WomensLaw serves and supports all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

About Abuse

Abuse Using Technology

View all
Updated: July 12, 2024

How should I document the abuse?

The best way to document evidence of abuse will depend on the exact circumstances of your case and the way that the abuser is using technology to commit the abuse. You may wish to speak with a lawyer or domestic violence advocate in your state about what records you should keep. If you aren’t sure what could be useful, it is generally better to keep more evidence rather than less.

These are some ways in which you could consider documenting evidence of abuse:

  • Keep a log or a record of the details of each incident as the incidents occur. The log could include:
    • a list of the date and time of each incident;
    • what the abuser did or said;
    • what actions, if any, you took; and
    • what witnesses or evidence you have related to the incident.

You can download a sample technology abuse log to help with this.

  • Save any voicemails, call logs, emails, or text messages and take screenshots or photographs of the phone or computer screen and store them in a safe location separate from the device on which you originally accessed them. When taking screenshots or photographs, be sure to include as much information as possible. For instance, you will want to show the phone number of the person who is sending harassing messages, not just the contact name you assigned to that person in your phone.
  • Print out emails with the full header information included so that details such as the date and time of the email and the IP address it was sent from can be easily identified. It is important to document this from the original email. If the email has been forwarded, you will no longer have the information related to the original sender. If you do not know how to find the full header information, a simple Internet search can help explain the specific steps based on whether you use Outlook, Gmail, or another email service provider.
  • Take screenshots of any posts made on social media by the abuser to preserve them in case s/he later deletes them. When you do this, be sure to include the full URL from the bar at the top of the window and take screenshots of the abuser’s profile page as well as any time and date information for the posts.
  • Download the data on your social media account in case your account later gets hacked or deleted. You may need to be able to explain to the judge how you downloaded your account information and whether it accurately reflects what you saw on the social media site or app. If you have filed criminal charges, law enforcement may be able to send a letter or subpoena to the social media company or website asking them to keep the account information but it can’t hurt to also download it yourself.
    • Note: Some apps, such as Snapchat, notify the sender of a snap or chat if a screenshot is taken of it. A safer way to document an abusive or threatening snap or chat is to take a picture of it with another device. Since snaps and chats in Snapchat are set up to disappear from your device after a certain amount of time set by the sender, have a separate camera ready before you open the snap or chat.
  • Document any suspicious account activity or login history if the abuser is accessing your accounts. You can do this by taking screenshots of user logs or logins by unknown devices. While this won’t prove that it was the abuser accessing your accounts, if you can provide additional evidence or testimony in court, the judge might believe that the abuser was more likely than not the person accessing your accounts.
  • Save anonymous messages or messages from unknown senders that you receive via email, text, an app, or on social media. While you may not be able to tie the messages to the abuser directly, other information, such as the content of the message, the actions of the abuser, or another piece of information may be enough to convince the judge why you believe they came from the abuser.
  • Consider the impact of removing or interfering with any hidden cameras, recording devices, air tags, or GPS trackers you find. Removing it could not only affect your safety if the abuser knows that you found it, but also it could impact your ability to document their existence. You could take a picture of the monitoring device or tracker where you found it and even consider asking the police to document the evidence before removing it. You may want to work with a domestic violence advocate to think about how removing the equipment may impact your safety and create a safety plan accordingly. Additionally, if you believe the abuser has remote or physical access to your device, you will want to be careful how you collect evidence from the device and not do any Internet searches on the device regarding documenting evidence or presenting it in court. Those types of searches could instead be done on a computer at a public library, community center, legal help center, or domestic violence advocacy program. Domestic violence programs may also be able to help you set up safe accounts for court-related communication and to safety plan around the abuser’s access.