Leaving your abuser: Discretion in a digital world

Having written a post with tips on how to get away from your abuser many months ago, I thought it might be helpful to provide some information on covering your tracks. There is a plethora of information available to us online, but if our significant other has access to our computers, phones, or other media (instant messages, etc.) – and has had a history of abusing these or us – it is important to know how to protect yourself.

I expect this post will get updated from time to time. If you have found a good resource you would like to share, please feel free to link it below.

Computer/Mobile Web Browsing

This link is a great place to start, Cover Your Tracks, for the computer/mobile. A quick summary:

  • Learn how to delete the history on your browser so your abuser cannot tell you have been to our site.
  • Safest way to find information is at local library, friend’s house, or work.
  • Modern browsers and “hidden” modes. (Also you can search Google for how to browse in private.)
  • IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this YOUR ABUSER ALREADY CAN SEE YOU’VE BEEN TO OUR SITE unless you started browsing using a mode listed above.
  • Private browsing on mobile devices.
  • How do I cover my tracks if I haven’t used one of these modes or have already visited this page without one enabled? This website has some good information on how to erase your browsing history.

 

Additionally, hide smart, don’t just eradicate all your online activities. If someone goes looking for your online search history, make sure to leave some innocuous information – like news sites, etc. Essentially, misinformation.

For the tech-savvy abuser, be aware they may have access to spyware or keylogging programs.

Private messaging/mobile phone folders

Strategies

There are a lot of great strategies you can employ to take back control of your life, even if only in small doses. Consider if any of the strategies at this link will be helpful for you (see summary below of topics covered). Technology Safety Planning. This article was written from a Canadian perspective, but shares pretty universally useful tips.

  • Trust your instincts – if an abusive S.O. possesses information they shouldn’t about you, take note of it.
  • Plan for safety – there are resources out there, but you may not have immediate access to them. Finding someone you trust who can help you with research is great. (In an emergency, don’t forget the police. I myself called upon them twice here in the US, and they were both professional and kind to me.)
  • Use the safest computer/technology access you can.
  • Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account – be anonymous, and provide no details. Always sign out of your email or social network sites.
  • Check your mobile phone settings
  • Change passwords and pin numbers
  • Also keep anti-virus software up-to-date on your computer and other devices. This may assist you to identify and remove any unknown programs.
  • Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors
  • Get your own mobile phone
  • Get a private post box and don’t give out your real address
  • Google yourself
  • Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking

 

Hopefully you don’t have to use these tips, but my “How do I leave?” post has been getting a lot of views lately, and I felt additional, detailed help might be useful.

How do I leave?

Those who are struggling with issues of Domestic Violence involve not only the person experiencing that situation first hand, but also those around them who know or suspect what is going on. While there are a bunch of resources out there for people in domestic violence situations, the difficulty is in getting those resources to the people who need them. Not only that, but it can be difficult to disseminate the information in a safe manner.

My situation was helped by the fact I had a good support team. When I got married, I made a promise to myself to prioritize my friendships and relationships with the people I cared about. If you are going through a difficult time, I know it is hard not to hide away and isolate yourself, but try to keep or rebuild some connections. If you haven’t, now is the time to slowly start establishing any relationship that is non-threatening to your abuser. Try and have something you do with enough regularity that it becomes routine and he or she hopefully doesn’t question it. This might help give you a break, and will help you make contacts that may help you if you need to leave.

If you are in a dangerous situation I highly encourage:

  • Have a safe word or phrase (or two). I had a safe word for “Call 911 and come right away, I am in immediate danger”. I also had another safe word that was, “We need to move up my departure plans ASAP.”
  • Do not use any computer or phone that the abuser has access to, or that the abuser can access the history or contact records of.
  • Be wary of your use of social media and instant messenging.
  • Create an emergency bag you can store at a friend or family members home.
  • Whenever possible, have someone else coordinate resources and plans for you, and perhaps be a point of contact. My mother did this for me. I barely had the mental capacity to get up in the morning, let alone function on any rational level due to my level of exhaustion. Below are some links you may find of immediate assistance.

Preparing to leave:

Creating a safety plan