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In the last few years, Interval House has noticed a disturbing and increasingly common trend – electronics as a means to abuse women. Electronic violence against women (E-VAW) is a terrifying way for abusers to victimize women. Of course, that’s not to say that technology is only used for abusive purposes. Technological advancements have allowed our sector to reach out to more women than ever before, and create awareness about the issue of abuse on a global scale.
In response to this disturbing and growing trend, we are publishing a series of articles will discuss the various forms of E-VAW and what women can do to protect themselves. In this series, we will also touch on the ways in which technology can be used to help the women and children who seek our support.
The wide reaching and terrifying effects of cyber abuse and cyber stalking become chillingly apparent when you speak to Jessica*, a former resident of Interval House.
When Jessica took her 3 sons and fled to Interval House to escape her abusive partner, she was scared that he would find her. Her partner was extremely technologically savvy, and had a history of using technology to track, stalk, and abuse Jessica.
Her fear of technology was clear to us from the beginning. She was utterly terrified of all forms of technology – taking apart her phone, staying away from computers, and even asking others around her to turn off their phones in her presence. Communicating with her lawyer and other agencies that wanted to help her proved challenging, since she only felt comfortable using the office phone for very short periods. And after hearing her story, we understood her fear.
When Jessica was living with her partner, he had complete control of all aspects of her life. And wherever Jessica was, he made sure she knew he was watching her.
At home, all of her electronic devices were tracked, and cameras were hidden throughout the house so that her partner could keep an eye on what she was doing. Even when she left her home, the constant monitoring didn’t stop. It increased.
Once, Jessica took her sons to the movies without letting her partner know. It didn’t take long before he found out where she was. While at the theater, Jessica received a threatening message ordering her to come home. He demanded to know why she was at the movies and not at home like she said she’d be. Jessica was stunned. How did he know? It turned out that her partner hacked into her email account and found the electronic tickets the theatre had sent her. She panicked. She knew he would be at home waiting for her.
The constant electronic monitoring made escaping her partner’s abuse especially difficult. But, thankfully, she saw an opportunity and took it, fleeing to a friend’s house. She thought it was over. That she had escaped the nightmare her life had become. Sadly, her comfort was very short-lived.
Her partner hacked into her email once again and, from there, was able to trace her friend’s IP address through an email that she had sent. He had found her. And she knew she had to act fast.
Before he got to her and her children, Jessica found safety behind our walls. The counsellors worked tirelessly with her to understand how she can use technology safely rather than avoid it all together. Slowly but surely, the counsellors started to notice Jessica’s fears begin to subside.
Jessica showed immense courage by taking drastic steps to escape danger, and rebuild her life. When she left Interval House, the counsellors could see a renewed sense of hope. Hope that the lives of her and her children would no longer be shrouded in darkness and fear.
Unfortunately, Jessica’s experience is becoming all too common. Check back next week to learn more about the effects of cyber stalking and how you can get help.
*Jessica’s name has been changed to protect her identity
Check back next Monday for the next article in the E-VAW series on cyberstalking.