Domestic abuse has gone mobile. Abusive spouses want power, and there's nothing that makes them feel more powerful than using the latest tech to terrify the person who loves them most.
In a recent survey, National Public Radio asked 72 U.S. domestic violence shelters about how smartphones have affected domestic abuse victims. I was shocked when I heard the results and I'm sure that you will be, too.
- 85 percent of shelters help victims whose abuser tracked them by GPS
- 75 percent help victims whose abuser tracked them with remote tools
- 54 percent ask victims to disable GPS on intake
- 47 percent ask victims to disable Facebook when they enter the shelter
Here's what those numbers mean:
GPS tracking could mean anything from an app installed on their phone to a bug attached to their car. Now that more than half of Americans now own smartphones, it makes the most sense that an abuser would track their spouse with an app.
I was surprised to see that more shelters opted not to ask abuse victims to turn off their phone's GPS. The tech world moves quickly and I think that half of the surveyed shelters could do with some updated security protocols.
While I'm a supporter of snoopware for keeping your kids and family safe online, I'd have to think that "remote tools" probably means the very same software. Keyloggers and screen-sharing applications can be installed and run invisibly on almost any computer.
For an abuser, tools like these mean a porthole directly into their significant other's private thoughts. Everyone has the right to trust their spouse, but in a dangerous situation it's important to take every precaution.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic abuse, here are the essential security steps to take before leaving. Keep in mind that, for the sake of security, I'm going to assume that every gadget that a victim owns could potentially be tapped or bugged.
- Use a burner phone number. I teach you how in this tip.
- Wipe your phone or tablet.
- Make sure that your anti-virus program has its "sensitivity" turned up to maximum.
- Update your Facebook privacy settings. Or just take a break from Facebook knowing the abuser might see anything you post.
- Secure your smartphone or tablet with some of these 5 apps.
Even if you're not in an abusive relationship, making sure that no one is snooping on your phone can give you peace of mind. Information is power and information is available to any hacker or criminal willing to work hard enough.
Before I sign off though, I'd like to leave you with a personal message: If you or someone you know is in a dangerous situation at home, then I want you to make it your mission to help them.
Abusers will always try to isolate their victims. If a friend stops calling and you think that abuse might be the cause: The best way to beat back an abuser is to never let your friend or family member be without a shoulder to cry on.
Stopping an abuser starts with friendship and support. It's up to us to make the change.