Use a safe computer
It is possible for someone to access your computer to monitor your online and other computer activities. ‘Spyware’ and ‘keylogging’ programs are readily available and abusers can use these to track what you do on your computer without your knowledge. In addition, when you use the internet to send emails, look at websites or to make calls on Skype, you leave a record of your actions on your computer. This means that your abuser can see what you have been doing unless you delete your tracks. As you are unlikely to know if a spyware program has been loaded onto your computer, the safest way is to use a computer in your local library, at a friend’s house or at work. However, there are ways to delete the history of your internet usage if you have to use the computer at home.
If your abuser has access to your email account, they will be able to see any messages you have sent or received. The safest way to have a private email account is to get a Hotmail or Yahoo account. To access this account, you will need a login name and a password. You should choose a name and password that they are unlikely to think of—don’t use your name or any other personal information they might be able to guess. Make sure you keep these secret at all times.
If your abuser sends you harassing or threatening emails, you should print these out and keep them somewhere safe, as they are evidence of your abuse.
When you send an email, a copy remains in your ‘sent’ folder. If you don’t want anyone else to see you have sent it, you should delete it from your ‘sent’ folder. This will move the email into your ‘deleted’ folder, so you will need to delete it from here as well.
The same applies to any email you receive. If you want to delete it, you will need to delete it from your ‘inbox’ and again from your ‘deleted’ folder.
If you started writing an email, but did not send it, it may be in your ‘drafts’ folder. You will need to delete it from here and then from your ‘deleted’ folder.
Your computer stores the history of any websites that you have visited. Your abuser may know how to find out the pages you have been looking at. You can clear the history from your computer, but there is a risk that you will remove saved passwords, which may alert your abuser to the fact that you have cleared the history and other personal data. You may also need to clear any history from search toolbars, such as Google, AOL or Yahoo Answers. You will need to check the instructions for this on the individual toolbars.
Clearing your personal history
Every browser—Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome—is slightly different. As newer versions come out, the way to clear private information changes very slightly. However, for every browser, you will need to look at the toolbar at the top of the page and select ‘Tools’. You will then get a dropdown menu. The last item on the dropdown menu will say something like ‘Options’ or ‘Internet Options’—this is the one you should select. It will open up a separate small window with lots of tabs.
You are looking for something called ‘History’ or ‘Browsing History’. Depending on your browser version, you may find it under the ‘General’ tab or the ‘Privacy’ tab. When you have found it, you should select ‘Delete’ or ‘Clear your recent history’. This will remove any record of web pages you have visited.
It is also important to consider your privacy and location settings on your smart phone and social media accounts.