“Help! My Ex is Harassing Me Online”

behindthescreens-harassmentThis is a post in our Behind the Screens series. Read the previous posts here and here

Breakups are a difficult time for any couple, but they can be an especially difficult and potentially dangerous time for survivors of abusive relationships. Even if you’re able to safely leave the relationship, the abusive partner can still cause harm from afar in a variety of ways. Technology and social media create new spaces where abuse can take place. This is called digital abuse, and it is just as unacceptable as any other form of abuse.

Even if your ex-partner did not exhibit abusive behaviors during the relationship, there’s still a possibility that feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, loneliness, or loss of control could lead them to become abusive online. They could hack into your email accounts or send unwanted emails, post unwanted messages or pictures on social media sites, or create fake profiles to harass you and people you know. If your ex is harassing you online, here are some ways to handle it:

  • Clearly tell your ex to stop harassing you, if you feel safe doing so. It’s important to let your ex know that what they are doing is abusive, preferably in a way that lets you keep a record of your request either by saving the text or email you send, or taking a screenshot of a message you send online. After you have told your ex to stop the harassment, do not respond to any future communications.
  • Save everything. You might wish to delete the unwanted messages immediately, but try to keep a record of any communications your ex sends. Save emails and chat logs, take screenshots of status updates, direct messages, comments, pictures, or websites.
  • Take steps to increase your online privacy. Check to make sure that the settings on any social media site you belong to are set to maximum privacy. Change your passwords, block or unfriend your ex, and don’t provide details of your social plans or whereabouts online – this includes avoiding “checking in” to places on Facebook or using apps like Foursquare.
  • If your ex is harassing you via email, create a separate email account with an uncrackable password to use only with people you trust. This way, you can communicate with friends and family via the new email address and you won’t have to see your ex’s emails everyday. Again, save any abusive emails that your ex sends to you, but do not respond to them.
  • Let people in your support system know that your ex is harassing you, if you feel comfortable doing so. Make them aware of your safety plan so they aren’t tagging you when they check in to places or otherwise mentioning your location online. It’s important not to go through this alone and for others to be aware of your ex’s behavior. If your ex tries to contact people you know, ask them not to respond and to keep records of those communications as well.
  • If you believe your life is being threatened and/or if the harassment continues or escalates, you might consider taking legal action. All states have laws against cyberstalking, and it could help to speak with a legal advocate about protective orders or other legal measures. If you choose to pursue legal recourse, a record of your ex’s abusive communications would be useful.

If you are experiencing digital abuse from an ex or current partner, a good resource is WHO@ (Working to Halt Online Abuse), a volunteer organization established to fight online harassment through education of the public and empowerment of victims. also has information about cyberstalking and online safety.

You can always call the hotline anytime day or night at 1-800-799-7233 to speak with an advocate about options and support. Remember, everyone has the right to live free from abuse, online and off.

donating safely online

Tips for Donating Safely Online

We care very much about our online community. It was recently brought to our attention that there are sources on the internet who are using our name to solicit donations. While this is very unfortunate, there are limited actions we can take against these scammers or to ensure that others don’t use our name falsely.

In order to protect yourself, here are some tips for safely donating online:

  • Is the site legitimate? Whenever we fundraise online, the URL will start with “https://donate.ncfv” (double-check that you see this in the address bar). Please know that if you do donate with us online that our site is secure and that we will always protect your private information.
  • Our website is, NOT,,, etc. Please pay attention to what website you’re visiting.
  • Don’t share overly personal information. While a true donation form for us might ask you for your credit card information (including expiration date and security number), we will NEVER ask for your social security number, date of birth, bank account information or debit pin number.
  • If you make a donation to us, “NDVH-TCFV 512-794-1133” will show up on your credit card statement as proof.
  • If you’re giving money to a company or product claiming to be affiliated with us, feel free to check out their connection to us by contacting our Development/Database Specialist, Michael, at

Don’t fear online donations! Donating online can be quick and convenient. By following these tips, you can give safely and make a difference for victims of abuse. Thank you for your ongoing support of our mission to end domestic violence.


