Before the proliferation of Cyber Abuse, it was often possible for women to create a safe distance from their abuser —But Cyber Abuse Closes that Gap — There is no longer such a thing as a safe distance from Coercive Control.
The invention of the internet and the development of electronic and digital forms of communication technology have changed the lives of millions of people in good ways and bad ways. Perpetrators of intimate partner abuse have a whole new arsenal of ammunition to use to establish and maintain power and control over their partners. A wide range of electronic devices including mobile phones, mobile phone cameras, video recorders and other technologies are used to tease, harass, mock, torment, monitor, stalk, intimidate, and coercively control their partner. Perpetrators use social media, emails, text messages, chat rooms, tweets, websites and other internet technologies too.
I’m writing this blog post to introduce you to a slight change to my power and control wheel. If you look at circle #5 above you’ll see I’ve renamed it Cyber Abuse.
(The list of tactics relating to the previous title in that circle was Over protection and ‘caring’. I’ve integrated that list of coercive control tactics within relevant categories in my updated long list of tactics here.)
Cyber Abuse was not talked about when I first interviewed women who had been psychologically controlled by their male partners. Nearly 13 years later, Online Social Cruelty, Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking are commonly used by men against female partners – both within the relationship and after separation.
Online Social Cruelty
An extensive range of Online Social Cruelty used by men against current or ex-partners includes putting her private phone number and other personal details for sale Online, and impersonating her Online by using her screen name or password.
Some men spread derogatory messages, false rumours and confidential material to embarrass, humiliate and defame their partner. Others tell their partner who she can and cannot ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ on social media, or he may use his MySpace, Facebook status, and other Social Media to write degrading statements about her. These tactics are intended to damage her self image.
Some men are known to create Website/Online forums such as chat rooms or twitter accounts to write abusive messages about her, and those close to her, and he may also send unwelcome messages directly to her friends, family, and employer.
Sexting is an Online form of men’s intimate partner sexual abuse that entails creating and posting non-professional sexual or nude images or videos of her on social media. Sexting is an unwelcome and significantly damaging form of abuse.
Men who belittle and humiliate their partner Online are exposing her to gigantic audiences, therefore forcing her to experience overwhelming vulnerability. These invasive tactics purposefully steal women’s sense of privacy and security.
Many men who coercively control their female partners engage in repeated forms of Cyberbullying. This includes stealing or forcing her to disclose passwords, insisting that she always be available at the end of the phone, and demanding that she take nude photos of herself and send them to him.
Some men use recordings, photos and videos to blackmail their partner or ex-partner, and may record violent and sexual assaults followed by threats to post them Online. Other cyberbullying tactics include coercing her to ‘volunteer’ her phone for him to check, and manipulating or intimidating her if she delays responding to his text messages. He may send unwanted threatening and abusive emails, tamper with her emails, and check for the content of her ‘sent’ and ‘deleted’ folders.
I’ve had clients whose partner emailed computer viruses to her and who engaged in Spamming by purposefully flooding her email box with junk mail. Other men engage in Mail Bombing by sending lengthy or sizeable emails that use all her computer memory.
Cyberbullying also includes telling her who she can and can’t ‘friend’ on social media, threatening to, or actually uploading and distributing personal photos and videos without her consent.
The lines are blurred between Offline bullying and Cyberbullying. Bullying is anxiety-creating no matter what form it takes. Some women are able to escape Offline bullying, but there is less ability to escape from bullying in Cyberspace.
This is particularly the case for women with disabilities who experience the debilitating effects of Cyberbullying. Men who have a partner whose mobility, speech, hearing or sight is impaired may sabotage or remove her electronic and communication aids, interfere with her ability to use her TRS, sabotage or remove her braille equipment.
Digital Voyeurism is a form of Cyberstalking that some men use to control their partner or ex-partner. Cyberstalking entails using a range of technology to monitor her, by for example tapping her phoneline, installing hidden surveillance cameras and listening devices in her house, or accessing her internet banking to monitor, or use, her funds.
Men in relationship with women who are hearing impaired may stalk their partner by reviewing the history on her TDD and TTY phone device message delivery services.
Other forms of Cyberstalking include wilfully sending her excessive amounts of unwelcome texts, phone calls and voice messages, frequently looking through her phone checking her contacts, calls, texts, voice messages and photos. Some men make malicious use of GPS to track her movements. Other men will use her caller ID on her phone to pursue her and track her down.
