Documenting abuse

The warning signs of dating abuse aren’t always obvious, but documenting them when you spot them can make an enormous difference in validating abusive experiences.

 

Keeping track of abusive incidents will enable you to better identify specific red flags,

take steps toward safety, and prepare yourself if you decide to seek legal help. Ways to document abuse include:

Keep a journal of what you experience, including descriptions of how the incident made you feel.

Write down statements you, your partner, or any witnesses make before, during, or after the abuse.

Record dates, times, and descriptions of incidents.

If furniture is overturned or items were thrown, describe the scene and take photos of the damage.

Document any injuries, no matter how small (with photos if possible).

Seek medical care, even if there are no visible injuries, especially if you have been strangled or choked.

File a report with the police, if you determine that it’s safe for you to do so.

Documenting digital abuse

Threats and other controlling behaviors often occur online or by phone. Your partner might even admit to abusing you in a message or social media post, whether or not they intend to. You may be hesitant to report this type of unwanted contact or even to acknowledge it as abuse, but if you intend to eventually seek legal recourse, evidence of the abuse will be important to building your case.

Evidence of digital abuse is often fleeting and it may be easily deleted, whether by accident or intentionally. Take steps to secure documentation of any digital abuse you’re experiencing by:

  • Printing out emails or call logs that contain evidence or information about the incident. Make sure the printout includes the sender, recipient, date, and time.
  • Printing out text messages or taking pictures of a phone display containing the message, contact information, date, and time.
  • Printing screenshots of social media posts that contain evidence of abuse. This may appear in the form of admissions of abuse, threats of violence, or even photos that you didn’t consent to. Check your profile as well as your partner’s for evidence.
  • Recording voicemails of abuse including the time and date of the message.

If you don’t have a cell phone, camera, computer, or other technology to help you document abuse, consider visiting a public library to access computers and printers (and possibly rental photo equipment) to compile evidence of abuse. Friends, family members, or community organizations may also be able to lend you technology or help you document abuse.

Make sure all your documentation is stored in a place that your abuser is unable or unlikely to look.

Be creative and store evidence in ways that make sense for your situation. Examples of ways to safely and creatively store digital evidence include:

  • Creating a separate email address for the sole purpose of documenting abuse. You can store everything you write as saved messages and compile photos in one place (just be sure not to use the account for other purposes).
  • Memorizing passwords you create so that you don’t have them written down somewhere and avoiding mentioning plans to people electronically — your partner might be monitoring movements through your texts or social media.
  • Having a back up drive to upload any important documents or information.
  • Using a password-protected online journal (taking care to keep your password private).
  • Hiding printed evidence in a place your abuser won’t look, like a separate room or hidden in the basement.

If you’re not sure whether a specific behavior counts as abuse or you have questions about safely documenting evidence, contact us by text, phone, or live chat 24/7. We’ll discuss your situation and talk through possible options as you prepare for what to do next.

 

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