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Digital safety

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Digital safety

Can technology be used abusively?

In short, yes.

Technology can be used by a partner or ex-partner to:

  • monitor;
  • impersonate;
  • stalk;
  • harass; or
  • intimidate.

These behaviours are known as technology-facilitated abuse or tech abuse.

If you would like more information about the use of technology in domestic and family violence and your safety, please visit the following websites: Tech Safety and Office of the eSafety Commissioner

What are some examples of tech abuse?

Tech abuse may look like the person:

  • Reading your text messages.
  • Monitoring your emails or internet browser history.
  • Monitoring your social media accounts.
  • Changing your passwords and using them to access your accounts.
  • Tracking your location and following you to that location or threatening you with the information.
  • Downloading or enabling apps or software on your devices so that they can track where you are or what you do.
  • Checking your GPS devices to see your location history.
  • Sharing, or threatening to share, intimate images or videos of you without permission.
  • “Spamming” you with messages or phone calls.
  • Abusing or threatening you via messages or phone calls.
  • Gifting your child/ren devices which have spyware or surveillance software installed.

This is not an exhaustive list.

What are some of the warning signs of tech abuse?

If the person…

  • Unexpectedly appears at places where you or your children are.
  • Makes comments or refers to information that they should not know. For example, they seem to know where you have been, or who you’ve contacted online.
  • Has changed settings on, or added software/apps to, your device/s.
  • Knows passwords to your phone, email, bank account and social network accounts.

If you notice…

  • Apps on your device which you have not seen before or are unaware of their purpose.
  • Your device is ‘acting strangely’ for example, turning on and off, settings changing, excessive data use, battery running down quickly or apps opening automatically.
  • You can’t log into accounts, but you don’t recall changing the password.

How can I be safer online?

  • Download and run security software and anti-virus applications. Set your computer to automatically install updates to keep security software up to date.
  • Use passcodes and different passwords on all your devices.
  • Check the applications which are downloaded onto your device. Make sure you know the purpose of each application. If you notice an app that you do not know, research what it does or uninstall it.
  • Turn off GPS and/or location settings in your device.
  • Set your Bluetooth to ‘non-discoverable’.
  • Change your passwords regularly, including your Apple ID or Android password (as this can be used to find your devices/location) and use different passwords for different accounts.
  • Set up security questions or two factor authentication for your online accounts.
  • If you separate, you may want to block or delete your ex-partner, or consider creating new accounts for your online activities and only share this information with people you trust.
  • Change your social media profiles to private to restrict public access.
  • Delete your web history after browsing the internet. For information on deleting your internet history click here.

Remember: Your safety is the first priority. You may alert the person if you suddenly restrict their access.

Can I just delete abusive online or electronic material?

It’s a good idea to keep a record of the tech abuse as this information may be used as evidence for a domestic violence protection order and/or criminal charges. Sometimes, the police may request your device or phone to retrieve and download evidence. If you can’t keep your device or phone, then make sure the evidence is saved somewhere safe – consider asking a trusted family member or friend to save the evidence on their device or at their house.

If you cannot safely take screenshots of the abuse (for example, because it will notify them if you do), ask a trusted friend or family member to use their device to take photos or videos of your phone or computer.

Can I apply for a domestic violence protection order if I’m experiencing tech abuse?

A domestic violence order (DVO) can help protect you, and your children, if you are experiencing abuse online or offline by a partner or ex-partner.

A DVO will always include a condition that your partner or ex-partner is “not to commit acts of domestic violence and to be of good behaviour.”

You can request specific online-related conditions, for example:

  • The respondent is prohibited from contacting or attempting to contact or asking someone else to contact the aggrieved by any means whatsoever including telephone, text or internet.”
  • The respondent is prohibited from using the internet (including social networking sites) to communicate with, publish pictures of or make adverse comments concerning the aggrieved.”

You can apply for a DVO yourself, with a solicitor, or the police may apply for your protection.

What if I am being stalked online?

Stalking is a criminal offence whether it is online or offline.

If you are being stalked, you can report it to police. If possible, provide records of emails, text messages, call records and social network posts. Police may request your device or phone to retrieve and download evidence.

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