How to protect yourself from violence on the Internet?

Cyber Security Tips

Domestic violence is not alwaysphysical or sexual. In many cases, abusers take advantage of advances in technology to exert control over their victims. This type of technological abuse can include constant calls, use of location tracking apps, humiliation on social networks, forced to share passwords, etc.

This type of experience constitutes a gross violation of personal space that affects a person’s sense of personal freedom. Deprivation of independence in the Internet space is no less dangerous than limiting a person in a literal sense – in the sense of independent movement, planning of daily life, etc.

Cyberbullying

We will look at several cases of harassment in the Internet space, as well as possible options for dealing with them.

My partner is harassing me using his mobile phone

A person is mobile and can communicate and keep in touch 24/7 with whomever they want, thanks to smartphones and the development of technology. When your partner makes the most of this opportunity, inrelationships can become quite stressful.

In cases of domestic violence, the victim begins to feel fear with every call, as well as continuous stress with new notifications from the partner. It is also a common case when the victim changes his phone number in order to avoid the ex-partner, who has practiced domestic violence. Then any unknown number popping up on the display is a potential threat that the ex has found his victim again.

Cyberbullying is a very common scenario in domestic violence cases. Repeated messages and calls from known and unknown numbers betray stalker behavior.

Whether the controlling partner’s message is well-intentioned and just wanting to make sure their significant other is okay,this type of behavior is frightening and unwanted. The very fact that you feel pressured by your partner, feel compelled to change your phone number or install a security app on your smartphone is a clear sign of harassment by your partner.

In such cases, you can use the smartphone settings. Blocking a phone number is the easiest and most direct way to stop communicating with a specific person.

Similarly, you canrestrict social media communication by blocking the person from receiving messages from them. If blocking is not an option for you, you can try to “mute” notifications from the unwanted partner. This will allow you the freedom to open messages from him and reply to him at a time convenient for you.

Depending on the intensity of the harassment, you may change your phone number. It is important to know that there is no right or wrong time for such a decision.

If it feels like you’re struggling to withstand the pressure, it’sbetter to get peace of mind with a new mobile number. Of course, your ex or current partner can discover your new number – so it’s a good idea to warn people you share your new number with not to share it.

Another step you can take is not to put your new phone number on online shopping websites or anywhere else unless absolutely necessary. Buying online should not be a reason to compromise your security. You can do it in the name of a loved one, for example, or under a fake name.

My partner is harassing me on social media

Social media is a space where one can very easily be the subject of harassment or witness similar treatment to other people. Through social networks, messages with insults, threats or other types of hate speech are spreading uncontrollably.

Some of the social networks are already actively fighting hate speech and removing this type of comments, but their efforts are still not 100% effective, and private messages in Messenger and Viber, for example, are much more difficult to be filtered or censored.

In cases where your partner or another person is harassing you on the social network, you can limit the communication by blocking the relevant profile of the harasser. Most networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. have such an option.

The blocking feature prevents the other person from seeing your profile and thus you get complete security – they will not see your statuses or access you through Messenger.

Another option is to report the harasser’s profile to the social network team. This feature is also available for Facebook, Instagram and other major social networks. In this way, the network team will keep in mind that this person is abusing the opportunities that the social network provides and can prevent him from harassing other people.

If someone is threatening you on social media, it’s a good idea to take screenshots to document those threats before taking any action. So in case you make a complaint to the police, you will have evidence to apply.

If your abuser has access to your belongings, we recommend that you also make a backup of your data on an external hard drive that only you know about.

If you feel that you or your children are in real danger as a result of receiving threats on social networks, we recommend contacting one of the anti-violence crisis centers or contacting law enforcement.

In many cases, the controlling partner uses the social network to monitor his victim – what he posts, what he comments, etc.; as well as her friends and how they interact with her.

Also, the abuser can afford to publish on the social network common photos with the victim without her consent; to comment on photos of the victim, thereby seeking to demonstrate power over her.

This type of behavior can be not only frightening to the victim, but also quite painful for him. In such cases, you can take advantage of the networks’ no-tagging options and, again, block the abuser from the network.

Scenarios in which the abuser starts presenting himself online on behalf of the victim are also not excluded. This happens when he has the passwords of personal accounts or creates fake profiles of the victim.

In this way, the controlling partner can damage the prestige of the controlled one, as well as share publicly unwanted content of a personal nature – secret information or photos with intimate content.

It is also possible to share false or misleading information to mislead the victim’s friends. In such cases, it is good to immediately secure your personal accounts and report the fake profile to the social network team.

My partner constantly monitors my location

Using the GPS technology built into smartphones, your location can be shared with every single app you use. The photos you take contain metadata identifying the date and place the shot was taken.

With seemingly innocuous social media posts, you publicly share when you’re on vacation or where you’re going for a weekend walk.

The thought that your partner can keep an eye on where you are and what you’re doing at all times can be frightening in cases of domestic violence. Whether it’s a current or former partner who wants to exercise power over you, the goal is the same – to pursue you.

In such cases you can take advantage of your phone settings to turn off location tracking, as well as denying apps access to your location.

My partner monitors my online activity

When you are a victim of domestic abuse and your partner constantly monitors your online activity, your worldview and general behavior changes. For example, if you are aware that your emails are being monitored, you start to be careful about what information you share by sending letters.