Social Media Shaming: When Sexual Assault Goes “Viral”

“I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember…I just want this to go away.”

That was one of the last things 15-year-old Audrie Potts posted on her Facebook before taking her own life after a photo of her assault was circulated to nearly the entire high school. It’s a familiar feeling for the many girls whose names have been made into headlines throughout the past months.

Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off of life support following an attempt to take her own life after a photo of her assault was distributed all over cell phones and social media sites.

In Torrington, Connecticut, two male 18-year-olds were arrested and accused of the statutory rape of two 13-year-old girls. What followed was an attack on the young girls over Twitter and social media and a trending “#FreeEdgar” hashtag in support of the perpetrators.

In Steubenville, Ohio, Jane Doe didn’t know she had been sexually assaulted until she found out about it through videos uploaded to YouTube and images posted on Instagram. When the case went public, backlash on social media against her, the victim, was relentless.

Lately we’ve seen social media channels become venues for public shaming and sharing information without ones consent to large numbers of people. “Viral” shaming adds a new dimension to an already horrific situation — continued emotional abuse from not just the perpetrator, but any outsider who decides to “share” or chime in. In this way, even after an assault a perpetrator can still exert control over their victim, making them feel powerless. It can feel impossible to know how to make it end, and it can feel like there’s nowhere to turn for safety and privacy.

What can you do as an online “bystander”?

While there are tips for “how to stop compromising pictures of you being published online,” these pictures and videos can get posted anyways without your knowledge or consent. The person who holds responsibility is the one who posts the content.

Responsibility also falls on bystanders — people who see the image being taken, see the assault in action, view the image online, distribute it, or even just pass it by. If you witness an assault, what do you do? If you’re sent a picture, do you pass it on? Do you join in on the actions or victim shaming just to be a part of the joke?

Begin to hold yourself and those around you accountable for what’s being said and posted. If you see something, report it. On Facebook, use the report link that appears near the content to send a message to have it removed. Twitter also has different forms for reporting a violation. YouTube has a “Safety Center” for requesting videos to be flagged or removed.

If you know someone who is involved in a situation of online abuse, ask how you can help. Offer to document the abuse (by taking screen shots or tracking where it’s showing up online). It can be helpful to be a third party keeping track of what’s being said and shared, especially if charges will be pressed.

As a Victim

Different states have specific laws, but no matter where you are, taking some type of legal action is always an option. Document the content, because it can be used as evidence. Contact the bar association in your state to find an attorney who specializes in Internet privacy and rights. The organization Without My Consent discusses different courses of action.

No matter what you decide to do, safety plan for your emotional well being as content is circulating. Know that you can ask for help and do ask for help, because it’s too much to take on alone, especially when it can feel like you’re up against the entire world.

Do you have a trusted coworker, friend or counselor you can talk to? Building a support system is important — and there’s always someone to turn to. You shouldn’t go through this whole process alone.

RAINN has many resources, including the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE, and they offer free, confidential advice 24.7.

In the wake of these all-too-similar stories, it’s easy to feel helpless. We can honor the victims of these and other tragedies by taking social responsibility seriously — holding ourselves and others accountable for what’s said or posted, and starting productive dialogues.

Social media is what we make of it, and we have the ability to make it a powerful tool for change and positivity.

Further Reading:

“Revenge Porn: The Fight Against The Net’s Nastiest Corner” by Adam Steinbaugh

“Criminalizing ‘Revenge Porn’” by Tracy Clark-Flory

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

The Dangers of Sharing Passwords

A New York Times article recently discussed the growing trend of teens sharing passwords with their significant others as a sign of intimacy. However, this tendency goes beyond teenage relationships, and more and more adults are finding themselves being tempted to give their passwords to their partners.

Technology has created a whole new realm for our relationships to live in — the digital world. We email our partners and share digital calendars with them, letting each other know every move we plan to make. We text them, sending pictures of where we are and who we are with. We have them as Facebook friends and post and comment on each others’ walls and pictures.

