By Jacob Correa and Meg Aprill
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For the past several months, experts have predicted an increase in the number of technology-based cases of domestic violence. This is a particular concern for young people, who experience dating abuse of all kinds at higher rates. Furthermore, people of all ages are often unable to identify tech abuse, since it is rarely explicitly discussed. In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s important for individuals to find ways to secure their virtual lives and social platforms.
How do you know if someone is experiencing tech abuse?
It can be difficult to quantify technology-based abuse. New technology is emerging daily, and with each new site, social network, or device, abusers are finding new ways to weaponize their access. However, there are a few ways tech abuse can be identified.
- The abusive partner may have unwanted access to the other partner’s online accounts. They may invade their partner’s privacy by reading private texts, DMs, and emails without their permission. They may force their partner to allow them access to their messages, or they may read them in secret.
- The abusive partner may use their partner’s mobile device to track their location or activity.
- The abusive partner may demand that their partner keep in touch with them constantly — for instance FaceTiming constantly to make sure their partner is doing what the abuser wants them to be doing. They may demand check-ins or that their partner turns on their location and shares it with them.
- The abusive partner may threaten to expose sensitive texts/images such as sexts or nudes.They may also send explicit images or messages to their partner without their consent.
- The abuser may make fake accounts and phone numbers to harass their partner on multiple social networks and devices.
While it can be difficult to collect concrete evidence of technology-based abuse, experts suggest that survivors should try to keep a handwritten log of instances where you feel that you are being abused technologically. The more evidence you can gather will help when you are ready to seek help in the future.
What can you do to protect yourself?
There are a few steps you can take if you suspect you or a friend may be a victim of tech abuse. Read through the options listed below, and be sure to read the Safety with Technology page on our website, too.
- Survivors of tech abuse should make a note of how many electronic devices they have, and then create a list of online accounts that they believe their abusive partner has access to.
- The next step is to change the password of your online accounts to something that will be difficult to be hacked or guessed. You should also make a new email address, because if your abuser has access to your original email account, they can be notified of password changes and gain access to those new details.
- Then, pick a strong new password and use a two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a security feature where you need two pieces of information to sign in, which is ideal for additional password protection.
- Finally, protect your device by reviewing your smartphone privacy settings.
- Implement a passcode as a way of securing your smartphone and keeping your information private.
- Check your location settings to make sure that no one has access to your location 24/7.
- Also, hide your phone’s popup notifications.
Experiencing tech abuse can be overwhelming, especially during the pandemic, when technology is the only social outlet for many people. If you suspect that you are a victim of technology-based abuse, you can contact Day One during business hours at 1-800-214-4150, or text us at 646-535-3291. We can help you make sure your devices are safe and stop your abuser from weaponizing them against you.
If you are over 24, or don’t live in New York City, Day One can help you get connected to a local organization. You may also choose to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or live chat with a representative by texting LOVEIS to 22522.