If you must use a computer your abuser can access, you can attempt to cover your tracks by doing the following:
If an abuser has access to your e-mail account, he or she may be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail. If you believe your account is insecure, make sure you select a new password that your abuser will not be able to guess.
If an abuser sends you threatening or harassing e-mail messages, you should print them and save them as evidence of the abuse. Additionally, the messages may constitute a federal offense.
What is a Browser History?
Your web browser keeps a record of every web site you visit. This is called a “Browser History”. If you have visited sites which your abuser may find suspicious, you should clear your browser history.
What is a Browser Cache?
In order to view a web page, your web browser will download a copy of the page to your computer. These copies can be found on your computer and may reveal which sites you have been visiting. If you have visited sites which your abuser may find suspicious, you should clear your browser cache.
What are Browser Cookies?
Some web sites will send data to your browser so the site can identify you the next time you visit. This is saved on your hard drive in the form of “cookie” files. For instance, if you shop at Amazon.com, they will store a cookie on your computer which will contain a user ID. Then, the next time you visit Amazon.com, they can read that ID and it will tell Amazon.com who you are. This allows Amazon.com to keep items in your shopping cart between visits, keep a list of items you viewed the last time you visited, etc. Not all sites will set a cookie, but some sites do. These cookies can be found on your computer and may reveal which sites you have been visiting. If you have visited sites which your abuser may find suspicious, you should clear your browser cookies.
What is Web Form Data?
A web form is a form that you fill out online using your web browser. For example, when you purchase something online, you fill out a form to give the online store your name, address, credit-card number, etc. Web forms can also be search fields or login fields or any text box on a web page. Most current browsers include a feature which saves everything that you type into web forms. The web browser can then copy that information into other web forms so you do not have to retype it. While this is a handy feature, it can be dangerous because if, for example, you do an internet search by typing “domestic violence shelters” into a search field, your abuser may later see what you typed. If you type anything into a web page which your abuser may find suspicious, you should clear your web form data.
Even if you take these precautionary steps, your abuser may be able to discover your online activities. To ensure that your online activities are not discovered by your abuser, you must use a computer that your abuser cannot access.
There is help. You are not alone and it’s okay to talk about it!