Tech safety: keeping safe on computer, email, phone and social media Print
Cyberstalking is similar to traditional stalking. It is persistent behaviours that cause fear and apprehension by the repeated use of the internet and other electronic means to stalk, harass or threaten.
How to clear your browser history and/or view websites privately:
If you are concerned someone might be monitoring what websites you view it is recommended you understand how you can view websites in private (also referred to as “Secret”, “Safely” “Incognito”). It is also important you understand how to clear your web history and that you always shut down any browser windows completely. We have created guides on how to clear history and view webpages safely for a variety of browsers. These guides can be downloaded and printed from the links below:
Things to look out for:
- Does your computer have a webcam? If so, learn how it works and ensure it is turned off. You might even consider using tape to cover the lens when you aren’t using it.
- Using internet-based phone services such as Google Voice or Skype for texting or making calls is a safe alternative.
- Use a safe computer to access your email or internet. A safe computer might be a friend or family members or a public computer at, for example, the library.
Keeping your emails and computer safe:
- Consider keeping a separate email account for any legal communication you might receive from your lawyer or the police and/or a separate email account to communicate with the stalker, if ongoing communication is required.
- Ensure you use passwords on all devices and logins. Strong passwords include lower and upper case letters, numbers and simple symbols. Keep your passwords secret, change them often and try to have different passwords for different things. Don’t allow your computer to save your passwords.
- Clear your browser history after you have finished on the internet.
- Use the “private search” function within Internet Explorer before using the internet.
Keeping your mobile phone safe:
- Ensure your phone locks after a short period of time and that you have engaged a pin code to access your phone.
- Turn off the “location” function on your phone, or only turn it on when you need it on.
- Clear your browser history after you have finished on the internet. Alternatively, select the “private” function on your browser before using the internet.
- Turn your Bluetooth® off and set your phone to “hidden”. Data on your phone can be stolen via Bluetooth® technology.
- Beware of Caller ID Spoofing. This is a service provided to change the caller ID to any other number. Always confirm who you are receiving a text message from.
- Have your device and/or motor vehicle checked for GPS tracking. You can ask for assistance from your local police, or a trusted mechanic to check your car. Other items that could include GPS tracking are cameras, watches, tablets and toys.
Keeping safe on social media:
- Regularly visit your privacy settings to ensure they are set up to achieve maximum privacy. You might need to check the settings via each device you use.
- Consider using a profile picture that is not identifying, such as a flower or a random dog (not your pet).
- Consider using a different city as your location and not including your place of work or schooling.
- Avoid “checking in” at places you go, especially your home and work place.
- Ensure you know the person you are friending, following or linking in with. Is this a real person?
- Avoid posting photos of the front of your house, your street sign or the number of your house. Remember to be careful about what is in the background of your photo.
- Talk to the family and friends that frequent your home and ask them to assist you by not tagging themselves or posting unsafe photos.
- Be mindful of your status updates. Things such as “I’m going to the Coast for the weekend” might be better off replaced with “I went to the Coast over the weekend” a few days later.
If in doubt, keep a log. Save the messages or ask your service provider or police to download the messages. Please note that in Australia, service providers are only required to keep a history for six months.
Protection orders Print
In addition to other safety measures taken some people choose to apply for a protection order known in the ACT as a Family Violence Order (FVO). Under the ACT Family Violence Act 2016 people experiencing domestic and family violence can apply for a FVO. These orders contain conditions that are legally enforceable and a chargeable offence to breach. These conditions can vary and are applied for by the person experiencing domestic and family violence to suit their unique situation. They can include prohibiting the respondent from attending their home, being within 100 metres of them, and from contacting them.
The process involved in applying for a protection order can require the person experiencing violence to attend Court on several occasions. After initially applying for an interim order, which makes conditions enforceable as soon as the paperwork is served by police on the user of violence, a Return Conference is listed so that the applicant can pursue a permanent FVO of up to 24 months. The respondent is invited to attend the conference. If there is no agreement between the applicant and the user of violence than the matter will go before a Magistrate to decide, at what is called a FVO Hearing.
DVCS ‘s Court Advocacy Program is a free service which supports people though the FVO process.
Before applying for a FVO it is important to consider whether or not taking this action will place you at further risk and whether or not you are prepared to call police if there is a breach. On occasion FVOs can aggravate a situation further and some people have difficulty reporting incidents to police for various reasons.
To access our legal support and advocacy services call our 24/7 crisis telephone line 02 6280 0900. If it isn’t urgent another contact option is to email firstname.lastname@example.org; this email is only monitored during business hours. You are welcome to call us reverse charges. If you live outside the ACT please call 1800RESPECT.
Staying safe at home after the relationship has ended Print
Some ideas to promote safety are:
- Change the locks on doors and windows as soon as possible.
- Installing locks to any man holes.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and purchase fire extinguishers for your home.
- Install a motion sensitive lighting system outside that lights up when a person is coming close to your home.
- Get an answering machine to screen your calls and report abusive calls to the telephone company and the police.
- Buy a mobile phone.
- Call Police if you see the person who has abused you near your home or if they threaten you or communicate with you in any other way.
- Ask a neighbour to call Police if they see the person who has abused you or their vehicle near your home.
- Teach your children how to use the telephone to call police or a trusted person if in danger.
