Computer Safety


TAKE THE STEPS NECESSARY TO KEEP
YOUR SEARCH FOR HELP CONFIDENTIAL




Anyone who visits SWiC’s website will see this warning. Most, if not all, domestic violence organizations will show a similar warning on their websites. Some will have a “Quick Escape” button, while others will give instructions about erasing your computer history, or both. The following tips are important to protect yourself from someone stalking or harassing you.


INTERNET SAFETY

Using a computer that your abuser can not access (such as a public library or a home of a trusted friend) is the safest way to access the internet.

Everything done online is recorded. It is IMPOSSIBLE to clear your tracks completely. Computers store hundreds of bits of information, including information about websites visited, passwords, and emails. An abuser can easily track websites visited or read emails.

If you suspect your activities are being monitored, they probably are. Abusers are controlling and want to know your every move. You don’t need to be a computer programmer or have special skills to monitor someone’s computer activities – anyone can do it and many ways exist to monitor your activities - even without having direct access to your computer. Do not “bookmark” websites or add them to your “favorites.”

Using a separate computer is best, but you can protect yourself at home by familiarizing yourself with processes like private browsing, deleting your browser history, clearing your cache and deleting cookies. See tips and more details below. Abusers can track online actions – you cannot remove your tracks completely. If you try to erase your tracks, your abuser might become suspicious. If you think you might be in danger, use a computer at a public library, internet café, or a trusted friend’s house. If your abuser sends you email, do not open it on those computers.

EMAIL SAFETY

Email or Instant/Text Messaging (IM) is not a safe or confidential way to communicate. Sending email is like sending a postcard through the mail. Anyone along the path can read what it says. If you need to talk to someone about the danger or abuse in your life, if possible, please call a hotline instead. (SWiC’s 24-hour hotline is 570.622.6220 or 1.800.282.0634.) If you must use email to discuss your situation, we suggest you use an account that your abuser doesn't know about. Set up a new account with a free email service like hotmail, yahoo, or gmail. If the computer asks if you would like it to save your password or login information, tell it NO.

PASSWORD SAFETY

Be cautious about passwords to keep your abuser out of your accounts. DO NOT store passwords and change your password(s) often. DO NOT use a name or password that contains any identifying information (no names, nicknames, initials, birthdates, zipcodes, etc.). Instead use a name and password that contains a random mix of upper and lower case letters and numbers (for example, HJ3v67Tn). Make sure you can remember the user name and password. If you must write it down somewhere, put it in a place where your abuser is unlikely to find it. If the computer asks if you would like it to save your password or login information, tell it NO.

PHONE SAFETY

Traditional “corded” phones are more private than cell phones or cordless phones. You may not be able to reach 9-1-1 using an internet phone or internet-based phone service. You may need to be prepared to use another phone to call 9-1-1.

If you use a cell phone, be aware there are numerous ways an abuser can use cell phone technology to overhear your calls or locate you. Use a cell phone only if you do not have access to a regular phone, and make sure that you do not give any identifying details on a cell phone. If your abuser works for a phone company or law enforcement agency, use extreme caution, and discuss cell phone safety with a domestic violence advocate.

Do not use a cell phone that has been a gift from your abuser or is on the same account as your abuser’s phone. He will be able to access logs of your calls and texts and even be able to locate you through the phone’s GPS (Global Positioning System) which is a location-finding feature. A cell phone in "silent mode" or "auto answer" can serve as a tracking device. If you are fleeing from your abuser, either turn off your cell phone or leave it behind.

Wireless carriers are required to complete 9-1-1 calls, even when a phone is not activated. Any phone that turns on and receives a signal is capable of making 9-1-1 calls. NOTE: If the phone you're using isn't activated, (i.e., no phone number is assigned to it), and you're disconnected from the 9-1-1 dispatch center, you must call 9-1-1 back.

You can obtain a donated used cell phone from SWiC in order to be able to call 9-1-1.