You may need to avoid socializing with people of the opposite sex, out of concern that yourpartner may be jealous. You may want to research information on what to do in cases of domestic violence, but don’t because of concerns that your partner will check your browser history.

Surveillance and surveillance is always about exercising control. Online surveillance can be presented as the most normal thing in the world, as can asking if your friend can look at your phone. But in practice, these things are not normal, and your partner should not object to your refusal.

In extreme situations, the controlling partner can secretly install malware on the victim’s devices that records keystrokes, passwords, or even the screen with all the activities the victim performs.

If you suspect that your partner is reading your messages, monitoring your emails, looking at your photos or using your mobile phone illegally, it is a good idea to change all access passwords with new ones. If there is a risk that your partner will react with aggression to such a shift, you can consult the nearest crisis center about what is best to do in such a situation.

My partner forcibly gained access to my online accounts

When your partner has access to your online accounts, you effectively lose your independence and right to privacy on the Internet. In such cases, you begin to be careful with whom and how you communicate, due to fear of disapproval on his part.

Personal online accounts (for social networks, email, bank accounts, etc.) should not be shared. In cases where this becomes necessary, it is important to do it briefly and with a sense of respect and respect for the other’s personal space. At the point when this sharing is no longer needed, it is important to change the access password.

It’s important to be aware that you share as much profile access as you feel comfortable with and your partner shouldn’t push for more. If there is interference and forcible seizure of passwords, this is a sign of a lack of trust in the couple, as well as feelings of jealousy, suspicion, guilt, insecurity, etc.

In any case, it is important to protect your accounts with complex passwords, and where possible – also with two-factor authentication – receiving an sms with an access code, etc.

My sex life has been used against me

In the 21st century, sex is inevitably intertwined with technology. We send messages with sexual content, photos and videos of an intimate nature, we have access to porn and more.

However, it is important to remember that personal intimacy between two people implies mutual trust and respect, both online and offline. Sending sexual content should always be voluntary, not coercive.

It is also important to have a clear agreement in the couple what each person is inclined to do or not – to receive/send photos or not, etc.

When one partner is controlling or abusive, they can allow themselves to aggressively demand sexual content from the other. He may claim that this is completely normal and shame his victim for voicing concerns.

Sexual content is extremely difficult to control once it is generated. Images can be easily saved and referenced, even if the original photo has been deleted.

Social apps like Viber or Messenger keep such messages on their servers, regardless of whether you have deleted them from the chat. Unfortunately, if you are not the sole owner of this type of content, there is no way to guarantee that it will not leak onto the Internet.

When yougenerate a file with sexual content (photo, video), it starts to be stored in several places – first of all, on your device, most often a phone; then also on the applications that have access to the phone’s files; thirdly, the cloud with which the device is synchronized, etc.

When you send this type of content to another person, it is also saved on their device. Even if you delete the content from one place, it will still exist in others.

Unfortunately, there is no mobile app that provides 100% security when sharing sexual content. Therefore, when recording one, it is important to limit the access of mobile applications to the phone’s memory as much as possible and to be aware of the risks of sharing it with others.

Cases where your partner shares sexual content on the Internet that is yours or is in any way related to you must be with your express consent.

There are a number of non-professional/amateur porn content websites where your partner can illegally make this content public.

There are many reasons why this might happen – for example, for revenge; to “punish” you; damage your reputation; to demonstrate power or because he gets sexual satisfaction. Regardless of the reason, however, such an action is unacceptable.

If you find out that sexual content related to you has been leaked on the Internet, the first thing is important to gather evidence. Take screenshots that will be useful in filing a complaint against your ex/ current partner. Second, is to contact the team of the respective site and ask for this content to be taken down.

I want to leave my partner

Ending a relationship with an abusive partner can be extremely difficult. In such cases, it’s important to take steps to avoid post-breakup tech violence. Before taking the final step, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to limit your partner’s access to your online profiles.

Make a list of all the important accounts – in social networks, bank accounts, etc. for which you have shared passwords with your partner. Change passwords using as complex and non-standard as possible, which your partner will not be able to guess.

Reduce the information the other person will see and warn your mutual acquaintances not to share your contacts or information about you with them. If you fear threats and aggression will follow, change your smartphone number so he can’t harass you over the phone.

Also, back up all your files to an external hard drive in case of aggression where your partner tries to destroy your devices – laptop, phone, etc.

Any breakup is difficult, but when it comes to a toxic relationship, we can assure you that once you regain control of your life, including your online presence, you will feel much better and you will regain your self-confidence and desire for a better life.

HOW TO REACT IN CASE OF A PROBLEM?

Internet violence can take many forms. As technology advances and the digital products and software we use in our daily lives increase, so does the threat of aggressive and malicious online behavior towards us. The victim may also face problems such as:

  • Sending inappropriate photos and videos with offensive messages and even infected with viruses, as well as constant harassment in the form of sexting (virtual communication of a sexual nature);
  • Capturing and distributing pornographic content for the purpose of revenge, defamation, threat, manipulation;

It is important to clarify that the abuser and the victim do not always even know each other. Cases of online pedophilia, distribution of violent games, publication of materials to promote addiction and other online challenges that can seriously harm a wide range of risk groups of vulnerable people are becoming more frequent. Cyberbullying is a global problem that needs to be countered by all possible means, and its victims need to be given urgent emotional support and the necessary protection from law enforcement agencies. In case of any doubt that you or a loved one is being abused on the Internet, seek assistance and help as soon as possible.

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