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Domestic Abuse

Computer Safety

American Bar Association
Commission on Domestic Violence

Warning:
Taking all of the actions on this page may not prevent an abuser from discovering your email and Internet activity. The safest way to find information on the Internet is to go to a safer computer. Suggestions are: a local library, a friend's house or your workplace. Other safety suggestions: change your password often, do not pick obvious words or numbers for your password, and pick a combination of letters and numbers for your password.

Tips to increase safety
Browsers like Netscape, Internet Explorer, and AOL are designed to leave traces behind indicating where you've been on the Internet. If an abuser knows how to read your computer's history or cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), he or she may be able to see information you have viewed recently on the Internet. When using web-browsers, these steps can help to reduce the lists of websites users have visited:

For Netscape Navigator

  1. Click on the EDIT menu; choose PREFERENCES; choose ADVANCED; then choose CACHE. Click on both "Clear Memory Cache" and "Clear Disk Cache". Then hit OK.

  2. Click on the EDIT menu; choose PREFERENCES; then choose NAVIGATOR. A "Clear History" button will appear, then choose OK.

  3. Click on the EDIT menu; choose PREFERENCES; then choose NAVIGATOR, click on the "Clear Location Bar" button on the bottom of the window, then choose OK.

For Internet Explorer

  1. Click on the TOOLS menu; choose INTERNET OPTIONS; then choose the GENERAL tab at the top. In the section called "Temporary Internet Files", click on "Deleted Files" to clear your cache. On the same screen, in the section called "history", press the CLEAR HISTORY button to erase your history list.

  2. When using Internet Explorer, there is a function which will complete a partial web address automatically, giving the abuser the entire address the victim has visited. This option can be found and changed on the MS Internet Explorer page by clicking on the "VIEW" icon at the top, then "INTERNET OPTIONS" and the "ADVANCED" tab. About halfway down there is a "USE AUTOCOMPLETE" box that can be checked and unchecked by clicking on it. Make sure it is NOT checked.

For AOL

  1. Version 4.0: Pull down My AOL menu; select PREFERENCE. Click on WWW icon. Then select CLEAR HISTORY.

  2. Version 6.0: Pull down SETTINGS menu; select INTERNET PROPERTIES. Then select CLEAR HISTORY.

Photo of Mother and daughterOther browsers will be slightly different, but in any case, what you need to do is reduce your CACHE ("temporary files") and HISTORY list. Please remember that erasing these lists is not infallible; a computer expert may still be able to trace any websites that were visited. Still, these precautionary steps will help decrease the likelihood of discovering the users previously visited sites.

After clearing your cache, you may want to visit other sites that you think your partner would NOT object to; that way, the missing information is less likely to be noticed.



HOW AN ABUSER CAN DISCOVER YOUR INTERNET ACTIVITIES
Email: if an abuser has access to your email account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is secure, make sure you choose a password he or she will not be able to guess. If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing email messages, they may be printed and saved as evidence of this abuse. Additionally, the messages may constitute a federal offense. For more information on this issue, contact your local United States Attorney's Office.

History/cache file: If an abuser knows how to read your computer's history or cache file (automatically saved web pages and graphics), he or she may be able to see information you have viewed recently on the Internet.

You can clear your history or empty your cache file in your browser's settings.*

  • Netscape:
    Pull down Edit menu, select Preferences. Click on Navigator on choose 'Clear History'. Click on Advanced then select Cache. Click on "Clear Disk Cache". On older versions of Netscape: Pull down Options menu. Select Network Options, select Cache. Click on "Clear Disk Cache."
  • Internet Explorer:
    Pull down Tools menu, select Internet Options. On General page, under Temporary Internet Files, click on "Delete Files." If asked, check the box to delete all offline content. Still within the Temporary Internet Files section, click on Settings. (This next step may make it harder to navigate pages where you'd like your information to be remembered, but these remaining cookies do show website pages you have visited. Therefore, use your own judgment as to whether or not to take this next step). Click on "View Files." Manually highlight all the files (cookies) shown, then hit delete. Close that window, then on General page under History section, click on "Clear History."
  • AOL:
    Pull down Members menu, select Preferences. Click on WWW icon. Then select Advanced. Purge Cache.

Additionally, a victim needs to make sure that the "Use Inline Autocomplete" box is NOT checked. This function will complete a partial web address while typing a location in the address bar at the top of the browser. If you are using Internet Explorer, this box can be found on the MS Internet Explorer Page by clicking on "Tools" at the top of the screen, then "Internet Options," and then the "Advanced" tab. About halfway down there is a "Use Inline AutoComplete" box that can be checked and unchecked by clicking on it. Uncheck the box to disable the feature that automatically completes an Internet address when you start typing in the Internet address box.

