Leaving an abusive relationship requires specific safety planning. We advise anyone who can to access assistance from a local Friendship Centreto discuss how you can protect yourself during this difficult process.
Once you have left safe guarding still needs to continue, including online safety. Abusers don't like it when their victims get away because it means they have lost control which as we know is the one thing they crave. They will try a range of schemes to get you back, they may tell you they have changed overnight and make promise they can’t keep, give gifts and comfort words, but these are empty promises and once you go back the abuse will restart and may even increase.
Social media is one of the ways they feel they can still have control over you and subject you to further abuse and hurt. Abusers are very deceitful and can even use social media to depict themselves as the victim and try to slander your name. Whether the contact is an attempt to win you back or an attempt to discredit you there is one thing that is certain and that is that any form of contact with an abuser is not good for you in order to stay safe and minimize the risk.
After you leave here are some tips for staying safe online:
- If you have any threatening emails save them in a separate email and take advice from the domestic abuse helpline and the police where necessary. Do not reply to them!
- For your own personal email account, delete it if possible. Create a completely new email account for yourself that would prevent your abuser to contacting you at all
- If this is not practical, then change the password to one that abuser wouldn't be able to access
- Take the abuser out of your contacts list so any mail will go into your spam/ junk mail.
- Remove abuser from your friends list and then go into "Privacy Settings", then "Blocking" and add abuser to your BLOCK LIST. This will ensure that if you post on another person’s wall or public profile then the abuser still won't be able to see what you have written, and most importantly won't be able to search for you
- If you have uploaded any photos of abuser or of both of you together DELETE them
- If other people have photos of you together remove the tag of yourself, if they are your close friends you may feel comfortable asking them to remove the photo altogether
- Abusers may get other people to do their stalking and monitoring of you for them so also unfriend any members of their family and their close friends
- If you have mutual friends that you want to keep, add them to your "restricted list". This can be found in "Privacy Settings" and "restricted list". In time you may feel comfortable with them and can choose to take them off this list
- Setting up a fake account is one of the things an abuser might do so keep on your toes when accepting new friend requests, and only accept people who you genuinely know.
- Change your "Privacy Settings and tools" section. Where it says, "Who can look me up? change to "Friends of Friends" and where it says "Who can see your future posts" change this to “Friends”
- Do not use Facebook status' as a means to get revenge on your abuser....it is futile and can go against you. People who are unaware of the nature of domestic abuse may mistake this for jealousy and attachment to the relationship. People love gossip and things may get back to the abuser. The abuser’s life solely revolves around abuser - nothing you can say will change this or stop abuser from continuing to abuse. Focus instead of your new-found freedom and restoring yourself to the person you were prior to the abuse.
- Twitter doesn't have the same security settings as Facebook, even if you block someone your tweets are still in the public domain. If your partner knew of your twitter account, my advice would be to simply DEACTIVATE the account and set up a new one. Before you do this, you could DM (direct message) the followers you trust and want to keep with details of your new account
- When setting up a new account remain anonymous. Choose a username that does not identify you and a strong password they would never guess
- Do not follow abuser or any of their friends/family. If you know their account you can add them to your “block list”
- In the Twitter setting un-select the box that says "add a location to my tweets"
- There are a growing number of Domestic Abuse awareness campaigners on twitter and if twitter is used in the right way it can be an excellent source of information and support. Try searching on the hashtags: #domesticabuse #domesticviolence #dv #dva #VAW #vilenceagainstwomen #emotionalabuse. Follow domestic violence charities nationally and in your area.
- As Linkedin is a professional networking site you may still be required to use this for your work and will have to use your name and photo
- Do NOT post any personal information - keep everything professional and about work
- If your abuser is already a connection - remove that connection
- Do not look at your abusers’ profile - if your settings are not selected properly, they will be able to see you have viewed their profile.
We have tried to cover the most popular social network sites but the best advice for all is to either deactivate accounts and set up new ones or change the password completely.
Leaving abuse is a difficult journey and all survivors should get as much knowledge as they can about the domestic abuse they suffered. Taking control of your life and protecting yourself both in reality and online is one of the ways you will empower yourself.