March 17, 2008

Violence Against Women on the Internet

Violence Against Women on the Internet

Safety on the Internet
A New England woman planned to escape her violent husband. She secretly found a new home for herself and her 2 daughters and she sent an email to a friend asking for help moving. She thought she had deleted the email, though it sat in her email program's "deleted mail folder". Her husband found the email, learned that she was planning to flee for safety, and he killed her. __________________________________________________________________

In the previous modules, we looked at ways the Internet perpetuates violence against women, as well as ways that the Internet can be used to fight violence against women. In this module, we consider the question of safety planning for victims using the Internet. This question has the potential to either harm or help victims depending on how well informed the advocates advising the victim are. The purpose of this Module is to educate the participants on these critical, and non-obvious issues surrounding safety planning for victims.

Increased access is making technology an important resource for victims of domestic violence. However, if not understood and used strategically, technology may increase their danger. Most victims of abuse do not know how to safely navigate technology resources to access help without increasing their risk of further abuse.

There has been explosive growth in domestic violence organizations creating web presences. To get one snapshot of the increase of domestic violence organizations on the web, Jerry Finn from the University of New Hampshire looked at the number of websites indexed as "domestic violence" by One of Finn's articles, Domestic Violence Organizations Online: Risks, Ethical Dilemmas, and Liability Issues, is posted HERE.

Survivors of abuse are accessing the Internet to request help and resources. In one brief study looking at emails sent between October 1999 and September 2000, victims of abuse sent 153 unsolicited email requests to the Violence Against Women Online Resources (Kranz, 2001).
Many local, state, and national domestic violence websites have email links with limited or no warnings.


As more records become available by a simple Internet search, victims of abuse are at greater risk. If is becoming very difficult to relocate to a new community and hide from a batterer. Land records are available online in many communities with maps to the house. Online "white pages" allow you to search for phone numbers and often provide driving directions to the house. A "Stalker's Home Page" shows how much information is available on the Internet: HERE.

Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse outlines some privacy concerns about open records in her article written for a presentation at the 2002 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference. Public Records on the Internet: The Privacy Dilemma


Many domestic violence websites are developing their own Interent Warnings or linking to the American Bar Association's site. The existing warnings neglect to fully discuss "SpyWare" and potentially give the impression that "merely" deleting history and cache will prevent an abuser from discovering a victim's online activities. However, Australia's City of Fremantle has one of the best sites I have seen: Domestic Violence: Hiding Your Tracks On-line including step-by-step instructions and a glossary of terms.

Cynthia Fraser at the National Electronic Network on Violence Against Women (VAWnet) has compiled a list of some of the Internet warnings currently available: HERE.

• American Bar Association: How an Abuser can Discover Your Internet Activities


I have been working to end Violence Against Women for the past 10 years at local, state, and national organizations -- and focusing on Domestic Violence Technology Projects for the past 4 years. I am advocate by passion, social worker by training, and techie by birth.

I am working with the
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund
National Safe and Strategic Technology Project.

This online Safety Module is an opportunity for activists from around the globe to share ideas and stories about Internet safety -- and help shape the scope of our emerging national technology project. I feel privileged to have this discussion with you. Please add your voice to the discussion board and/or contact me at:

No comments:

Post a Comment