Why is documenting evidence important in cases involving technology abuse?
If an abuser is using technology to abuse you, often the evidence of that abuse is located on the Internet or on a device like a cell phone, tablet, computer or video camera. Documenting this evidence can be very helpful if at some point you want to try to have the legal system hold the abuser accountable. It is important to document the evidence as soon as possible because an abuser may be able to access and delete the proof of the abuse.
It may be your first instinct to delete threatening messages from an abuser or to “block” the abuser if s/he is harassing you on social media. This is a completely understandable response. However, before you do this, it’s important to understand and think through how this will impact your ability to document evidence. If you delete the messages, there may no longer be evidence that you can access, and it may be difficult or impossible to access it from the abuser’s accounts or devices. There are ways you can minimize having to see the abusive material while still being able to collect and document evidence of the abuser’s crimes and behaviors. For instance, you can silence message notifications from that particular person or set up a folder in your email account and create a rule for messages from that sender to go straight to the separate folder. Filtering the abuser’s communications will allow you to have access to the information when you want to without constantly having to see it.
Documenting this evidence is so important because in court hearings for an order of protection, for example, the judge is making decisions about what to include in an order or whether to grant an order. At these court hearings, the judge will often hear evidence and testimony from both sides. Having your evidence documented in a form that you can bring to court allows you to present it to the judge to support your testimony. You may also need to show the evidence to law enforcement in certain situations or to your lawyer so that s/he can prepare for court.