More and more attention is being paid to the dangers of cyber stalking and the use of technology to monitor and control victims of domestic violence. At its staff meeting in January, which is National Stalking Awareness Month, DVCC provided the second in a series of trainings on cyber abuse to staff members.
According to the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for the Victims of Crimes, 3.4 million people over the age of 18 are stalked each year in the U.S., and three out of four victims are stalked by someone they know. One in four victims report being stalked or monitored through the use of some form of technology - computers, cell phones, listening devices, video or digital cameras and GPS tracking devices. That number may be low, however, as victims are not always aware that they are being followed via technology.
"I would say that every single one of our SafeHouse residents have been stalked in some manner," DVCC SafeHouse Director Cyndy Goldberg said during the meeting.
Technology benefits victims in many ways, such as allowing them to be less isolated, to know when their abuser is calling, to gather evidence and to have immediate connection to the police. However, each benefit also becomes a liability as abusers quickly learn how to use the latest technology to their advantage. The internet offers products and instructions in numerous ways to monitor, locate, track, intercept and impersonate, even for those who aren't that tech savvy.
"If your abuser knows more about you or your whereabouts than you think he should, then you most likely are being monitored or stalked through technology," said Karen Ifert, the DVCC Counselor Advocate who conducted the training.
Cindy Southworth, founder of the Safety Net Technology Project for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, agreed.
"If you think someone knows too much about your activities, they know too much about your email, it's possible that there is spyware on your home computer. If they know your location, it's possible that they've set a GPS tracking device," Southworth said in a recent news article.
Victim advocates advise victims to not make any sudden changes if they become aware that their abuser is tracking them via technology. Before confronting a suspected stalker or changing passwords or privacy settings, they recommend talking to police or an advocate.