If you’re in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, your partner might try to monitor or control your online activity. Relationship abuse is about power and control, so a partner who is abusive might think it’s completely okay to violate your digital boundaries. Your partner might monitor your computer and internet usage to see what you’re looking at or who you’re talking to online. They might closely follow what you post on social media or try to figure out who you’re messaging. They may also look through your laptop or phone without your permission or use a program to track your computer use.
Be careful with what you send others or post online, as you may not know what your controlling partner can see. Computers store information about the websites you visit, so internet safety is crucial. Otherwise, an abusive partner could know what sites you visit, purchases you make, or emails you send.
How to practice Internet safety
Using safe browsing practices (like using a VPN or a private browser) can help prevent people from tracking your history. You can also access safe computers at local libraries or shelters but avoid using shared computers when researching things like travel plans, housing options, legal issues, or safety plans. If you have looked at that information on a shared computer, be sure to clear those pages from your search history.
Many of us use our phones to get online. Email, social media, and texting can all be great ways to communicate with people, but they can also be monitored. Some partners may want to share passwords to their phone or social media accounts, but that decision is ultimately up to you. Whether you choose to share passwords or not, be careful with what you send others through email, text, or social media DM. You never know what an unhealthy or abusive person may be able to see.
It’s essential to document abuse when it happens, especially if it takes place over the phone or online.
Internet safety includes documenting abuse
Your partner may admit to abusive behavior or reference them in a message or online post, so it’s important to document those messages quickly. If possible, print out emails, text messages, or screenshots that contain evidence of abuse. Admissions of abuse, threats of violence, or pictures you didn’t consent to are all important things to document. If possible, save voicemails onto a digital recorder with the time and date included. If you believe your phone or computer is being monitored, share that documentation with a trusted friend or family member. This will make it harder for a partner who is abusive to delete evidence.
Be sure to keep everything you document somewhere that your partner can’t access. It can help to create a secret email address specifically for the purpose of documenting abuse with a password only you know or to keep everything hidden in a place they never go.
Email is a common way to keep in touch with trusted friends, family members, and others: chances are most of the people in your life use email to some degree. Partners who are abusive often know this and exploit it to their advantage. They may have access to your account or send or delete emails without your knowledge.
If you’re concerned about your safety, consider opening a new email account that your partner doesn’t know about on a safe computer. Use that email for safety planning (including documenting abuse) and sensitive communications.
Try to establish several different methods of communication to contact people so you’ll know if they tried to reach you elsewhere.
Keep monitored accounts active with non-critical communications so your partner won’t be suspicious. Encrypted email services may also offer an extra layer of security.
Help is available
If you think your phone or computer is being monitored, there are ways to safely talk to an advocate. Our advocates can walk you through the steps to protect your computer or phone and answer any questions you may have. If needed, you can also ask a trusted friend or family member to talk to us on your behalf. No matter how, we’re here to help 24/7.
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