Digital dating abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate. Technology today can allow for an abusive partner to know exactly where you are at all times if they know how to use the technology available. Since many abusers have an investment in controlling you it is better to take all steps to keep you safe.
The term cyberstalking refers to action by the abuser to stalk you through social networks, online forums, Twitter, instant messaging or via chat. The stalker may use websites to post offensive material, create fake profiles or even make a dedicated website about you. They may sign you up to numerous websites, promotional material or place false ads using the victim's email address and phone number.
It still considered cyberstalking if the abuse is via mobile phone. Smart phones have many features like instant messaging that allows user to create groups and spread gossip quickly about a victim. Inundating victims with text or voicemail is one of the most common tactics.
The stalker's objective is to gather information about you, to harass, humiliate, ruin their reputation or damage their relationships.
Here is an excellent web resource on digital stalking.
When your partner starts stalking
Over 50% of ex-partner stalking started before they left their partner (Mullen, Pathe and Purcell, 2009)
- They become demanding/controlling, they want to know who you are texting, e-mailing, what you are saying. They are suspicious, perhaps even paranoid.
- They are contacting you multiple times a day asking you to confirm where you are at – if you are at an unusual place and they seem to know - suspect that they have put some geo location software on your phone.
- They start sending aggressive, abusive or threatening texts.
- They start to contact your friends and family trying to check up on you, get information about you, or trying to damage those relationships.
- They start to spread rumors, put abusive, embarrassing comments online via social network, forums etc.
- They seem to know information that you haven’t told them or know what you do online such as websites you’ve gone to, people you’ve chatted or sent e-mails to etc – suspect spyware on your computer
- Your passwords stop working or keep changing.
- You find e-mails marked read that you haven’t read, or e-mails sent from your account you haven’t sent.
- Money starts going missing from your online bank account or goods being bought via online stores you use.
- Information is deleted such as friend’s contacts, computer files, e-mails.
A key things that you can do:
- Restrict your friends on your social network so only true friends and family are in your list
- Block the abuser AND all his friends and family.
- Go through each option on the privacy settings. Use the "friends only" settings in "how people can contact you" and turn off all apps, disable public search, don't allow people to tag you etc.
- Assume you have spyware on your computer. Buy an antispyware product - antivirus software won't work against spyware/monitoring products
- Once your computer is clean - change your email, passwords and security questions on ALL your accounts. You can get free password management software so it is easy to manage different passwords for different accounts. Here is a list
- If you are leaving an abuser take, out your battery in your phone so they can't trace you. Once you are safe you need to make sure there is no tracking software on your phone.
- Set up your mobile so you have to put in a PIN before you use it.
- Buy and use mobile security software.
- Use a call blocker with "white lists" that prevents anyone not in your address book from contacting your mobile - most mobile security software offers this feature.
- Don't use geolocation apps on your phone such as "check in" apps, or maps
- Take a picture of all texts on your mobile phone so if the phone gets lost, damaged or you run out of room in your text box you have a record of them.
- If the stalker leaves a voice mail make a recording of it. Mobile phone providers will erase it after a short while.
- Harassing messages or online content - make a copy of your chat conversations. On your keyboard is a special key that says "Prt Sc - SysRq" or "PrintScreen". If you hold down the "ALT" key and press that special key, a Windows PC will take a copy of what is on your screen. Open up a new Wordprocessor or Paint document and paste the image in it, be sure to add the time and date of the conversation.
- Create a log. Write down the time, date and nature of EACH incident and how it made you feel.
If you need help please call our shelter counsellors at 905-387-9959 or the Women Centre of Hamilton at 905-522-0127 or our Flambourogh Women's Resource Centre 289-895-8580