the sender you captured the image. Note that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram do not inform the sender.
6. If you’re being harassed or abused on social media, take screenshots of the abuser’s profile and images of the messages or public abuse you encountered.
7. If you’re currently in a relationship and are facing intimate partner violence, change your passwords if you think it’s safe to do so. Make sure that only yourself and a trusted friend have access to your devices. Hide any screenshots or messages you’ve been saving.
8. Make sure you keep an eye on your own safety. Sometimes, an abusive person will escalate the situation if they think their messages and calls are being kept or recorded. Trust your instincts in these cases and make sure someone outside of the situation knows what is going on.
Blocking and removing abusers
If you’ve gathered enough evidence of the abuse, or you need to stop communicating with the abusive person, you should block or remove them from your social media accounts.
Phone numbers can also be blocked, however, persistent harassment may continue because the abuser uses a new phone number that your phone doesn’t recognize. In these cases changing your phone number may be a necessity.
People who have recently escaped a dangerous abusive situation need to be extra careful when it comes to keeping their location hidden from the abuser. Consider using a VPN to hide any identifying information when you’re online.
Technology is such an essential part of daily life that domestic violence survivors and people who are experiencing abuse can’t simply log off to solve the problem. Increasingly, abusive persons are using ever more sophisticated tools to monitor, coerce, intimidate, and stalk people online. Studies have also shown a correlation between online abuse and the potential for offline incidents.
Documenting the scope of the abuse goes some way toward combatting it, If you need help, reach out to your local domestic violence center, the police, or a national organization.
If you are feeling stressed constantly due to an abusive partner, and suspect that you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder, reach out for medical support in Sydney. You could first contact your GP and then get a referral for specialist treatment in dedicated clinics. Depending on what you’re comfortable with, you could also visit a counselor or seek alternative therapies.