by Christina Hays
Nearly 1 in 3 women experience stalking in their lifetime with the highest rate being women from the age of 18 to 24. Almost half the stalking victims report at least one unwanted contact a week. With technology readily available and the cost of tracking devices dropping, more than twice the victims’ report the use of technology by their stalker. Stalking offenders use many tactics including the following:
1. Making unwanted phone calls.
2. Approaching the victim or showing up in places the victim does not want them to.
3. Following and watching the victim
4. Sending unwanted texts, photos, emails, and messages through social media.
5. Sending unwanted gifts.
6. Using technology to monitor, track, and/or spy on the victim.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence started the Safety Network Project to share ways to keep victim’s safe and to safety plan regarding technology.
The Safety Net Blog reported on August 30, 2023 that in response to the heavy use of Bluetooth tracking devices in stalking cases Google plans to start an unknown Bluetooth tracker alert on all Android devices. This alert will let someone know if a Bluetooth tracker is following their device but not paired to it. Safety Net Blog states,
These trackers are easily misused by abusers as instruments to surveil, exert control, and foster an environment of intimidation. The ability of Bluetooth trackers to monitor a survivor’s location and movement without being discovered creates a potential additional vulnerability for survivors of violence, and one that can be uniquely difficult to detect. This vulnerability is lessened with the built-in ability of devices to detect unknown trackers.” Google currently can only detect Apple AirTags, but they are working closely with other tracking manufacturers to expand the detection of other tracking products.
Stalking victims can benefit from safety planning with a trained domestic violence advocate. Advocates encourage victims to report all unwanted contact to law enforcement to help build a case for stalking. Stalking is illegal in all 50 states, and most states will increase charges from misdemeanor to a felony after multiple convictions. If unwanted contact goes unreported it can become more challenging for law enforcement to build a case against a stalking offender. Keeping documentation of all unwanted contact is a good way to help law enforcement know how serious the stalking case is getting and if that offender may be working up to doing more than just sending messages and following their victim.
For more information regarding stalking or technology safety, www.stalkingawareness.org and www.techsafety.org have user friendly websites that provide all this information and more for free. Domestic violence, rape, and stalking can all be prevented with the right information and help. If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Trained advocates provide free crisis counseling and safety planning. Please contact us locally at 256-574-5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256-716-1000, or electronically on our website www.csna.org. No one has to face abuse alone.