Know the Laws:
UPDATED February 11, 2016
Please note that computer use can be monitored by an abuser, and there are ways for an abuser to access your email and to find out what sites you have visited on the Internet. It is impossible to completely clear all data related to your computer activity.
If you are in danger, please use a computer that the abuser cannot access (such as a public terminal at a library, community center, or domestic violence organization), and call your local domestic violence organization and/or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for help. For a list of local and national resources see our State and Local Programs page and enter your state in the drop-down menu.
Maybe. There are a number of ways the abuser could have access to your email account:
If you're not sure whether the abuser has access to your email account, for your safety it's best to act like s/he does, and avoid sending emails you wouldn't want him/her to see.
If you believe that the abuse does NOT have access to your email account, here are a few steps that you may want to take anyway, to try to keep your email account secure:
You may also want to follow the steps in What should I do if I think the abuser can access my email account? in case the abuser has access to your email account without your knowledge.
If the abuser has access to your email account or computer, s/he may be able to read the emails you send and receive, even if you delete them.
Therefore, to send and receive emails that you do not want others to see, you may want to set up an alternate email account that the abuser doesn't know about. There are a number of free, Web-based e-mail services that you can use. When signing up for a new email account, do not use any of your real identifying information if you wish to remain private and anonymous. Here is a list of a few free, web-based email programs:
Keep in mind that the abuser may still be able to read your email if you create a new account if you do not log out properly or if you choose a password that s/he can guess or find. The safest way to use a new email address is from a computer that the abuser does not have any access to.
Note: If you do decide to give the abuser your email address, remember to not open any email attachments sent from the abuser or to reply to an email sent by the abuser using your new email account, as these actions may let the abuser install spyware on your computer and track your email messages.
As you are browsing the Internet, you may come across an email address that you can click on in order to send an email to that address -- something that looks like this: email@example.com.
If you share a computer with the abuser and click on an email link, you may be sending the email from the abuser's email address without even knowing it. This could put you in danger since whoever you wrote to might try to write you back, but will be writing to the abuser's email address instead.
It is safer to copy the email address and paste it directly into a new message from your own email account.
You should print and save any threatening or harassing email messages the abuser sends you, as they may be used as evidence of his/her abuse in court or with the police. To be able to prove that the abuser sent these messages, you may have to print out the messages with the “header,” which shows the account information of the sender of the email.
Additionally, depending on the content of the messages and how many s/he sends, s/he may be committing a crime, such as stalking or harassment. You can report any threatening or harassing emails to the police. For more information on online harassment, please see our Stalking/Cyberstalking page. To read the definitions of any harassment or cyberstalking crimes in your state, you can go to our Crimes page and enter your state in the drop-down menu.
Threatening or harassing emails may also be a basis for a restraining order against the abuser. To read about the types of restraining orders available in your state, select your state from the drop-down menu on our Restraining Orders page