Cyberstalking includes Doxxing
Doxxing entails trawling through the internet to locate every type of personal information pertaining to her, such as her contact details, geographical location, and passwords. Some men follow and monitor their partner’s Online movements, or sign into her Social Media accounts, chat forums and her other Social Network sites.
Installs computer software to stalk her
Abusers use Spyware and Sniffer Programmes to detect information such as usernames and passwords that are sent or received on her computer. Spyware records all her attempts to delete emails and her internet browser history. Installation can be achieved by direct access to her computer or by concealing it in an email attachment.
Installs computer hardware to stalk her
Abusers install Keystroke Logging Hardware onto her keyboard, or the back of her computer to keep tabs on who she communicates with, and where, or if, she seeks support or advice for the abuse and control she’s experiencing.
Anyone can install software and hardware for malicious reasons, they do not need to have computer expertise to make such installations.
Any form of Cyberstalking Causes Significant Damage
In a research project of women’s experiences of Protection Orders, one woman said:
“I never went to the police about these communications as invariably he would make sure to put something of a defamatory or insulting nature about me and I wondered if they would believe his interpretation of things rather than my own.” Pg 204(1)
This woman went to the police again and, “and fortunately for once, I got a constable who actually listened to me.” Pg 204(1)
Unfortunately though, in most countries non-physical tactics of coercive control are considered minor by legal establishments, however, coercive control, no matter what form it takes, is debilitating, destabilising and can lead to a deadly outcome. Read this blog post about how to keep yourself safe if you believe your partner could kill you. And read this post if you are planning to leave.
Stalking a current or ex-intimate partner Offline often involves threats of danger, or actual danger. The same is true of Cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking can lead to dangerous outcomes.
One research project exploring the use of “stalking with technology”(2) noted that:
“While hiding from an abusive partner, a woman needed to get papers to her abuser. She sent them to him via her attorney from the shelter’s fax machine. Her attorney faxed the papers to the abuser’s attorney, who gave the papers to the abuser.” Pg 845(2)
This was highly dangerous activity on the part of both attorneys because “The abuser got the phone number and location of the victim” Pg 845(2) as it was printed on the fax paper.
Other studies(4) find frustration with the minimal accountability and justice. Professionals dealing with any form of intimate partner stalking must take every seemingly isolated minor incident seriously because behind that one incident is a backlog of multiple forms of Coercive Control. Coercive Control is one of the major risk factors that leads to physical violence against female partners and to murdering women and their children.
Cyber Abuse of any kind leads to Long Term Negative Impacts
When a man engages in an ongoing systematic pattern of Offline abuse, control and stalking it is highly likely he will also engage in an intrusive systematic pattern of Online Social Cruelty, CyberBullying and CyberStalking. The intertwining of all this can lead to crazymaking, severe anxiety, panic attacks, thoughts of suicide. The long term negative impacts can be palpable for women and the children exposed to such abuse.
Some CyberSafety Tips
- Change your usernames and passwords
- Block your caller ID on your Phone
- Turn off GPS location facilities on your computer, camera and Phone
- Use a safe email address – perhaps create a new one
- Use a safe computer, perhaps at the library or someone you know who your abuser does not know
- Delete your internet history (although digital footprints can never be entirely deleted)
- Keep a record of all forms of abuse (ensure that record is kept safe from the abuser)
These are basic safety measures if you are being harassed. However if you are in danger there are many more measures you may need to take to stay safe in relation to communication technologies and CyberSpace. Here are three documents compiled by researchers that you could use for taking stronger safety measures . . . . These tips from Women’s Legal Services, NSW — And these ones by Web Wise Women — Also these Technology Safety Quick Tips from the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
- Robertson, Neville, Busch, Ruth, D’Souza, Radha, Lam Sheung, Fiona, Anand, Reynu, Balzer, Roma, . . . Paina, Dulcie. (2007). Living at the cutting edge: Women’s experience of Protection Orders: Volume 2: What’s to be done? A critical analysis of statutory and practice approaches to domestic violence.
- Southworth, Cynthia, Finn, Jerry, Dawson, Shawndell, Fraser, Cynthia, and Tucker, Sarah. (2007). Intimate partner violence, technology, and stalking. Violence Against Women, 13(8), 842-856.
