These days, more and more ordinary items have some kind of digital connectivity. Nobody thinks twice about having a digital home assistant like Alexa or Amazon Echo – nor do they think much about having digital thermostats, digital health monitors, digital doors and more.
They may also not realize that this Internet of Things is a prime opportunity for abusive spouses to find new ways to exert control over their partners. Unlike physical abuse, digital or technological abuse can be entirely invisible and hard to prove.
Digital or technological abuse can take several different forms. Some of the most common examples of digital abuse include:
1. Digital surveillance
Nobody should be subjected to round-the-clock monitoring but modern digital devices make it possible. Between in-home cameras and apps that send alerts every time a door is opened, an abusive spouse can monitor even the smallest movements of the victimized spouse, as well as all their comings and goings. Tracking devices inside a bag, in their car or on their smartphone can also keep the abuser apprised of the victim’s movements outside of the home. Digital assistance in a smart fridge can even be used to monitor what the victim eats.
2. Social media monitoring
An abusive spouse generally will seek to limit the victimized spouse’s contact with others so that they do not develop an effective support group. For that reason, they may seek to control their social media exchanges. They may insist that the victimized spouse “unfriend” or block anybody the abusive spouse doesn’t approve of as a friend and periodically demand access to their accounts so that they can see what the victimized spouse has been saying.
3. Physical control
Some abusive spouses have been found to use a lot of smart home technology to inflict psychological torture on their spouses, controlling everything the victim experiences from afar. This can involve taking control of the locks on the doors so that the victim is unable to leave the home or a certain area of the home, or using remote disabling controls on their car so that they cannot drive anywhere without permission.
4. Online harassment
Sometimes an abusive spouse will intentionally terrorize the victimized spouse to increase their feelings of uncertainty and isolation. They may create fake online profiles to engage with their spouse online and harass them. Or, they may use manipulated photos to spread what looks like obscene material to friends and relatives in order to publicly humiliate the victim.
Victims of digital abuse often feel like they are going out of their minds, and they worry about not being believed. After all, a spouse who is clever enough and technologically savvy enough to use digital devices as a method of abuse is probably also smart enough to hide the evidence. However, recognizing the signs of digital abuse can be the first step toward breaking free.
If you are the victim of domestic abuse of any kind, protective orders can help you get through your divorce. Seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney can allow you to find the support you need to move forward.