How should I document the abuse?
The best way to document evidence of abuse will depend on the exact circumstances of your case and the way that the abuser is using technology to commit the abuse. You may wish to speak with a lawyer or domestic violence advocate in your state about what records you should keep. If you aren’t sure what could be useful, it is generally better to keep more evidence, rather than less.
Some ways you may consider documenting your evidence is to keep a log (or a record) of the details of each incident as the incidents occur. (You can also download a sample Technology Abuse Log to help with this.) The log could include:
- a list of the date and time of each incident;
- what the abuser did or said;
- what actions, if any, you took; and
- what witnesses or evidence you have that is related to the incident, etc.
It is important to save any voicemails, call logs, emails, or text messages that are sent, and to take screenshots or photographs of the phone or computer screen and store them in a safe location separate from the device on which you originally accessed them. When taking screenshots or photographs, be sure to include as much information as possible. For instance, you will want to show the phone number of the person who is sending harassing messages, not just the contact name you assigned to that person in your phone.
You should print out emails with the full header information included so that details such as the date and time of the email and the IP address it was sent from can be easily identified. It is important to only document this from the original email. If the email has been forwarded, you will no longer have the information related to the original sender.
Also, you can take screenshots of any posts made on social media to preserve them in case the abuser who posted them later deletes them. When you do this, be sure to include the full URL (web address) that is in the bar at the top of the window and to also take screenshots of the abuser’s profile page. Many social media sites and apps allow you to download the data on your account. Once you download your account information, you may be able to collect your evidence that way. If you have filed criminal charges, law enforcement may be able to send a letter or subpoena to the social media company or website asking them to keep the account information.
If you find evidence that you are being stalked or monitored, like a hidden camera, microphone, or GPS tracker, you may want to think through the impact of removing or interfering with the equipment. Removing it could impact both your safety (if the abuser knows that you found it) and your ability to document it. Perhaps you may want to consider asking the police to document the evidence before removing it. Before taking any action, you may want to work with a domestic violence advocate to think about how removing the equipment may impact your safety and to safety plan. The abuser may escalate his/her violence if s/he realizes you have discovered it.