Do you ever have the feeling that someone is watching or listening to you? If so, you may be a victim of digital abuse. Digital abuse is the use of technology to monitor, threaten, stalk, harass, or spy on someone virtually and it is quickly becoming the most prevalent form of domestic violence. Often victims of digital abuse are unaware that they are being abused because this abuse occurs through the use of technology. Digital abuse encompasses any use of technology that allows an abuser to interfere with someone’s privacy, from sending harassing messages or making calls, audio or video recordings, or controlling or monitoring your social media to threaten, stalk and instill fear in their victims.
Do You Have Spyware on Your Cell Phone?
One of the most common types of digital abuse is installing spyware on a cell phone. Spyware allows a person to gain access to a device to monitor and track the movements of their victim remotely. We use our cell phones for everything from making calls and sending emails and text messages to accessing social media and financial accounts. Spyware enables your abuser to track this data and send it to your abuser. Once installed, spyware can operate virtually undetectable and can be extremely difficult to remove. If you believe you may have spyware on your phone there are signs you can look for to indicate its presence, including unusually high data usage, activity in standby mode, restarting on its own, weird sounds during calls, unusual text messages, rapidly declining battery, or a hot battery for no apparent reason. If your phone has exhibited any of these signs, it could be due to spyware and you should take the steps below to immediately remove it.
Other Tools of Digital Abuse
While spyware is the most well-known form of digital abuse, it is often forgotten that abusers can also now gain access to your data through smart devices in your home. Such smart devices in your home include thermostats, lighting, door locks, doorbells, televisions, speakers, and even your home security system and cameras. Once an abuser has access to these things they can make changes to them. You may experience unexplained events, such as a door lock being changed, the temperature being changed or lighting being turned off/on unexpectedly. This can make a victim feel as if she is going crazy and has no control. Sadly, it can also lead a victim being “gaslighted” by her abuser and having a greater sense of helplessness, thinking no one will believe this crazy-making is being intentionally caused by the abuser.
Steps to Take if You Are Being Abused
Discovering that you are being digitally abused can be immensely frightening. If you have concerns about your safety or the safety of your children please seek help immediately. There are national hotlines and other community organizations that can assist you in making a safety plan such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE).
No one should live in fear of being controlled or monitored. Everyone has the right to feel safe at all times, especially in the privacy of your home. If you believe that you are the victim of digital abuse you need to take action to protect yourself and safely elude your abuser’s control immediately. If you are not in immediate danger, steps that you can take to safeguard yourself and your children at the end of your relationship include:
Daphne Edwards understands that domestic violence comes in many forms and is in no way limited to physical assaults and that abuse in all forms is emotionally and mentally devastating. Daphne and her team are committed to aggressively advocating for your safety. If you are the victim of any abuse from your partner contact Daphne Edwards at 919-838-7160
- Know your technology. Visit websites that detail how to find and remove spyware from your apple or android devices or contact a local IT professional for assistance to remove the spyware.
- Do a home walkthrough to make a list of all the connected devices in your home and all your accounts online, change the usernames and passwords for everything, and add two-factor authentication (2FA) when available. You can also use a password manager to create and store strong passwords for you. Most importantly, don’t forget to change your network and wifi passwords.
- Make sure all your devices have the latest updates installed.
Update your privacy settings on your cell phone and your social media accounts.
Revoke access to any unknown parties or devices on your accounts.
Disable your location tracking services such as GPS on your devices. This includes location sharing apps and deleting messages where you may have previously granted access to someone. If you have questions about this on your cell phone contact your service provider for assistance.
- Turn off all cameras and microphones on your devices.
- If necessary, reset your devices to their factory settings.
- File a police report if necessary.
- Contact an experienced family law attorney.