PHONE APPS FOR SAFETY


RUSafe is a free dangerous relationship assessment app for Apple or Android that invites the user to answer a series of questions about her/his relationship. The app then calculates the responses and, if there is cause for concern, it will enable the user to directly call the domestic violence hotline in their area. If the user is in immediate, lethal danger, s/he can call 9-1-1 directly from the app. RUSafe is based on the Danger Assessment developed by Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. The app was developed by the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and Newton Consulting, who generously donated their time and services.

Click HERE for more information.



ASPIRE News is a free app developed by the When Georgia Smiled: Robin McGraw Foundation. If someone you know is in an abusive relationship—or if that someone is you—the Help Section of the application contains resources for victims of domestic violence.

Click HERE for more information.

New Mobile Apps May Increase Safety

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association has announced two new apps for smartphones created by APPRISS called Vinemobile and MobilePatrol.  Both apps are free and available through the Apple App Store and Google Play and can be downloaded on Android and iPhone devices. 


Vinemobile enables users to track and be notified of the status of offenders in county correctional institutions and the PA State Prison System. Vinemobile is anonymous for users, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With the app, the user can obtain up-to-date offender status and search for offenders by first and last names or by age/gender. Individuals can register to receive notifications through phone, email, or text whenever an offender’s status changes. The app also provides access to PA’s victim services as well as other emergency numbers with a single tap. You can check out this system online at https://www.vinelink.com/vinelink/initMap.do .  


The MobilePatrol app was created to increase community safety by enabling any concerned citizen to connect to important safety information, news, and critical alerts such as descriptions of an actor sought in a recent crime, weather alerts, or missing children alerts for any location of interest. In addition, the app can be used to report tips on suspected crimes and offenders. You can download the MobilePatrol app at http://www.appriss.com/MP_Download/default.html.

PRIVATE BROWSING/CLEARING BROWSER HISTORY

Information you have brought up on the internet (including this webpage) may be viewed by anyone who knows how to access your computer's history or cache file. In order to prevent this tracking from happening, you should turn on private browsing and/or clear your browser's history. This task can be done by accessing your internet browser settings.

PLEASE NOTE: Clearing web browser histories in this way will delete ALL histories of visited websites. If you are concerned that someone may be checking up on your internet usage, the absence of all files and history may appear suspicious. Instead of clearing your history every time you visit the webpage, you can use the instructions below to turn on private browsing before you visit the webpage.  Additionally, other software programs are available that can track website visits.

Here is what to do:

Internet Explorer
Private Browsing:
1. Pull down Tools menu, select "InPrivate Browsing."
2. Visit www.s-wic.org in the new "InPrivate Browsing" window.

Clear History
1. Pull down Tools menu, select "Delete Browsing History."


Mozilla Firefox
Private Browsing:
1. Pull down Tools menu, select "Start Private Browsing."
2. After you are finished looking at SWiC’s website, pull down Tools menu and select "Stop Private Browsing."

Clear History:
1. Pull down Tools menu, select "Clear Recent History."


Google Chrome
Private Browsing:
1. Click "Ctrl + Shift + N" to open a “New Incognito Window” OR click on the wrench icon a the top right of the window and select “New Incognito Window.”

Clear History:
1. Click the wrench at the top right of the window.
2. Click History.
3. Click the box to the left of "Schuylkill Women in Crisis" and click "Remove selected items" to delete only your history of visiting SWiC’s website.
4. OR click "Clear all browsing data" to delete your entire internet browsing history.


AOL
1. Pull down Members menu, select "Preferences."
2. Click on WWW icon.
3. Select "Advanced."
4. Click "Purge Cache."


Netscape
1. Pull down Edit menu.
2. In the menu that drops down, click on "Preferences."
3. Click on Navigator and choose "Clear History."
4. Click on Advanced then select "Cache."
5. Click on "Clear Disk Cache."


If you believe that someone may be monitoring your internet activity, try using a friend's computer or one at the public library. You can call SWiC’s 24-hour hotline at 570.622.6220 or 800.282.0634 for help in avoiding a trail of visited internet websites.