As if this ability to see our every thought and action weren’t enough, sharing passwords to email and social media accounts has now become a display of commitment for some couples.

People who choose to share passwords with their partner often argue that they have nothing to hide. They say that password sharing is the ultimate sign of affection and commitment. It gives the other person in the relationship complete access to everything that they do on the internet. It removes all barriers between the couple.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.

Sharing a password is like sharing a social security number. It gives our partner access to everything that we do online — even to our online identity.

For someone in an abusive relationship, sharing passwords can be a way to extend the abuser’s power and control over the victim. By obtaining a password, an abuser is able to use the digital realm to affect a victim’s offline daily life.

They can monitor actions, watch bank accounts to limit access to money, isolate the victim by controlling social media interactions and even use online activities as validation or excuses for abuse. This extension of control can be extremely dangerous.

Even in healthy relationships, sharing passwords is risky. When we choose to share a password with our partner, we give up a large amount of privacy. We open ourselves up to the opportunity that our partner might not like what we are saying or doing and give them the chance to moderate us and our actions.

We have to decide whether or not losing our privacy is worth the trust or security our partner gains.

Things get even more challenging if the relationship turns sour. The New York Times also recently discussed how this digital obsession is redefining what it means to break up.

If things begin to go bad, a partner with a password can search email and social media for hints of infidelity. They might become angered to see that their ex is talking to someone whom they dislike.

A partner might become angry during an argument or break up and threaten to spread personal details of their partner’s lives via email or social media. What happens if they follow through on that threat?

There’s also the potential that an angered partner could lock the other person out of his or her own account. If they have the password, they can easily change it. This creates a very real opportunity for identity theft or impersonation.

By giving your passwords to your partner, you are potentially empowering them to use the information against you. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you bring out the best in each other, but break ups often tend to have the opposite effect.

Ultimately, whether or not you share a password with your partner is your choice. You are the expert in your own relationship and you know what’s normal and safe and comfortable for you. What are your thoughts on password sharing? Can you think of more benefits? Can you think of more drawbacks?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Technology Safety for Survivors

Technology safety is a very important issue in the domestic violence community. Technological advances have great benefits but there are also drawbacks and caution must be used, especially when communicating online.  People often don’t realize that the information they post online may reveal more about themselves than they intend. We sat down with an expert in the field to get insight and tips on safety. The following is our short question and answer session:

Where did you learn about online safety?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) provides a great training program called Safety Net: the National Safe and Strategic Technology Project. Safety Net educates victims, their advocates and the general public on ways to use technology strategically to help find safety and escape domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.

What advice do you have about internet browsing safety?

The most important thing to remember is to use a safe computer, one that the abuser has absolutely no access to. You can use a computer at the public library, at a friend’s place, a local internet cafe, etc. The reason for this is that everything you do on a computer can be tracked. Clearing the browsing history is not enough of a precaution because abusers can install spyware on your computer to track your usage even if they no longer have physical access to the computer.

What are some best practices for communicating safely online in regards to disclosure of personal information?

It is always best to disclose as little as possible online. You never know who may be reading what you write. Do not write anything you would not want an abuser to know. Think before sharing  any information about yourself or others that can identify you, including  names, specific locations, or any other unique personal information. It is also important to understand that email is not a secure form of communication; it can be tracked. Sending emails should be treated in the same manner you would treat sending postcards, they can end up anywhere and anyone can read them.

What are some other general tips you would like to share?

The following are some general tips provided by NNEDV:

Trust your instincts: If you suspect an abusive person knows too much, it  is possible that your phone, computer, email or other activities are being monitored.

Create a new email account: If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email, consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access, in case it is monitored.

Change passwords and pin numbers: Some abusers use victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or may guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently.

Use a donated or new cell phone:  When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family cell phone because cell phone bill records and phone logs might reveal your plans to an abuser.