- Hand, Tammy, Chung, Donna, and Peters, Margaret. (2009). The use of information and communication technologies to coerce and control in domestic volence and following separation Stakeholder Paper 6: Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse.
- West, Jessica. (2014). Cyber-Violence Against Women. Vancouver, BC: Battered Women’s Support Services: The Violence Stops Here.
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My ex still refuses to let me go .. He has harassing problems. He stole $900.00 from me. This guy is a basket case. He cyber stalks me and intimidates me and still uses my family as a weapon. And still tries to play me in his games. He abused my children and he abused my family. He has tried to kill me 5 times now. And he has also works for law enforcement in Tucson Arizona. He will harrass me on foot and tries to make me do things for him. I have been moving forward because my heart and mind and soul tells me this guy is a trap. And he still tries to push my buttons and still lies to me a lot. He isn’t trustworthy. My life and my future is on the line with this abuse.
He even tried to control me at my job and still cyber abused harrassed me today. This isn’t a real man. He wasn’t a real deal. And it’s sick how he plays me with this state and my surroundings. Like he is having fun ? at what he does.. I wasted part of my life with him. And he still manipulates me with people from my past. He’s the past. The best thing for me is to remove myself from his little white lies.. But I’m not going to stop… I’m going to stand up and get my money worth on what he did and has done to me especially in the past..
My heart is moving on and so am I. But him and his law buddies threatened my entire family and still abused me with my phone today.. I’m in his business and he refuses to mind his own business.. I have concerns with him and I deserved to get out of his abused.. He’s been controlling my life now for many of years.. And the problem is him because he knows he will never be with me and he will never be free and get away from the abused… He abused my children and this guy has children of his own… He shouldn’t have any children because he abused mine and he abused women. So females be careful who you meet and don’t get involved with anybody who has abused you from your past… You don’t know what they might do to you.. You don’t need a guy in your life to be happy ?…and be careful they manipulate you from the truth…. Just please be careful it’s a f*** up world out there and you don’t know who might f*** you… It doesn’t work with that person especially who did what they did….don’t forgive…. It can happen again and again…. But don’t feed into it…. Abusive men aren’t worth it…. You are…. Always
My ex who is associated with the law distroyed and took my family away. He continues to betray me and cyberbully me and literally attacked me. Forced me to touch myself. And try’s to do other terrorism vandalizing threats and tries to put me in jail or prison today. This guy had several sexual assaults with myself and destroyed and tortured my children lives. He would use law enforcement today in Tucson, az harassing me on foot. Law enforcement also lied to my parents of the truth. They vandalized my ride and auto theft and had my dad spend money on the car that was impounded. I was a sex victim of this guy’s crimes. He also tried to make me get hiv. He pretend a relationship with myself. And he abused me and harassed me on foot. They didn’t care what they did and how they abused me. And still today they still abused till they get their way and their control.
I have been harassed by those people from the club for a very long time. Two people knew about it. They torture me on the streets and try to put me in prison. And they were also in your mail and in your financial funds. This person was probably told by their head computer boss that they can arrest me. There’s cruel people behind cyberstalking and the people that I used to know. And this one guy I went to high school with. They would fraud in people homes and stole information that doesn’t belong to them. This guy would also try to pretend he is in a relationship with you. And try to have you waste money and try to run and control your life and make do things you don’t want to do. The bar of November were involved in this endangerment of harm to myself and I do believe to my parents and kids.
He would record my family’s voices and used that everywhere I go. My job is being stalked. This guy tortured woman’s life’s and do serious harms to your family. And he tries to make you show him anything and site. He did also make a list of people’s names and who not to talk who were told not to say anything. The four horrible cops that are involved three from the sherif department and one that works for Tucson police department that I used to go to high school with. And one from Sonora Mexico that attacked me at pi Wei on Broadway in Tucson az. Him and his family tortured myself to death and abyss me in a medical hospital here in Tucson as well. They would force bananas in my throat and they would fatten it up. They also attacked me with falsely abused information that they would use their computers on. They also throw all my kids’ stuff away and and my property. And my values.
These people behind this used to hang out at November. They used me and they went after my family and still he tortures me today. He used his computer to cyber lying about me and my family. He fraud my accounts and one guy lives up in Oro valley and I honestly don’t trust them. He refused to stop. I do believe he is having too much fun stalking and harassing me. I need to get the FBI in it. They’re liars and I don’t know what harm they’re going to bring much moved.
