Technology abuse is extremely common in abusive relationships. Within the context of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking, abusers often misuse technology as a way to control, monitor, and harass victims. In fact, in a 2015 survey of victim service providers, 97 percent of programs reported that their clients experienced harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology. Technology misuse can include tracking devices to monitor where you go (such as putting an app on your phone to track where your phone is); listening in on your conversations; monitoring your activity on your cell phone, tablet or computer; using technology to impersonate someone; and sending harassing or threatening messages via text, email, etc.
Many states have responded to this misuse of technology by passing specific laws to address these behaviors. In other states, these acts can come under criminal laws such as harassment, stalking, eavesdropping, unlawful surveillance, etc. In this section, we will touch on a variety of laws that could cover technology abuse.
It is important to know, however, that you don’t have to understand all of the different forms of technology abuse to know if it’s happening to you. You might have a hunch that technology has been misused because the abuser just “knows too much” about what you are doing on your computer or phone. Perhaps the abuser always seems to show up wherever you go or the abuser knows who you talk to or what you say in your email or text conversations with friends. If you believe that you are being abused or stalked, it’s important to trust your instincts and talk to someone to learn more about your options. For more information about technology abuse and ways to increase your privacy and safety online, visit the Safety Net Project’s Tech Safety Toolkits and online resources.