News Story – Preventing domestic abuse in the digital world

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Story By Mike Moen

Domestic violence service and prevention groups say abuse can happen in many ways, and using technology is one of them. They remind anyone experiencing intimate partner violence to take a careful approach in shielding their digital activity.

For National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, communities across Minnesota are urged to lend support to survivors. Some are getting guidance on how to handle cyberstalking situations, when an abuser uses technology to control and intimidate a partner.

Tina Bronson, director of mission advancement for Alexandra House, a service organization in the Twin Cities, said the tracking of tech devices is very common, and there are ways to work around it.

“We actually recommend that they get a completely different cellphone, from a different cellphone provider, and have a hidden phone,” Bronson explained.

Bronson recommended routinely checking a hidden phone to ensure it is not being tracked. She also suggested using the “incognito” search mode when looking up information online is another prevention tool. Other experts said securing a “pay as you go” cellphone can help with privacy.

Whether it’s digital safeguards or other forms of protection, Bronson advised a survivor should only try approaches likely to work for them.

“If you’re looking to leave or need a way to be safe in a relationship, access one of the domestic violence service providers,” Bronson stressed. “Get a safety plan that’s customized to your situation, because they know what the threat level is and what the follow-through is.”

She added some recommendations that might work for one person could further endanger someone in a different situation. Meanwhile, experts said if your regular phone is being tracked, you should not turn it off, to avoid upsetting the abuser. Other tips include using computers at public libraries, and after leaving your partner, replacing all your devices or restoring them to their original factory settings.

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