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Technology and family violence

Technology and family violence

Technology and family violence

Woman sitting on a park bench looking at her phone

Find out about how someone using family violence could also use technology to perpetrate abuse, how to stay safe online and what to do if you're not feeling safe.

We use technology to stay connected with our loved ones, do our banking, make appointments, and much more. However, someone using family violence can also use technology to harass, monitor, stalk, impersonate or make threats to control, frighten or humiliate.

This is a form of abuse and it's never OK.

Examples include:

  • Abusive or threatening texts or calls
  • Tracking you through your devices
  • Threatening or sharing photos of you without consent (image-based abuse)

Things to be aware of

This list can help you think about the types of behaviour you should be aware of and how someone using family violence could use your personal information to monitor or control you.

  • Do they know information about your movements that they shouldn't? Do they turn up at places unexpectedly?
  • Are they constantly asking where you are, checking your phone or web browser history?
  • Have they set up monitoring systems such as a camera or security devices around the home?
  • Has there been unusual online activity, such as emails that have been marked read, but not by you? Or emails and texts that were sent, but not by you? Have there been unusual financial transactions?
  • Has your password been changed and you've been locked out of accounts?
  • Have they given your children new gifts, such as a mobile phone, that could be used to track your location or see personal information?

The Australian Government's eSafety website has an online tour of the kinds of technology often used as part of family violence. Take the tour.

Map your digital world

Follow these steps to list the different types of technology you use that may pose a risk.

Step 1

Think about how you use technology to manage your information and activity.

  • Daily life - banking, supermarket rewards, utilities such as gas and electricity, email, myGov or Centrelink accounts, taxi or rideshare apps.
  • Work - email, computer, phone or other work-related apps or accounts.
  • Recreational activities - online ticketing such as Ticketmaster accounts, fitness apps, music apps or voice devices (such as Google Home or Alexa).
  • Social platforms - Facebook, Instagram, dating apps, messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

Step 2

Think about who else may be able to access your information. List the shared accounts, devices and any accounts where the password is known to another person or may be easy to guess.

Step 3

Now think about how others may be able to track your location. Underline or highlight the accounts where location settings are switched on (such as Uber or Google Maps).

With the information you now have on your digital world, the following tips can help you increase your safety.

Tips to increase your safety

First, consider whether changing your digital patterns will alert the person/people using family violence and increase your risk. It may be safer to maintain your online presence on the accounts that the perpetrator is aware of, so you don't raise suspicion if you set up and use new accounts.

Safer devices

If you think someone is accessing your devices, you could use safer devices that the person using violence does not have access to, such as using the internet at a public library or on your child's devices.

New accounts

If safe to do so, set up new accounts, like a new email address, and always log out of accounts on all devices.

Passwords

Passwords that are easy to guess or saved automatically on your device can mean that the person/people using family violence could monitor your communication and movements, or send messages and post activities from your account.

When creating a password, avoid using information that someone will know such as a date of birth or pet name. You should use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters (? ! or @), and try not to use the same password for multiple different accounts. A password based on the first letters of a sentence can make it easier to remember. For example, you could refer to a holiday: I go to Tasmania 2021! would be IgtT2021!.

You could also consider not telling the truth for security questions. Try choosing a theme you can easily remember, such as the example below which uses fruit and colours as themes.
Mothers' maiden name: green pineapple
First pet: yellow pineapple
School: purple pineapple

Location settings

Ensure your location settings on your devices are switched off. The eSafety website has a video to show you how to do this.

Safe web browsing

Use 'private' or 'incognito' mode when browsing the internet, so your browser history is not recorded. You can also delete the browser history of particular websites that might make the person using violence suspicious. Some websites (including this one) have a 'Quick exit' button, usually at the top of the page. This will instantly close the website you're on (but it will still be in your browser history).

Email attachments

Don't open attachments unless you are sure they are safe.

Find out more

The Women's Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit, created by WESNET, helps women experiencing tech abuse to increase their technology safety and privacy. Visit the TechSafety website.

More information, including instructional videos, can be found on the Australian Government's eSafety website.

If you need help

  • If you are in immediate danger call 000.
  • You can also contact the police in your state or territory.
  • For confidential crisis support, information and accommodation please call the safe steps 24/7 family violence response line on 1800 015 188. If it is unsafe to call, email safesteps@safesteps.org.au
  • For confidential phone help and referral in Australia, please contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line.
  • For a specialist LGBTIQ family violence service, please contact W|Respect on 1800 LGBTIQ (1800 542 847) or visit www.withrespect.org.au.
  • For support for men, call Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

Gathering Support is our guide to help you keep safe during separation. It includes how to make a safety plan, where to get help and how to look after yourself. Find out more.