He was trying to kill me. And now they’ll probably go after my kids and family. So my kids and my family are in danger because I am of this person. He doesn’t tell you shit. Abuser doesn’t want me to drive again and he trespasses in Tucson. And he also made terrorism attacks over my parents’ house already. And there was never ever anything real about any of them.
Some of these solutions are fine to defend against a mid level tech person. But how can one defend against a hacker who utilizes tools to track someone even on public computers and even when GPS says it is off? Someone who may also have enlisted others to carry out attacks in order to make good his threat, “I will make it so you can’t function,” which I now know means, “unable to work, have a normal life, or have normal relationships?” After several years of intensive, constant, life-crushing incidents, I have found no real help.
My ex stole the family computer after I divorced him and he moved out. Afterwards, I realized I needed to change the locks. He tried to use email communication between my new husband and I in court against me. He had to hide the email addresses and dates as they proved he had committed fraud. My current husband was asked to testify and he refused to acknowledge the email due to lack of address/date claiming correctly the email was stolen. The Judge ignored the fact that the email was fraudulent insisting my current husband respond to the email. My husband refused several times after being pressured by the judge and eventually won that small battle. My ex husband was never even given a slap on the hand for stealing private email communication.
My ex husband also used email communication between him and I, post divorce, to ‘prove’ I was a bad person. He omitted his email threads and only showed the court my responses to his antagonizing and bullying. The court could not prove I was a bad mother, I’d been a stay at home mom for 10 years, but they did love the fact that my ex and his lawyer (good buddies with the judge) painted me as a horrible person. It turned into a ‘witch hunt’ with my abuser lying repeatedly in court. The corrupt court jumped on that band wagon and my child was taken from me. My ex was angry I’d left him and remarried. He went after me to punish me for leaving him and the courts supported him. He played the martyr and could have won an oscar. I was told by my corrupt lawyer at the time, not to say a bad thing about my abuser – biggest mistake. In fact, the courts had already decided my fate before I even showed up. I had no chance. His lawyer was best buddy with the judge and my lawyer wanting to stay in good favors with both.
‘Best interest of the child’ is what they claim but it’s rubbish. Taking children away from full time good mothers is a crime which punishes both mothers and their children from leaving their abusers.
Abusers are so good at hiding their true colors, it’s usually very hard to prove their abuse in court. Only an expert lawyer on the matter knows how to expose the abuser. My child suffered for 3 years living with the abuser, her life in peril on several occasions due to his negligence, before I finally found an aggressive lawyer with more clout than the previous lawyers who had wasted our time and money and not had the balls to fight against the corrupt system while my child suffered emotional and physical abuse.
A super lawyer is the only way to go in a corrupt court – even then however, I have some doubts: choose very very carefully. My super lawyer was able to bring my child back home in a matter of three weeks and said ‘I wish you’d come to me to begin with, you’d not have had to go through all this’. He was expensive however and like most women who have the guts to leave an abuser, we leave with the skin on our backs, it’s the sacrifice we make for sanity and to protect our children. In the end, the two useless lawyers cost more than 80k over 3 years, the super lawyer only a 10k retainer … Abusers will use your children against you to keep their power to control over you. So even once you’ve ‘won’ in court, it’s far from over until the kids are 18 if he still has some form of court ordered custody and they usually do because they are so good at convincing courts they are hard done by and us mothers are the problem.
Be very very careful how you respond to your ex abuser via email or text. I am obliged because of the parenting plan to communicate over parenting issues. I wish I had nothing to do with him but the courts prevent that from happening. Thanks to the courts, my child and I both have to continue dealing with him and his emotional abuse. He continues to abuse me and bully me via email and harass and put down my child. Email is his preferred means of communication because he can use it against me in court. He managed to keep jurisdiction in the corrupt court where he knows he has the upper hand. I’ve learnt over the years not to respond with emotion to his emails and texts. Keep communication to a bare minimum and not respond at all if I’m not legally bound to – this is not easy after 12 years of abuse. An abuser will use anything he can get his hands on to continue the abuse, he will continue with his well practiced false story line as it has served him so well thus far. Cyber technology is a great weapon for them, what’s worse, the courts use it and even allow edited email and stolen email to be presented.