Abusers often monitor their partner’s activities, including their computer use. While there are ways to delete your Internet history, this can be a red flag to your partner that you’re trying to hide something, so be very careful. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to clear a computer of all evidence of the websites that you have visited, unless you know a lot about computers.
- Use a safe computer. If you seek help online, you are safest if you use a computer outside of your home. You can use a computer at work, a friend’s house, the library, your local community center, or a domestic violence shelter or agency.
- If you think you may be monitored on your home computer, be careful how you use your computer since an abuser might become suspicious. You may want to keep using the monitored computer for innocuous activities, like looking up the weather. Use a safer computer to research an escape plan, look for new jobs or apartments, bus tickets, or ask for help.
- If you think your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusive people are often controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer and Internet activities – anyone can do it and there are many ways to monitor with programs like Spyware, keystroke loggers and hacking tools.
- Be cautious with email and instant messaging. Email and instant messaging are not the safest way to get help for domestic violence. Be especially careful when sending email, as your abuser may know how to access your account. You may want to consider creating a new email account that your abuser doesn’t know about.
- Change your user names and passwords. Create new usernames and passwords for your email, online banking, and other sensitive accounts. Even if you don’t think your abuser has your passwords, he may have guessed or used a spyware or keylogging program to get them. Choose passwords that your abuser can’t guess (avoid birthdays, nicknames, and other personal information).
- It is not possible to delete or clear all the “footprints" of your computer or online activities. If you are being monitored, it may be dangerous to change your computer behaviors such as suddenly deleting your entire Internet history if that is not your regular habit.
- Email and Instant/Text Messaging (IM) are not safe or confidential ways to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life. If possible, please call a hotline instead. If you use email or IM, please use a safer computer and an account your abuser does not know about.
- Computers can store a lot of private information about what you look at via the Internet, the emails and instant messages you send, internet-based phone and IP-TTY calls you make, web-based purchases and banking, and many other activities.
Protecting yourself from GPS surveillance and recording devices.
Your abuser doesn’t need to be tech savvy in order to use surveillance technology to monitor your movements and listen in on your conversations. Be aware that your abuser may be using hidden cameras, such as a “Nanny Cam,” or even a baby monitor to check in on you. Global Positioning System (GPS) devices are also cheap and easy to use. GPS devices can be hidden in your car, your purse, or other objects you carry with you. Your abuser can also use your car’s GPS system to see where you’ve been.
If you discover any tracking or recording devices, leave them be until you’re ready to leave. While it may be tempting to remove them or shut them off, this will alert your abuser that you’re on to him.