I am a survivor. I didn’t always see myself as a survivor. I used to be confused, scared, hurt, depressed… the adjectives are never-ending. I didn’t know what was happening to me or around me. Most of the abuse and harassment were cyberattacks, not even under his name. Most of it had no name attached, some came from names of friends but weren’t actually my friends but him posing as my friends. Some came from his friends trying to reach me, keeping an eye on me for him. Sometimes in-person but mainly over the internet. I was completely unprepared and unaware of what was happening or how to properly deal with it.
If this happens to you or is happening to you now, I want to make sure you know what to do safely. Please only take these precautions when you are at a safe distance or completely away from the individual. Doing so in their presence or when you might see them can be dangerous. It is best to take these precautions before the person is aware that you have left.
A good place to start is making sure your email accounts are secure. If your abuser has hacked any of your social media accounts it is likely that they also have access to one or more of your email accounts. Start by changing the password. Make sure you make all future passwords complicated and something they would not guess. Remember, this person knows you very well. If they have hacked you before, it is likely they will try to hack you after you leave.
If your personal email accounts are known, please be aware and cautious.
Most websites require email verification for making accounts but some websites like Paypal do not require email verification. It is possible to use any email to sign up for something like Paypal even if it is not your own. My abuser made a PayPal account under his name and credit card information using my email. He tried to frame me for credit card theft. After this incident, I deactivated my email and made another email with a generic username. Changing your email might be something you want to consider as well.
Social Media Accounts
Like mentioned before, change all passwords. In fact, go a step further and set up 2FA – two-factor authentication. This forces anyone trying to log into your account to authorize it with either a code texted to you or a 3rd party authenticator app like Google Authenticator.
I highly recommend making all social media accounts private if you were public previously. Go into each social media account you have and view the privacy settings. Make sure nothing is being seen to the public. Remove and even block the individual you are trying to get away from. Go through your friends on each account and remove people who are close to your abuser. These people could potentially be being used to spy on you from a distance and get information that could be used against you.
Be careful and cautious of any new friend requests. Your abuser could potentially try to make fake accounts in order to follow you. It is also likely that he or she may try and get their friends to follow you as well. He or she may also make a fake account of someone you might know, even a friend of yours to try and get you to not only accept the request but to respond. Please do not respond to anything that seems unusual. It is important that close friends are aware of what is happening because it is likely that your abuser will try to friend request them in hopes of seeing information about you.
Depending on whether your abuser is tech-savvy, changing your phone number might be wise. There are apps available that allow someone to spoof phone calls and text messages. These applications allow the user to change the phone number to any number including your number. You may try to block his or her number but with this application, blocking will not help because this application gives endless access to phone numbers. I received phone calls from area codes all over. When I left, my abuser posed as me through my phone number in order to harass me. These applications also allow the use of numbers already in existence. Text messages that appeared like they were from me were created. These messages were used to discredit me among my peers and even worst discredit my temporary restraining order and gain one himself under false pretenses.
In order to keep yourself safe precautions are necessary. The most important thing I wish I knew prior to leaving is to document everything and under no circumstances reply. Not replying can be difficult, especially if something threatening is sent, but anything sent electronically can easily be manipulated and the threat is most likely bait.
Please try to keep yourself surrounded by trusted individuals who can support you. If you can not think of someone like that in your life, please reach out to community resources for help. If something seems suspicious it most likely is and is important to document.
Nicole Marie Ragone is a survivor of domestic violence but this does not define her. She is also pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in social work and theatre at Rider University.