Tech Safety Tips for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse

by Guest Writer Octavia Brown, techwarn

The broad definition of domestic violence confirms that it goes beyond physical and verbal attacks in a relationship. It goes as far as all the forms of psychological, emotional and social abuse which are all engineered to ensure that the victim stays under the power and control of their abuser.

Going by that definition, our eyes are opened to the ways in which technology is being abused to perpetrate domestic violence – and the growing need to talk about how survivors can gain back their autonomy after leaving the relationship.

In this piece, we explore the ugly relationship between domestic abuse and tech, forging ways to ensure you are never caught in the web.

Establishing Trust with Your Devices Your smartphones, laptops, smartwatches, and every other gadget in your home should not be the cause of your worries. You spend too much time around the units to have them turned on you.

And, if you were wondering, they can be used against you in many ways than one.

Your phones and laptops, for example, could be bugged to monitor your location and conversations. In the same way, connected devices like smart locks can be used to gain unauthorized access to your house while cameras can be used to remotely collect your private pictures and videos.

To ensure your devices are not compromised:

  • Make a complete factory reset of all your devices when you leave the relationship. That gets rid of software trackers and allows you to set up new profiles on the units. If the devices were bought by the abusive ex-partner, leave them behind after the wipe so they don’t set the authorities on you for theft.
  • Set new passwords for your devices. Make use of a password generating software to get the strongest passwords, and never use one password for more than one account.
  • Get your devices and gadgets scanned for possible physical tracking beacons. The same should be done for your car.
  • If you have connected devices in your home, create new accounts and profiles for them. Make new passwords too, and ensure their apps are always kept updated regularly.

Securing your information One thing you don’t want is an abuser getting hold of important information and files, then holding those over you. These could be physical files or online data – and none of them spell good for you.

Technology, again, steps in for the rescue:

  • Enable two-factor authentication on all of your accounts. Even if the abuser were to hack the password, they still would not be able to get into your accounts with just that.
  • Scan copies of your important files and documents to keep in a secure cloud server. This should include all of academic and property certificates, drivers’ license, other important certificates, international passports, etc.
  • Use secret USB sticks when collecting and saving data from your computer. For a better layer of security, you should encrypt your USB sticks (this can be easily done on both Windows and macOS) so that the abuser doesn’t get access to your files even if they got the secret USB sticks.
  • Secure your social media accounts by changing passwords to them. Likewise, remove the abusive partner from your list of followers while also changing your account to private. Take note of all accounts requesting permission to follow you as they (the abuser) could create a fake account to do so.
  • Any and all files you deem important should be saved to the cloud. We recommend creating a new, anonymous email account to associate that cloud account with for improved safety.

Securing your location Your location information is very important. You don’t want an abusive ex-partner just showing up on you at random places, ruining your day. Likewise, you don’t want to live under the illusion that you are always being followed as that will do nothing for your emotional health and well-being.

That said, take the following measures to stay safe:

As recommended above, perform a security wipe on your devices and have them checked for location beacons.

Turn off location access on your device. Keep it only for times when you really need it (maybe for shopping apps, maps, etc.)

Prevent your social media accounts from broadcasting your location everytime you post anything.

Wrap Up With the above tips, you get to circumvent many of the ways by which an abuser could think to use technology against you.

After all is said and done, though, this is not a cure. It is a means, all right, but not the end.

Seek out domestic abuse centers you can trust to make a case for yourself. That way, you get access to an even more extensive range of resources that will not only help keep you safe from the attacker but also ensure you live and lead a better life.

Just like you deserve.