Technology can be very helpful to survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking, however it is important to also consider how technology might be misused. On March 28th, staff member Mariya facilitated an ongoing education meeting to help volunteers focus in on both the beneficial and adverse affects of technology in domestic violence situations and how to offer safety planning guidelines to survivors. Here are some technology tips below:
Have more than one email address – Apart from work and/or home email addresses, have an email address that will allow you to send and receive messages anonymously. Create one that doesn’t include your name, and do not provide detailed information about yourself in the account form. Do not create or use this email from a computer that the abuser could access.
Change passwords frequently – Make sure that they aren’t obvious, e.g. name, birthday, etc. Change your pin numbers as well.
Search for your name on the Internet – Major search engines such as “Google” or “Yahoo” may have links to your contact information. Search for your name in quotation marks: “Full Name”. Look for information or photos of you on websites/ social networks of organizations that you are affiliated with, such as work, school, organizations that you volunteer for, professional associations, sports teams, faith-based or community groups, etc. It’s good to be aware of what information is on the Internet about you and to remove it if possible.
Remove the information about you on the web – According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “Sometimes it’s okay to leave certain information online, especially if it’s harmless. When trying to remove your information from any website, consider not sharing your correct information because data brokers make money by selling accurate information. If you want something removed, the website may have instructions, or provide a form or e-mail address to contact them. If the information is in a government record, you may need to fill out an official petition, motion, request, or letter.”
Request that the government agencies, the court, etc. seal your files or restrict access to them in order to protect your privacy. If possible, do not disclose your real residential address to doctors, businesses, etc. (share a safer address or the private mailbox address instead).
Use a safer computer – If anyone abusive has access to your computer, he/she might be monitoring your computer activities. Try to use a safer computer when you look for help, a new place to live, etc. It may be safest to use a computer at a public library, community center, or Internet café.
Change phone use options – When making or receiving private calls, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone billing records and phone logs might reveal your location to an abuser. Consider turning the phone off when it is not in use and turn off the location settings. Try using pre-paid phone cards, or Internet Phone options (Google Voice or Vonage). You can also contact W.O.M.A.N., Inc. to learn about cell phone donation programs that provide recycled cell phones to survivors of abuse and stalking.
If you do not want the abuser to see you visiting the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. blog, press the “Escape” button–it will redirect you to Google.
Thanks to the National Network to End Domestic Violence for the tips!
For more information regarding safety planning and technology, please call our 24-hour domestic violence crisis line at (415) 864-4722.