POLICE Department

Family Violence Unit – Family Violence -Technology Abuse

Family Violence-Technology Abuse

Technology may pose a risk to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence abuse. Awareness of technology abuse and how abusers may use technology for intimidating, harassing, monitoring, and stalking their intimate partner is an important part of family violence survivor’s safety planning.

Unfortunately, family violence abusers may use technology to control their victims.  In 2019, a report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) discovered:

  • 97% of family violence survivors report “experiencing harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology.” 
  • 71% of family violence abusers monitor survivors’ activities and 54% downloaded stalker-ware onto their partners’ devices.

What may technology abuse look like in a family violence situation?

  • Sending abusive or threatening messages.
  • Constant texting to check on where survivors are, who they are with and why-many times requiring photographs as proof.
  • Persistently calling you, even when you won’t or cannot answer their calls.
  • Use of a temporary burner phones to make obscene, intimidating, or threatening messages or electronic communications.
  • Installing an application or spyware on the victim’s digital device.
  • Tracking devices secretly put on cars and/or devices that allow you to control your car’s GPS device, locking mechanism, sound system or allows you to start your car remotely.
  • Bluetooth trackers secretly put on cars, backpack, clothing, etc. using the device’s GPS to determine the trackers’ location.        
  • Doxing or publishing private information on survivors in public forums.
  • Spoofing: Disguising a message from an abuser as if they were someone else, like a family member, friend, court representative or someone helping the survivor/victim.
  • “Gaslighting” a person by changing their environment in small ways that are difficult to prove to others, such as remotes to turn internet-connected devices on and off within their home. 

Cyberstalking is often accompanied by offline stalking, and it can lead to physical danger.  Stalking and threats of physical violence and/or sexual abuse should be reported to police. 

Common Tactics Experience by Stalking Victims: 
75% Unwanted Phone Calls; 57% Unwanted Texts, Emails, photos, or messages; 52% Followed or Watched; 26% Send Cards, Letters, Gifts; 22% Entered Home or Left Sign of Presence and 18% Used GPS or Track or Monitor.  80% of Stalking Victims are Stalked both in person and through technology. 

Stalking and Cyberstalking can be particularly dangerous when an intimate partner is attempting to leave an abusive relationship and it is important to safety plan with a victim advocate.

Tips regarding preventing phone tracking:  

  • If you are on a family plan or any kind of shared phone service, get your own plan ASAP.
  • Go into your phone's settings and check what is using your location. Turn off anything unnecessary.
  • Lock down all social media to friends only. Or even better limit or discontinue posting to social media.
  • Pictures posted online are especially problematic. They contain EXIF data, which often contains GPS coordinates.
  • If you go out with friends, ask that they do not post pictures of you or tag you in their social media posts.
  • Consider wiping your phone or getting a new one. Do not restore from backup when you do this. If your phone has been compromised, restoring from backup can restore whatever was tracking you.


Often vehicle tracking devices are used by the public and businesses (for example: fleet companies to locate company vehicles; taxi companies for vehicle dispatching).  If you or your mechanic locate a suspicious physical tracking device or other GPS device on your vehicle without your knowledge and consent and believe it was placed by a current or ex-intimate partner for malicious purposes that may lead to physical danger and should be reported to police.     
Trust your Instincts!  If you think you are experiencing technology abuse, you may be.  Getting rid of your technology, turning off location features, and changing passwords could anger the abuser, so it is important to create and follow your own Safety Plan, and contact family violence advocates to help make sure you are safe using your technology.

Technology Safety Plan: 
https://www.techsafety.org/resources-survivors/technology-safety-plan This plan provides information on types of technology abuse, tips to identify if abuse is occurring, what to do if you expect technology abuse, and tips for increasing your digital safety and security.

Technology Safety and Privacy Toolkit for Survivors: 
This is a fantastic resource for anything technology and technology abuse. From setting up passwords and taking screenshots, to being web wise, to protecting yourself when using smart toys and smart cars, this toolkit has it all in easy to an easy-to-follow format.
The Family Violence Unit encourage survivors to obtain further assistance from our non-profit community service agencies for helpful ways to navigate resources, especially if you choose to leave your relationship.  Exploring resources such as counseling, shelter information, alternative legal assistance involving divorce, child custody issues, and protective orders,  may enhance the survivor's safety. 

The Houston Police Department cares about you and your safety.
If you are in immediate danger dial 9-1-1.
  If you are in the city limits of Houston and are in need a non-emergency police response dial (713)-884-3131.
For additional information, please contact the Victim Service Division at 713-308-0080 and/or the Family Violence Unit at (713)-308-1100.