Content warning: Discussion of digital abuse and stalking.
If there is one thing that has been constant in our culture, it has been that things always change. The biggest change in recent years has been the rapid development of personal technology. Gone are the computers that filled an entire room and the phones tethered to the wall. Instead, we have smartphones and Google and Alexa. If you’re extra fancy, you might even have a refrigerator that can tell you what you need to pick up at the store!
This technology has brought all sorts of benefits to our society from improved medical care, increased information on demand, and improved connectivity but it has also brought challenges. One of those challenges is the way that abusers can harness this new technology to add new and terrifying tools to their abusive arsenal.
NPR recently shared a story about an anonymous woman dealing with the effects of technology (particularly GPS tracking) on her divorce. NPR highlighted the many ways the woman’s ex-husband was using technology to track her, including a GPS monitor hidden in her car and hidden GPS tracking technology on her phone.
It is important to note that this is more than just digital spying or information gathering in a messy divorce. This is a pattern of targeted actions intended to abuse, frighten, or harass a victim. This is nothing new. New technology like smartphone apps and GPS trackers may be making it easier for abusers, but this is a familiar story for far too many people. Stalking is common and it must be taken seriously.
Whether using technology or not, stalkers are dangerous. A woman in DeKalb was killed less than a year ago, despite having an active Order of Protection against her estranged husband. (Daily Chronicle). Law Enforcement needs to understand the role new technology can play and the Judicial System needs to effectively enforce Orders of Protection and we all need to speak up and speak out about the dangers of unhealthy and abusive relationships.
If you’re concerned about a current or former partner using technology to track you, don’t hesitate to reach out to Safe Passage (815.756.5228) or your local domestic violence agency. Help is available.