*This information may not completely hide your tracks. Many browser types have features that display recently visited sites. The safest way to find information on the Internet would be at a local library, a friend's house, or at work.


What is Abuse?

The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as,

"a pattern of behavior where one person tries to control the thoughts, beliefs, or actions of a partner, friend or any other person close to them. While the violence may cause injury, it does not have to be physical. Domestic violence also takes the form of emotional, verbal, mental, sexual and economic abuse."

Domestic Violence can impact any person at any time in his or her life. Domestic violence impacts people of all race, religion, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation and income levels. Although any person can be affected by abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than 90% of all the victims of domestic violence are female.

National Statistics
On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriend in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. That same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. Bureau of Justice Statistic Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence 1993-2001, February 2003.

In 2000, 41,740 women were victims of rape/sexual assault committed by an intimate partner. Bureau of Justice Statistic Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence 1993-2001, February 2003.

In 2001, more than half a million American women (588,490 women) were victims of non-fatal violence committed by an intimate partner. Bureau of Justice Statistic Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence 1993-2001, February 2003.

Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., & Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, suicidality. JAMS, 286 (5).

Husbands and boyfriends commit an estimated 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace each year. U.S. Department of Justice, 1994.

In figures reflective of the general population, 1 in 4 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people are battered by a partner. (Jane Doe, Inc.)

When children are killed during a domestic dispute, 90% are under the age of 10; 56% are under the age of 2. Florida's Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Florida Mortality Review Project, 1997, p.51, table 28.

As a result of domestic violence, 96 % of abused employees experience problems at work; 74% are harassed by the abuser while at work; 56% are late to work; 28% leave work early; and 54% miss entire days of work. American Institute on Domestic Violence.

Massachusetts Statistics
During Fiscal Year 2006, the statewide domestic violence hotline, SAFELINK, answered 21,637 domestic violence calls and another 3,373 calls from people looking for general information on resources available. Jane Doe, Inc. Service Delivery Report.

In Fiscal Year 2005, more than 33,000 women, men and children were served by community-based domestic violence programs in Massachusetts. Jane Doe, Inc Service Delivery Report.

During calendar year 2005, 28760 Orders of Abuse Prevention, commonly referred to as restraining orders or 209As, were issued: 82% of the defendants were male. During this same time period, 4,347 adults (88% of whom were men) were arraigned for violating restraining orders. Research Department, Field Services Division, Office of the Commissioner of Probation, Boston, MA

During calendar year 2007, there were 55 deaths related to domestic violence. This is an increase of approximately 289% over calendar year 2005. Jane Doe, Inc.

Photo of Mother and daughterDOVE Statistics
On annual basis, more than...

  • 1,500 crisis hotline calls are answered by DOVE's trained staff
  • 150 families find a safe haven at DOVE's Emergency Shelter.
  • 300 community families receive case management, advocacy, counseling and support through DOVE's Outreach & Family Services Center.
  • 350 people receive guidance and assistance with legal matters through DOVE's Legal Advocacy Program.
  • 2,000 teenagers learn about safe and healthy relationships through DOVE's YouthSpeak program
  • 2,500 professionals and concerned community members gain education and skills through DOVE's Outreach & Education Program, enabling them to better support and service survivors of domestic violence and their families.



Warning Signs of Abuse

Does your partner...

  • Call you names?
  • Get jealous when you go out with friends or check up on you?
  • Tell you what to wear or make decisions for you?
  • Frequently accuse you of cheating on him/her?
  • Hit you, shove you or show a weapon to you?
  • Control your finances?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill someone you know?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill your pet?
  • Blame you for his/her problems?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy and/or abusive relationship. There can be warning flags that a relationship is not healthy. Other warning signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Jealousy
  • Controlling Behavior
  • Quick Involvement
  • Unrealistic Expectations
  • Isolation
  • Blames Others for Problems or Feelings
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cruelty to Animals or Children
  • "Playful" Use of Force in Sex
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Rigid Sex Roles
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Past Battering
  • Threats of Violence
  • Breaking or Striking Objects
  • Any Force During an Argument

You are not alone and support is available.

Dove, Inc. provides a 24-hour confidential hotline where you can talk about your relationship and discuss safety issues and concerns.

It's important to remember that you are not responsible for your partner's actions or words.

Games Batterers Play
Abusers will often use different tactics to manipulate the victim and obtain and maintain power and control in the relationship. The following list provides examples of such manipulation tactics.

Threats of suicide: Occasionally attempts are made, but rarely succeed. Makes victim feel responsible for their partner's well being.

Threats to kill victim or the children: Certainly the most fear producing threat. May involve hunting for the victim or brandishing weapons. Can produce paralyzing fear.