- Inform all the people who provide care for the children, who has permission to pick them up and who does not.
Affordable security options:
- Putting wood dowel in windows so they can’t slide open.
- Buying sensor lights that plug into existing light fittings.
- Putting a chain and padlock around gates.
- Placing slide bolts on man holes so it can’t be accessed via the roof.
- Security chain on the front door.
Preparing to leave the relationship Print
It is important to plan ahead as this can make leaving easier and safer. A person who uses violence, abuse and/or controllling behaviours may become more controlling, abusive and dangerous when they believe the person subjected to these behaviours is planning to leave, as this threatens their sense of power and control.
If you have made the decision to leave, it may be useful to consider the following:
- Call our 24/7 phone line on 6280 0900 to develop a comprehensive, personalised safety plan.
- Leave money, a set of extra keys and other necessary items with a trusted person.
- Secure all your important documents, such as birth certificates, cheque books, passports and insurance papers. Alternatively make copies and give the copies to a trusted person.
- Open a personal bank account, at a bank the person using violence does not use, and make regular deposits to increase your financial independence. But remember to make sure the statements are sent to a secure address or delivered electronically.
- Consider your accommodation options. If you are unable to stay with family or friends consider contacting OneLink or if possible organising a private rental property.
What you can do during an incident at home Print
There are things to consider in the event of an incident occurring. Everyone’s situation is different, but below are some suggestions:
- Decide how you will leave – car, on foot, call a friend.
- Decide where you will go – friend or family, neighbour or police.
- Consider packing an overnight bag and hiding it in your car, or wardrobe. You might consider packing it in an unused rubbish bag at the back of your wardrobe so it looks like a bag of old clothes.
- Make sure your mobile phone is charged and on your person. You don’t need to speak to police, just making the call and saying nothing is enough to raise the alarm, but keep the call active.
- If you are concerned about your car keys, purse and other necessary items being taken, store them in a secure place that you can access in a hurry.
- If you feel comfortable talking to your neighbours, do. Ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from your home.
- Consider creating a code word with your friends/family and/or children so that they know when to call for help.
- In the event a situation begins to escalate, try to move to a space that poses the lowest risk of injury in case you need to escape. For example, being near an unlocked door, away from glass tables, being on the ground floor of the home. It is best to avoid being locked in a room if the person using violence is capable of breaking in.
Safety plan check list Print
If you are planning to leave an abusive relationship it is important to plan ahead as this can make leaving easier and safer. A person who uses violence , controlling behaviours and/or abuse may become more controlling, abusive and dangerous when they believe the person subjected to these behaviours is planning to leave, as this threatens their sense of power and control.
If you have made the decision to leave, we encourage you to make a safety plan. You can do this yourself and this checklist can assist or you can contact our 24/7 crisis telephone line on 6280 0900. You can call this number 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential within the confines and limitations of the service where safety is not compromised.
Things to consider
- Decide how you will leave – by foot, car or will you call a friend.
- Decide where you will go – friend or family, hotel, neighbour or police.
- What will you take – consider packing an overnight bag and leave it in your car or give it to a friend.
- Pack your important documents – such as your birth certificate and passport or email copies to your family or a friend.
- Purchase a mobile phone and make sure your mobile phone is charged and has credit – if you do need to call the police, you don’t have to speak, saying nothing will put them into action.
- Consider varying your route to work or family and changing your regular activities such as going to the gym.
- Have you discussed what you are doing with a trusted friend, family member or work colleague and do you need to create a safe word – do not write down your safe word.
- Do you have access to money – consider giving some to your family or friend to mind. If possible, open a new bank account and select the statements be emailed to a secure email address.
- Decide where you will stay – friend or family, hotel or refuge and how long are you able to stay there.
- If you are staying at home, do you need to change the locks on windows and doors or should you have deadbolts installed.
- Do you have capacity to consider sensor lights, window bars, additional locks, electronic alarm and a chain on your front door.
- Ensure you have working fire alarms installed and a fire extinguisher.
- Put wood dowel in windows to stop them being slid open.
- Place padlocks and chains on gates.
- Place sliding bolts on man holes so it can’t be accessed by the roof.
- Get an answering machine and voicemail and screen your calls. This also allows you to record abusive messages.
- Teach your children how to use the telephone and call police and a safe word.
- Talk to all people who care for your children about who has permission to collect the children.
- Do you need to make arrangements for your pet.
- Ensure the webcam on your computer is turned off, even better, use tape to cover the lens when you aren’t using it.
- Set up a secure email address that you can give to police, lawyers, community services etc to use – but maintain the email address the person using violence is aware of.
- Change all your passwords and login details using strong passwords that are not words or your birthdate and try to have a different password for different accounts.
- Ensure your mobile phone is set to auto lock after a short period of time and a pin code is required to unlock it.
- Turn off the “location” function on your phone.
- Turn off your Bluetooth off and set your phone to “hidden”.
- Program emergency numbers into your phone, using code names if necessary.
- Ensure you have engaged all the privacy settings on social media and on each device.
- Don’t allow other people to tag you in photos or locations.
- Consider using a non-identifying profile and cover photo, such as a flower or landscape on your social media accounts.
- Consider using a different city as your location and not including your place of work or education.