We are all familiar with the outward physical manifestations of domestic violence, but other forms such as compulsion control are less obvious.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics, cases of this type of mental abuse nearly doubled last year – and 2020 is expected to follow in the same upward trajectory.
An expert on domestic violence has warned lockdown puts people at greater risk of compulsory controlmaking it crucial for potential victims to be aware of the ‘red flags’. But a recent social experiment filmed for BBC Three revealed three quarters of the 18-30 year olds who participated did not see the signs.
Electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, and even voice assistants like Alexa, can act as tools for abusers, who use them to track movements and to rummage through messages, finances and other personal information.
Here cyber specialist Paul Vlissidis, author of How to Survive the Internet: Protect your Family from Hackers and Cyberstalkers and star of Channel 4’s Hunted, has revealed the telltale signs that your partner is spying on you.
Electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, and even voice assistants like Alexa, can act as tools for abusers, who use them to track movements and to rummage through messages, finances and other personal information. Picture: stock picture
Are your social media being used to stalk you?
If your phone or laptop is regularly used by someone else, they may have changed the settings to make it easier to stalk you.
In cases of coercive check, this is often done when a partner offers to install a new device for you; an apparently well-intentioned gesture that is usually accepted with gratitude and little attention.
Most social media platforms allow you to view recent login activity – this is the best way to see if someone else has logged in.
See where your accounts are logged in and end all sessions – assuming it’s safe.
Are your movements tracked?
Turn off location tracking completely on your phone – this will stop the location history being generated.
You may need to disable this regularly if someone has regular access to your phone. If you have a Google account, you should also turn off location and browsing history there.
Are your microphones and cameras being abused?
Beware of any device with a microphone or camera that you haven’t set up yourself, including digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Today, many internet-connected devices offer remote login and access to recordings – even live viewing and listening – so if you haven’t set it up yourself and set the password, that should be looked into.
If you have reason to believe that your phone has a tracker installed, take a full backup and ask an expert to perform a full reset and reinstall.
Likewise, if you think there may be trackers or keystroke loggers loaded on your laptop or computer, have them checked thoroughly by an expert.
Is your partner spying on your phone?
There are telltale signs that you are not alone with access to your cell phone.
The sudden use of an unusually large amount of data, signs of standby mode activity, or rapidly deteriorating battery life are all possible giveaways that spyware is installed on your phone.
Problems with completely shutting down devices is also a red flag as it could indicate malware running in the background.
Phones being spied on often make strange noises during phone calls, so that’s also something to be aware of.
A good commercial antivirus should be able to detect if malware is installed on your device.
Does your partner track your laptop?
Keyloggers are a type of monitoring software designed to record a user’s keystrokes.
These keystroke loggers, one of the oldest forms of cyber threat, record the information you type into a website or application and send it back to a third party.
There is no easy way to tell if you have a software keystroke logger installed, but it is important to trust your instincts and, if you suspect that you are being spied on, take the computer to someone you can trust to take it. have it checked.
Hardware keystroke loggers are much more obvious because you would see an unusual extra plug on the keyboard cable.
Is your partner snooping on your social media?
With social media accounts that have a messaging element – such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – one of the first signs that someone is snooping is often messages marked as read that they don’t remember reading – they assume they must have forgotten to read it, but that may not be the case at all.
Likewise, are you receiving strange remarketing ads for interests that are not yours or ads related to your partners’ hobbies?
If so, it could mean that they are logged into your social media accounts on their own device.
Many laptops have login attempt records – if you look in the Security Log in the Logs app and see the logs ‘Audit Failure’, it means someone tried to login.
When it comes to social media, most platforms and cloud-based email apps will let you know if a new login is happening from a previously unknown device and it’s really important not to ignore those messages – it does mean someone has accessed your account.
Are your passwords safe?
This is an obvious point, but so many people fail – I recommend using a password manager app, provided you are the only person with access to the phone.
It ensures that all your passwords are strong and random. If you need to know a password, use three or four random words, never dates, hobbies, or nicknames.
I highly recommend using 2-factor authentication on all email and social media accounts, provided you can set this up securely – it will make sure no one else can log in.
Is your email secure?
Check which backup email is set up and make sure it is an account you created with 2-factor authentication enabled.
Remember, if an account was created by a friend or partner, it can grant access via a backup email account, even if you change the password.
However, it can be difficult to change the backup without alerting that email, so if it is checked, it is safer to set up a new account where you can be sure of your privacy for emails that you do not want to be tracked. .
Make sure to look for email forwarding ‘rules’ and delete any rules you haven’t posted there – make sure to take screenshots as proof.
Paul Vlissidis’ book How to Survive the Internet: Protect your Family from Hackers and Cyberstalkers is now on sale for £ 9.99 on Amazon.
Refuge offers a free 24-hour domestic violence hotline; call them on 0808 2000247 or visit https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/
What is duress control?
Forced control became a criminal offense in December 2015. It describes a pattern of behavior of an abuser to harm, punish, or frighten his victim. This behavioral pattern can include manipulation, degradation, gaslighting and also monitoring and controlling the person’s daily life, from whether they can see friends and families, what activities they can engage in, and what clothes they can wear.
A 2014 study found that 95 out of 100 survivors of domestic violence reported experiencing compulsory control.
Further research in 2015 found that women are far more likely than men to be victims of abuse that involves constant degradation and fearsome threats – two key elements of coercion control.
Typical red flags include:
- Your partner will bombard you with messages and get angry if you don’t answer
- By ‘idolizing’ you in the beginning, your partner breaks down your self-esteem by withdrawing affection
- Your partner takes everyday decisions out of your hands
- Suggests a joint bank account and asks to know what you have spent money on
- Your partner wants to be in control of who you are friends with, tries to control what you look and dress like, and starts to control what kind of work you do.