Personal Safety: It’s Up to YOU

If you live with someone that is abusing or monitoring you, it is likely not safe for you to be on this website on any electronic to which your partner has access. Technology can be a great resource or an unimaginable barrier to your safety and the safety of your children.  In all circumstances, please consider whether or not internet or electronic communications are safe for you.  You are truly the only one with all of the personal knowledge necessary to keep you and your children safe.  We can only offer suggestions and guidelines.

If you have ever had concerns that your partner seems to know more than what you have told them, or they regularly show up where you don’t expect them, or they have personal or professional experience in surveillance or internet technologies, chances are very great that they are monitoring you.  There are a few steps you can take to increase your safety:

  • COMPUTERS/TABLETS:
    • On computers that have ever been accessed by your partner, your computer usage can be monitored without your knowing.
    • Keystroke/monitoring software can give your partner access to your usernames and pass codes, allowing access to private communications.
    • Search histories cannot be completely erased.
    • As much as possible, utilize safe computers (ex.–work, public library, etc.) to do searches relative to safety planning (shelters, new job, etc.).
    • If your children have been given tablets or laptops, be aware that they can be utilized for turn-by-turn tracking, audio and video monitoring.
    • It is nearly impossible to remain anonymous with today’s internet technology; eliminate electronic footprints where you can, but be aware that other entities (courts, creditors, etc.) may be publishing information without your consent.
  • ACCOUNTS/SOCIAL MEDIA:
    • From a safe computer, create a private new email account in order to communicate sensitive information or safety planning as necessary.
    • Check settings on email accounts familiar to your partner to ensure that emails to your account are not automatically forwarded elsewhere.
    • If you separate from your partner, consider changing all passwords on all electronic accounts you or your children own, from banking to social media.
    • Use settings on social media to limit information shared publicly, including limiting others’ ability to tag or identify you or your children.
    • Consider how to change account usage in order to prevent alerting your partner to your safety efforts.
    • Be cautious about how much private or identifying information you put out on the internet–once it’s out there, it can be used by anyone (even in court).
  • CELL PHONES:
    • By law, all cell phone have global positioning systems (GPS), to allow for geo-location in case of emergency.  This function can be manually turned off.
    • Cellphone usage and history can be monitored, particularly if your partner has access to or  is responsible for paying your phone bill.
    • Consider getting a disposable/pay-as-you-go cell phone to use when making calls that you wish to remain private.
    • Be cautious about giving your partner unsupervised access to your cell phone–tracking apps can be installed in just a few short minutes, giving someone turn-by-turn knowledge of your location.
    • If in doubt, take the battery out of your cell phone (or other electronic devices) when not in use, in order to prevent possible tracking.
    • If your children have been given cell phones, be aware that family plans will often allow for turn-by-turn tracking, audio and video monitoring.
  • GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS (GPS)/SURVEILLANCE TECHNOLOGY:
    • Tracking devices can be placed on or in your car, in your purse, or be worn or carried by your children, without your or their knowledge or consent.
    • Car navigation devices have GPS units that can be used to track where you have been, or locations to which you frequently travel.
    • Surveillance technology is cheap, inconspicuous, and easily installed; be cautious if you are denied access to certain areas of your home.
    • If in doubt, hire someone to sweep your home and/or vehicle, as well as check electronic devices in your home, for tracking devices, surveillance technology, and monitoring software.

This list is only a sampling of internet and technology safety issues of which you should be aware–it is not a comprehensive list.  For more information on electronic and internet safety planning, call your local domestic violence crisis center or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Review this economic safety plan, “Economic Security Considerations for Safer Survivors,” by Wider Opportunities for Women: Victim-Advocate-Economic-Security-Pocket-Guide.

For other safety considerations, review this safety plan: My Safety Plan Handout

All safety plans should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they still make sense for your circumstances.  Whenever there are changes to your life–if you move, if you change jobs, if there is a change in the parenting schedule–take some time to make sure your safety plan is as comprehensive as it needs to be. No one is as knowledgeable about your life, or the risks that your partner or former partner poses to you and your children.  Your safety plan is up to you.