Every day, Sarah Prager saw the magnet on her fridge warning her of the dangers of domestic abuse, but she didn’t think much of it. Her girlfriend’s tactics were much more subtle, involving checking her phone and electronic devices, she said. In response, Ms. Prager, a writer from Massachusetts, deleted text messages as soon as she sent them, and never complained when her partner went through her devices.
“She had such control and jealousy in general that it would’ve been really suspicious of me to ask her to not do that,” Ms. Prager said. Her partner would flip the script on her if she refused to show what was on her devices. “What are you hiding that I can’t look at your phone?” was the go-to response.
Tracking messages is just one way technology can be used by an ill-intentioned romantic partner to monitor, intimidate, and control you — and they don’t have to be a tech wizard to manipulate it. If an abuser gets access to your phone, they can unassumingly squirm into every aspect of your digital life, from private messages to location history. Technology-based abuse, also called “technology-enabled coercive control” by anti-domestic-abuse professionals, can be as nuanced as an abuser spoofing their number to bypass a list of blocked contacts and using social media posts to keep tabs on your interactions, or as sophisticated as tracking a car’s location throughout the day via GPS and installing apps to make smart-home devices run amok. The tactics executed by abusers vary widely, and they rely on tech because it’s cheap and easy to implement.
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ILLUSTRATION: SARAH MACREADING/WIRECUTTER