Escaping domestic violence is difficult because abusers are experts at stripping their victims of economic power, supportive relationships and their freedom. However, even when victims do make a break and exert their rights to live without violence and abuse, their abusers don’t always give up.
Now, abusers have found some creative methods of stalking their victims electronically over time. Often, the purpose is simply to “keep tabs” on the victim and maintain the sense that the victim is never safe, no matter where he or she goes. It gives the abuser a sense of invincibility and power and the victim may be quietly encouraged to give up hope and simply return to the situation.
What sort of electronic tactics have domestic violence experts and rescue workers seen in recent times?
- A GPS device put inside a child’s doll, so that the abuser could track his ex-spouse from safe house to safe house.
- Cellphones with tracking devices secretly hidden inside the frame of an abused woman’s car by her spouse.
- Invisible locator programs on the phones of abuse victims who might be thinking of leaving.
- Apps that capture text messages in case the victim is reaching out for help.
- The use of public transport cards as a method of tracking a victim’s movement online (where the abuser buys and registers the card)
These are in addition to the more common methods of electronic stalking that abusers use, including things like watching Facebook and other social media accounts to find location-based clues that will help them locate their victims.
One of the big things that any abuse victim hoping to escape the cycle of violence needs to do is take control of their electronic date. Experts counsel anyone concerned about electronic tracking to act fast. To protect yourself, here are some steps you can take:
- If your abuser seems to constantly be aware of your location, assume you are being tracked somehow. Inspect clothing, bags, toys and vehicles for GPS devices hidden inside.
- Get a new phone as soon as possible. Use a different cellular plan entirely.
- Close old social media accounts and open new ones and be very careful about controlling access to your pages. Do not allow any location-based tracking.
Getting a protective order in place can help break the cycle of violence, but it’s only one step to take on the path to freedom.