“Technology must be safer” warns stalking and domestic violence charities
Wed, 1st Feb 12
“Technology must be safer” warns stalking and domestic violence charities
Today, Wednesday 1st February 2012, national domestic violence charity Women’s Aid and national stalking charity Network for Surviving Stalking are together launching a practical guide for victims of stalking. ‘Digital stalking: a guide to technology risks for victims’ is an important resource for all stalking victims, including the many survivors of domestic violence who are being stalked by an ex-partner. It explains the wide range of technological risks for those being stalked, including use of Spyware on personal computers, tracking devices on mobile phones and tracking of information through social networking sites.
With over 18% of women and 9% of men experiencing stalking since the age of 16 , stalking affects a wide range of people. However, stalking by ex-partners accounts for the largest group of victims and women are most at risk from physical assault and fatal harm.
The guidelines, which are funded by the Nominet Trust and Avon Cosmetics, contain practical advice on how to reduce the risk of being stalked online. They can also be used for training organisations which deal with stalking and domestic violence cases, including the police and other key agencies.
Ellen* - a keen eBay user left her abusive partner. He was monitoring her account. When she next bought something he contacted the seller claiming it hadn’t arrived. He asked the seller to verify the address. The seller gave him Ellen’s new address. He then found her and beat her so severely she was left blind in her left eye.
Jane* was in a relationship that became physically abusive and he had broken her ribs during one attack. Every time she left him he harassed her until she took him back, so next time she left she moved into a refuge. Her ex-partner tracked her down to her workplace and then to a pub she was in one evening. He threw a brick through the window of the pub, which hit the landlord. Jane could not work out how he knew where she was, until her mechanic friend discovered a tracking device on her car.
Author of the report and cyber-stalking expert Jennifer Perry said:
“Geo-location services that use GPS are the perfect tool for a stalker. Once he has access to a victim’s phone or computer he can watch, listen and follow her wherever she goes – these products are also extremely cheap to buy.”
Women’s Aid Chief Executive, Nicola Harwin CBE, said:
“Stalking is a frequent aspect of domestic violence, and it is frightening how easy it can be to do this through technology. Getting access to a partner’s phone or computer, and installing applications without their knowledge, can happen quickly and provide the abuser with substantial information. This guide provides important information that can help increase safety. If an abuser can track his ex-partner, even after she has left the relationship, she will be at increased risk of violence.”
Network for Surviving Stalking Chief Executive Alexis Bowater said:
“We’re calling on technology companies to consider the safety of stalking and domestic violence victims when designing their products. Technology is here to stay and it can be a very useful tool – we think the companies could make their products even better by factoring in safety features.”
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said:
"The effect of stalking on victims lives can be devastating and we are actively looking at what more can be done to protect victims and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted. I welcome this practical guide as an example of the valuable work a number of charities are doing to provide information and support to stalking victims.”
Notes to editors
For media enquiries please contact Teresa Parker, Press & Publicity Manager for Women’s Aid on 0117 9837123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,
1. Jane* and Ellen* are based on real cases. A small number of people who have been stalked are available for interview by the media. They must remain anonymous for safety reasons. They have all had access to the report “Technology Risks for Victims of Stalking and Domestic Violence” and are happy to comment upon the findings. To arrange an anonymous interview contact our press office, contact details above.
2. Jennifer Perry is a digital stalking expert. She has produced the report, Technology Risks for Victims of Stalking and Domestic Violence –which has been funded by the Nominet Trust and Avon. Jennifer is available for interview through our press office.
3. Network for Surviving Stalking is a UK charity that campaigns to improve the rights of stalking victims. NSS is one of three charities that established the National Stalking Helpline. NSS Chief Executive Alexis Bowater is also available for interview through our press office.
4. Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that co-ordinates and supports an England-wide network of over 500 local services working to end domestic violence against women and children. Keeping the voices of survivors at the heart of its work, Women's Aid campaigns for better legal protection and services, providing a strategic "expert view" to government on laws, policy and practice affecting abused women and children. In partnership with its national network, Women's Aid runs public awareness and education campaigns, bringing together national and local action, and developing new training and resources. Women's Aid provides a package of vital 24 hour lifeline services through its publications (available in 11 languages including English), websites (www.womensaid.org.uk and www.thehideout.org.uk), and running the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Refuge. Women's Aid is a registered charity no 1054154.
0808 2000 247: Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge).
The Women’s Aid Website can be found at: www.womensaid.org.uk. This is a comprehensive website about domestic violence and its impact on women and children. The website has help sections for women experiencing domestic violence, as well as policy briefings and research findings. The website, built in 1999, has around 2 million hits a month. Women’s Aid also runs a website for children and young people experiencing domestic violence www.thehideout.org.uk
To interview Nicola Harwin CBE, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, please contact the Women’s Aid press office on 0117 9157454.
5. Avon, the company for women, is committed to supporting the causes that matter most to women – breast cancer and domestic violence. Each year, Avon sells a range of Empowerment products to raise vital funds and awareness to help end violence against women. Avon has donated over £500,000 in the UK to its charity partners Women’s Aid and Refuge, to fund life-saving domestic violence support services, education and lobbying.
6. Top Safety Tips for stalking and domestic violence victims:
Using a Mobile phone
a) Set your mobile so you have to use a PIN to unlock your phone. It should be set to lock after 1 to 2 minutes use. Use random numbers – don’t use birthdates etc.
b) Don’t use apps that tell you where friends are, checks you in etc. If you suspect someone has put a tracking app on your mobile back-up your data and do a factory reset. Be careful when reinstalling data not to install any software or apps you are unsure about.
c) Turn off geo-location services in camera apps and your mobile settings.
Using a computer
a) Use a safe computer – many victims' computers have had spyware/monitoring software installed. Use a different computer from a friend or library until you can install anti-spyware software on your computer.
b) E-mail – get multiple new e-mail addresses. Make them anonymous; don't use your real name or nickname an ex-partner would recognise.
c) Delete ALL online accounts – The most important thing you can do is delete ALL existing accounts – you don't know which accounts your stalker has access to
d) Passwords – Create completely new passwords. Abusers often get access to information because they know or guess a password. Don't use obvious security questions – most ex-partners can guess them.
e) Set up several Google alerts with your name, e-mail and phone number so if the abuser posts information about you online you will be alerted
f) Password protect your computer – at work always log off or lock the screen even if you are just stepping away for a few minutes. On a Windows machine you can lock the screen by holding down the [Windows] key and pressing L.
Using social networks
a) Social networks are not secure and your friends can easily leak information that can help an abuser track you down. If possible, delete your Facebook account and don’t use it. If you want continue using Facebook then create a new account with an obscure name, use a fake photo and information. Only add your most trusted friends. Most of all make sure that you and your friends have put on the highest privacy and security settings.
For more detailed advice on staying safe online, see our fact sheets at www.nssadvice.org.uk