Listen to this interview from radio station Midlands 103
discussing the surge in the use of technology as means of stalking.


SAFETY TIPS FOR ONLINE DATING


Every two minutes somewhere in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted. 1 in 4 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape, and 75% of rapes happen when on dates. With the growing popularity of online dating, take precautions and understand risks.

When setting up a date with someone you met online:

1. Choose a public place. If you are meeting someone you’ve been in communication with online for the first time face-to-face, make sure you do so at a crowded, public venue.
2. Take your own car. Do not allow the person you have been speaking with online to pick you up. Take your own car and meet at the public location.
3. Have your cell phone on you. Make sure that your cell phone is fully charged and on you in case you need to make a call.
4. Enlist backup. Double-dating or group dating with other couples on the first few dates with someone new is a good way to help keep you safe. Having friends around you will make you more comfortable and decrease the risk of harm.
5. Skip the alcohol. Sound judgment is the first thing to go when drinking. Many sex offenders use alcohol as a “weapon” to incapacitate their victim. Stick to non-alcoholic beverages for the first couple of dates.
6. Pay your own way. Allow yourself to pay your own way for the first couple of dates to minimize confusion or power differential. Some people think that buying on the date entitles them to something in return.
7. Keep an eye on your belongings. Watch your purse/wallet, cell phone and drink when you are out with someone you have never met before. NEVER LEAVE YOUR DRINK UNATTENDED.
8. Inform your friends. Make sure you let a friend or family member know about your date – where you are going and who you are going with. Keep your cell phone on you and allow them to check in with you to see how things are going. Be sure to call this person once the date is over and you are home safe.
9. Define the boundaries. Assert yourself as a strong individual who is in control of the dating situation. Don’t be afraid to communicate what you are comfortable/uncomfortable with.
10. Don’t be overly trusting. Even if the person you are going on a date with seems nice, you still do not really know who they are yet. Do not let your guard down because if you are overly trusting, it may signal to the person that you are an easy target. Rely on your intuition and your gut to tell you if something is not right. Additionally, when first getting to know someone, give details in small doses. Don’t disclose everything about your life in the beginning.
11. Look into the individual. If you can possibly speak to someone who knows the person you will be seeing/dating, chat with them and get a better understanding of the person you are meeting. Also, consider looking at this person’s social networking page(s) or other internet references to them.

WARNING SIGNS OF AN ABUSER

If you are currently speaking to someone online and plan to meet them, understand the warning signs of an abuser. Abuse is about power and control, and abusers try to mask their efforts to control you, usually by explaining controlling behavior as simply a great desire to be with you. NOTE: Abusers may exhibit many other signs, and some signs are not apparent in the beginning of a relationship, but the following are common:

- Jealousy – He is bothered when you talk to someone else or go somewhere without him, even early on in relationship.
- Possessiveness – He wants to know everything about you, what you do, and where you are, and he wants to have a say in those things.
- Explosive temper – He can switch moods from fine to furious in seconds.
- Not wanting you to spend time with family or friends – He tries to keep you away from people who care about you, who may recognize warning signs before you do, and who will validate your worth.
- Not allowing you to speak freely or have your own opinions – His opinion is always the “right” one.
- Telling you what you can/cannot wear – Whether he likes what you are wearing or not, he wants to have the final say – or the only say – in what you wear.
- Not accepting “No” as a response from you – Not getting his own way is not an option. At first he may try to coax you to accept his point of view or idea, but later he may become violent if you say “No” to anything.


For more safety tips for being safe online and on your phone, please visit The National Network to End Domestic Violence's Technology Safety Resources


Other Resources:
A THIN LINE, MTV's Digital Dating Abuse Campaign


SWiC’s 24-Hour Hotline
570.622.6220 or toll free at 800.282.0634



MORE INFORMATION ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
» About Domestic Violence
» The Dynamics of Domestic Violence
» Are You Being Abused?
» Know Someone Being Abused?
» Safety Planning
» Teen Dating Violence
» The Effects on Children
» Technology Safety