Technology Abuse and What to Do

Smart Phones. Navigation Systems. Smart Thermostats. Tablets. Computers. Twitter. Snapchat. Facebook. Alexa. Online Bill Pay.

The list of technology created to make our lives better, more efficient and happier goes on and on. Unfortunately, so does the list of ways abusers use the technology to control their victims. According to a study done by The Safety Net Project, the leading organization working to raise awareness of and to stop technology abuse, 97% of domestic violence victims report “experiencing harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology.”

Additional Technology Abuse Statistics:

  • In 2019, a report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) found that 71% of domestic abusers monitor survivors’ device activities and 54% downloaded stalkerware onto their partners’ devices.
  • 60-63% of survivors receiving services from domestic violence programs reported tech-based abuse (Journal of Family Violence January 2020)
  • The pandemic has increased the rate and severity of technology abuse being experienced. Reports of a 780% increase in the detection of monitoring apps and a 1677% increase in the detection of spyware from January through June 2021. (Malwarebytes Report)

What does that look like on the Eastern Shore?

  • Tracking devices secretly put on cars
  •  Constant texting to check on where victims are, who they are with and why – many times requiring photos as proof
  • Having Alexa listen in to private conversations
  • Trolling or getting people on social media to act like a victim does not exist on social media outlets
  •  Doxing or publishing private information on victim in public forums
  • Spoofing: Disguising a message from an abuser as if it were coming from someone else, like a family member, friend, court representative, or someone helping the victim

And these are just a few of the forms of Technology Abuse that MSCFV has heard about.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s (NNEDV) Power and Control Wheel of Technology Abuse, seen on this page, provides an overview of how abusers use technology for:

  • Intimidating, Monitoring and Stalking
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Isolation
  • Minimizing, Denying and Blaming
  • Using Others
  • Using Privilege and Oppression
  • Economic Abuse
  • Coercion and Threats

So what can a victim do? How do they know if what they are experiencing is Technology Abuse? How can they document the abuse?

The great news is that The Safety Net Project has created many resources to help you navigate the world of technology abuse.

Technology Safety and Privacy Toolkit for Survivors:

This is a fantastic resource for anything technology and technology abuse. From setting up passwords and taking screenshots, to being web wise, to protecting yourself when using smart toys and smart cars, this toolkit has it all in easy to an easy to follow format.

Technology Safety Plan:

This plan provides information on types of technology abuse, tips to identify if abuse is occurring, what to do if you expect technology abuse, and tips for increasing your digital safety and security.

Documentation of Technology Abuse & Stalking:

Documentation of Technology Abuse could help you identify increased monitoring and control, identify trends in how your abuser is abusing technology, and can support any legal actions. The attached site provides information on what to document, how, and what to do with the information. If you are interested in using your documentation in court, has some valuable information.

The Bottom Line:

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!!! If you think you are experiencing technology abuse, you may be. So act accordingly. But don’t be rash. Getting rid of your technology, turning off location features, and changing passwords could anger the abuser, so take your time, create and follow your own Technology Safety Plan, and contact MSCFV for help (1-800-927-4673 or through the chat on this page).

Additional Resources

Protecting Your Private Information from Online Searches: For help removing your personal information from online name searches like google, Bing, and yahoo, check out this MSCFV tip sheet.

Safety Net ProjectThis nonprofit develops resources and information on the use of technology for agencies and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking. They also provide tip sheets for dealing with the diverse forms of technology abuse and stalking. 

VAWNet: This program of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence is a library of information on technology and domestic violence, providing links to current research, news articles and first-hand accounts of this modern age of domestic violence.

National Network to End Domestic Violence: NNEDV's site has current information on Abuse, Technology and the Law, including how to include technology abuse in criminal and civil court cases.

Articles for more information on Technology Abuse and Safety:

  • Psychology Today: Remote Controlled Domestic Abuse Through Technology (7/22/2018)
  • The New York Times: Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse (6/23/2018)
  • Time: How Domestic Abusers Have Exploited Technology During the Pandemic (12/31/2020)
  • Wired: A Hidden Risk for Domestic Violence Victims: Family Phone Plans (7/23/2020)