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Now days it seems we all have our electronic devices glued to us wherever we go, using them for pretty much every aspect in our daily lives. Thanks to technology, we have endless avenues to seek information literally at our fingertips. Our devices have abilities to store an immense amount of personal data, GPS location, social media, financial information, and a multitude of other sensitive material. 

Did you know if it connects via Bluetooth, location and/or to the Internet, it can be hacked? This means your computer, cell phone, all smart devices, newer vehicles and many other devices can be monitored and overtaken by someone else without you even being aware of it. 

January marks the 16th annual National Stalking Awareness Month, and as technology and digital platforms continue to become more and more advanced, so do the chances someone could interact with you in an unwanted, possibly frightening manner. Mobile devices are an easy and common target for stalkers as they have so many uses and multiple ways to make it difficult for victims to detect the wrong doings or where they’ve originated from. Through the victim’s phone, stalkers often monitor calls, texts, voicemails, download apps, as well as remotely accessing the camera, using the phone as a recording device or to track a victim’s location throughout the day.

Stalking is when someone repeatedly harasses or threatens someone else, causing fear or safety concerns and the perpetrator can be someone the victim knows well or not at all. Stalking can also be an extension of power and control in an abusive relationship. Intimate partner stalkers are thought to be the most dangerous in that they stalk their partners both during and after the relationship has ended and they are more likely to escalate behaviors, re-offend and assault their victims. 

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), in 1 out of 5 cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten harm to victims, and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for homicide of women in domestic violence relationships. In addition, about 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking in their lifetimes. 

There are some safety measures that can be implemented if stalking is suspected. You can change passcodes on your phone and other devices to something another person wouldn’t be able to guess. Only keep apps you actively use. If you don’t know what a particular app is or why it’s there, or if you think someone is monitoring you using an app, consider deleting it.

Some spyware software will be “hidden,” and you won’t see it when you search your phone. In order to remove this type of software, you will have to reset your phone to factory settings and then set it up like a brand-new without using old back-up logins or settings. Go through your phone’s privacy settings regularly and limit how much information apps have access to. Try to limit the amount of personal data stored and keep in mind some things you do in apps can be revealed in other places. 

Sometimes, the other person may know your phone activity because they have access to your wireless account. If so, contact your wireless carrier and ask them to remove any unwanted access as well as a second password and/or two-factor authentication if available. Another thing to consider is turning off any automatic download features. 

If law enforcement’s involved and you’re wanting to continue documenting the stalking behavior, or you aren’t ready to remove the monitoring app or software, don’t delete the app or reset your phone yet. You might want to get an alternate phone that isn’t being tracked. Remember your safety is most important, so be careful with your activity on the phone because the stalker may be seeing it. If the abusive person knows you are seeking help and resources, it may be likely they could escalate their abusive behavior. 

Please listen, show your support, and never blame the victim. If you or someone you know is a victim of stalking, tell someone about the situation and take steps to ensure safety. Communities that are aware are better able to support victims and help combat this crime. 

Hi-Line’s Help for Abused Spouses in Conrad can offer help, support, and resources to victims, in addition to training workshops to promote public education and awareness. For more information or if you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 406-278-3342, or our 24/7 crisis line at 1800-219-7336. 

For additional resources about technology safety and National Stalking Awareness Month, please visit our website at hlhas.com, our Facebook page, or these  websites:

https://www.techsafety.org/

http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org

http://victimsofcrime.org, and

https://www.justice.gov/ovw.

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