What can you do if you are a victim of tech abuse?
The Victoria Derbyshire programme has highlighted how domestic abusers are using technology to stalk, trap, control, isolate and hunt down their victims.
Sharing her experience, domestic abuse survivor Ellen said how her ex-husband tracked her down after she had moved to a secure refuge in a new town by hacking into her Gmail account and accessing her diary. Although her ex is no longer tracking her movements, the experience is still affecting Ellen psychologically.
Speaking to the BBC programme, Refuge - a charity that supports women and children experiencing domestic violence - said that 95% of the cases they see involve tech abuse.
How are abusers using technology?
In some cases, abusers sow location trackers into the linings of a child's coat or toy in a bid to keep track of their ex-partner's movements. Also, the charity says that it has found "a rise in the number of women whose children's IPads, Xboxes and PlayStations have been hacked by the perpetrator to gain full access to their accounts."
Other common abuse includes hacking email accounts, using social media channels as tools to harass and stalk, monitoring calls and messages, exploiting phone tracking software, and installing cameras around the home.
Are you experiencing tech abuse?
In some cases, people might not know that they are the victim of tech abuse. To help identify the problem, Refuge as provided a quick checklist on its website. People who answer yes to these questions may be experiencing domestic violence.
This includes things like:
- Has your partner/abuser threatened to share any information about you online
- Does your partner/abuser seem to know about conversations that you have had without being present?
- Does your partner/abuser know your whereabouts or turn up unexpectedly wherever you go?
- Does your partner/abuser stalk and harass you via social media?
- Has your partner/abuser installed any apps such as 'find my iPhone' onto your device?
What can you do to protect yourself from tech abuse?
Refuge also provides a range of helpful guides and tips for domestic abuse survivors. These include:
- Technology safety quick tips
- How to document tech abuse (this is critical for a number of reasons, including if you ever want to pursue legal action)
- An iPhone privacy and safety guide
- Tips on how to stay safe on Facebook and Twitter
- Advice on how privacy could be compromised on online gaming platforms (and what to do to stop this from happening)
- A guide on spyware and surveillance tools and how breached privacy and security can be re-established
- A guide on how to create a technology safety plan
- A list of questions and considerations to go through when looking at using apps
- A guide to how home devices can be used to facilitate tech abuse.
The tech abuse and empowerment service
Refuge has launched a nationwide tech abuse and empowerment service to support women who have had technology used against them as a weapon of domestic abuse. The service was created to empower survivors so they can use technology positively and safely. You can find out more about this service here.
Taking legal action following tech abuse
In some cases, taking legal action is necessary to end cyberstalking, cyber abuse and harassment. And, if someone is convicted of a cybercrime against you, as well as putting measures in place to stop the unwanted behaviour, the court may also order them to pay you compensation. Where the authorities are not interested, we can assist with a private prosecution.
It's also possible to take legal action where poor data security processes have allowed someone to access your personal information and carry out tech abuse against you.
If you have been the victim of tech abuse give us a call on 0151 363 5895 or complete our contact formto discuss your case in more depth. Our sensitive, expert team is on hand to answer any questions you might have.