Online Abuse

Abusers are often in denial about who they are and what they are doing to the people around them. They are also increasingly using digital technology to monitor the people they abuse and extend their abuse on and offline. The last thing we want is for your visit to our site to get help to be used to hurt you, so we have prepared a simple guide to staying safe online and preventing online abuse.

The Basics

  1. Every website you visit leaves a record in your computer’s history. By looking at your history your abuser could see that you have visited the Capella Centre and lash out against you.
  2. The easiest way to avoid this is to leave no trace when you visit a site: most modern internet browsers on phones and desktops have something called ‘Incognito Mode’ or ‘Anonymous Browsing’. This allows you to visit websites without creating a trace.

    There are a lot of internet browsers out there for both desktop and mobile, so it won’t be possible to list them all here. Search for your browser and ‘incognito mode’ or ‘anonymous browsing’ for instructions.

  3. Clean your browser. Even if you are now in incognito mode, you will still need to clean up the evidence that you first visited the site. Remember: it will look suspicious if you delete everything from your browser’s history, so just delete the entries for the Capella Centre and other domestic violence organizations.
  4. The best way to keep your internet history private is to use a computer that your abuser doesn’t have access to. Try a library, or find a friend you trust.
  5. If you are browsing sites that you know your abuser wouldn’t want you to see, be ready to close the window as soon as you can. If you’re using Windows you can press Alt-F4 to instantly close your current window, or Command (⌘) W on Macs.

If You Are Being Abused Online

When they can’t reach you in person, abusers will often try to harm you by sending messages, spreading rumours and coordinating harassment online. While the full range of threats that the digital realm can pose is huge, there are some basic rules to remember:

  • Tell them in a private message asking them to stop communicating with you and that it is a crime for them to not stop. Send them this link to the legal definition of harassment in Canadian law. This covers you in case there are any legal proceedings later- you might be asked to prove that your harasser knew that they were harassing you.
  • Block, and don’t engage. Every social network allows you to block or report harassment. Take a screenshot in case there are legal proceedings at a later date, then use the reporting function, then block the abuser.
  • If they are sharing intimate pictures of you without your consent (‘revenge porn’) then follow the instructions in this guide and remember that Revenge Porn is illegal and punishable in Alberta. Remember, in Canada, it is illegal to distribute an image of someone without their consent, so keep records and screenshots and contact the police or speak to somebody at the Capella Centre.
  • If somebody is trying to find or is releasing personal information about you (in internet slang, ‘doxing’), then there are precautions that you can take. More information is available here.

Other Tips

  • There are other ways to find out what sites somebody has been visiting for very sophisticated computers users, such as programs that log every key you press (‘keyloggers’). Free software like Malwarebytes might be able to detect some malicious software- but not all.
  • Use strong passwords on your email and social media accounts and, if possible, on your computer itself. Have a lock enabled on your phone- modern phones will sometimes have face or fingerprint recognition so that only you can open them.
  • Websites like Facebook will often show you ads based on what you’ve been looking at, even if you delete a page from your history, so an abuser could know that something’s up if they see ads for domestic violence services on your Facebook page. Use an ad-blocker so that these ads don’t appear.
  • If you suspect that you are being monitored, use your computer as normal until you manage to get away. You can install a program called Prey to lock down your devices remotely if you have to leave your devices behind.

The above tips are just the tip of the iceberg, and new ways to victimize people online are being created all the time, as are ways to defend yourself.

Contact Us to get help.