Sophisticated and affordable surveillance products are readily available to anyone who wants to track or stalk another person. Standard telephones, cell phones, computers, e-mail, credit cards, ATMs, automobiles and public transportation leave a trail of information about where you are and what you are doing. Police officers have access to additional private and public information: information from the Department of Motor Vehicles, criminal records, telephone and utility companies, credit bureaus, banks, landlords, mortgage companies, school personnel, hospital staff, insurance companies, government agencies, and other sources. Communication, banking and transportation services use interconnected networks and databases. A batterer who is in law enforcement has the investigative skills and knowledge to obtain and use personal information against you, your family and friends. Your abuser is trained to find people using these trails.
NOTE: If you are still in the relationship with your abuser, some of the following safety points (such as changing passwords on accounts or voice mail) could increase his suspicion.
It doesn't matter whether your abuser has physical access to your computer, phone, or social media accounts. If you think you are being watched, you probably are.
If you are looking for information on abuse or planning your escape, don't use your home computer. If you can, use a "safer" computer such as a friend's computer, or a public computer in a library, hotel, or other free public access. It may help to create a new online account and password that you use only on safer computers. Avoid using public web services that require information such as your driver's license or credit card numbers. Your abuser doesn't need special skills to monitor your computer or Internet activities. There are many programs he can use to track all your computer usage — web sites you visit, documents you read, create or edit (online or off-line,) and all your email activity. It doesn't matter if you try to delete files or hide your work behind passwords. He can also discover web-based phone calls, online purchases and banking, and many other activities. There is no way you can completely erase what you have done on any computer. If you think your computer usage is being monitored, it probably is. Remember that as a police officer, your abuser is trained to notice anything out of the ordinary, so it may be dangerous to change or delete email accounts, erase cookies, change passwords, or erase your Internet history if you usually don't do so.
Email, instant messaging (IM), texting and other electronic communications are never a confidential means of communication. They are equivalent to sending a postcard. Avoid posting any personal information or abuse history on a blog, public or private forum, or social networking site. It does not matter if you create an alias. Whatever you post is ultimately traceable.
Use a safer computer and an account that your abuser does not know about. Create difficult passwords for your email, voice mail, and home security access. Even though your abuser can break a password, one that combines numbers, letters and symbols will make it more difficult.Avoid using cellular or cordless phones. Your calls can be picked up on a police scanner or other eavesdropping equipment. Remember that cell phones transmit signals that reveal your location. There is also a record of every call you make and receive. Your cell phone contains a wealth of information about you. If you can, use someone else's phone to make confidential calls. Your abuser may have tapped or put a bug on your line.
Save all correspondence from your abuser even if it is not threatening. If your order of protection prohibits your abuser from contacting you, this violates the order. These records are your evidence. Save all threatening email or voice mail messages. Set up your email and voice mail to automatically record the date and time of messages. Make copies of all correspondence and important documents and keep them in a safe place that your abuser does not know. If you can, keep a diary of everything that has been happening. Consider asking your domestic violence counselor or attorney to keep your papers, mail them to yourself at a rented mailbox, or put them in a safe deposit box.
A domestic violence counselor can help you think things through, explore your options, and help you with your safety plan.
If you feel safe doing so, it's a good idea to develop a relationship with a counselor at your local domestic violence agency before you are in a crisis situation. Some of the following safety points are useful if you have left the abuser and he is attempting to track you down. If you are still living together, some of the safeguards (such as changing your driving patterns) could increase his suspicion and vigilance.
Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your abuser. Remember: leaving can be the most dangerous time.
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