Threaten mythical legal actions and sanctions: the most common threat is taking away child custody because of desertion.

Harass or threaten relatives or friends: makes victim feel responsible for the safety of these people. Often follows through with this threat.

Burns clothes or belongings: a symbolic gesture, which alternatively enrages and depresses the victim.

Organizes a posse of relatives and friends, including in-laws, to search for and convince the victim of her/his mistake: can be very overwhelming and powerful.

Reports that the abuser (or a close friend or relative) has been in a car accident and has been hospitalized: this fake report is very effective in flushing a victim from hiding and leaving them off guard for other tricks.

Cry, saying he/she can't live without the victim: guilt and a sense of responsibility for abuser's life is difficult to shake.

Promise to get counseling: usually won't follow through, but sometimes will go only to focus on how to get the victim back. Will usually discontinue when and if victim returns home. Couples counseling is very dangerous for victims of domestic violence and is strongly discouraged.

Makes promises in general: won't hit again, will clean house, give up drinking or drugs, get rid of guns, go to work, etc.

Develops psychosomatic complaints: can't eat, can't sleep, nausea, etc. Again, guilt and responsibility make it tough to ignore.

These are only a few of the many possible "games" batterers may play. Victims who have not been helped to anticipate these "games" could quite effectively be forced to return to unchanged situations, only to find the threats and promises very short-lived. (adapted from Susan Swala, RDVIC, Morgantown,; Domestic Violence Project at WMLS/Americorps Spring 2003 Western Massachusetts Legal Services, Inc. 152 North Street, Suite E M, Pittsfield, MA 01201)


Domestic Abuse & Children

Each year, an estimated 3.3 million children are exposed to violence by family members against their mothers and caretakers. American Psychl. Ass'n, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), p. 11.

In homes where partner abuse occurs, children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Family Violence: Interventions for the Justice System, 1993.

In a national survey of more than 2,000 American families, approximately 50% of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children. Strauss & Gelles, Physical Violence in Families, 1990.

Slightly more than half of female victims of intimate partner violence live in households with children under age 12. U.S. Dept. of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends and Girlfriends, March 1998.

Unfortunately, children are impacted by family violence, even if they are in other rooms or have gone to bed. Children can hear the fighting; they can sense the tension in the room; they can see the aftermath of the abuse. Children may see their parent crying or the bruises and marks left behind; they may hear the sirens and see the police officers, EMT's and the chaos that is happening in their homes.

It is important to remember that children are not just "little adults". They may not be able, or know how, to talk about what they have seen or are feeling. Children who are exposed to domestic violence may develop emotional, cognitive, or behavioral problems. Childhood symptoms of exposure to domestic abuse may include, but are not limited to:

  • Poor concentration/attention
  • Excessive fears or phobias
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Decrease self esteem
  • Numbing of emotions
  • Belief that the child him/herself is responsible for the abuse
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or sadness
  • Aggression
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Regression
  • Reenactment of trauma through talk and play

What You Can Do to Help a Child Exposed to Domestic Abuse
If you suspect that your child has been exposed to abuse, even if they were not directly abused, support is available. Please call our Outreach & Family Services Center at 617-770-4065.


Photo of boy and his dogDomestic Abuse and Pets

Many people who chose to abuse their partners or child will also abuse family pets. Abusers do this to:

  • Demonstrate and confirm power and control over the victim and the family
  • Teach submission
  • Perpetuate the context of fear, isolation and terror
  • Prevent the victim from leaving the relationship or punish the victim if they have left

DOVE recognizes that pets are family members too. We work with survivors to find safe housing options for their pets if they chose to enter shelter. We also work with survivors to develop safety plans that include family pets.


Links

Online Resources Include:
www.endabuse.org
Family Violence and Sexual Assault Institute is an international resource center, which maintains a clearinghouse of categorized references and papers concerning all aspects of family violence and sexual assaults.

www.fvpf.org
The Family Violence Prevention Fund Since 1994, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, in partnership with The Advertising Council, has sponsored public education campaigns to raise awareness of domestic violence. The campaigns encourage people who are the friends, family members, and co-workers of battered women to action to stop domestic violence and help victims.

www.janedoe.org
Jane Doe, Inc. the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence brings together organizations and people committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault.

www.ncadv.org
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a national organization that includes information for victims and professionals. For victims, information helps define the problem of Domestic Violence and provides a checklist for victims. Also, it includes information on what to do including making safe plans.


24-hour Crisis Hotline:
Community Advocacy & Prevention Services:
617-471-1234 or 888-314-3683
617-770-4065
DOVE Inc. – Domestic Violence Ended
P.O. Box 690267, Quincy, MA 02269

Copyright © 2008-present DOVE Inc. - All rights reserved.

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