An Epidemic of Wireless Spousal Stalking

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The Independent reports today about warnings from domestic violence campaigners regarding epidemic levels of covert surveillance by abusive spouses of their partners’ cell phones and computers. Easy to obtain, inexpensive software and hardware packages allow one “to eavesdrop on the victims of domestic violence via their mobiles and other electronic devices, enabling abusers clandestinely to read texts, record calls and view or listen in on victims in real time without their knowledge.” Campaigners are also concerned that the British police and justice system are unaware of how large the problem is and how to appropriately address it.

Findings from two recent surveys by Women’s Aid and Digital Trust revealed astonishing numbers. Over 40% of domestic violence victims seeking help from Women’s Aid report they had been tracked or harassed through electronic devices. The Digital Trust, which assists victims of online stalking, says that over half of abusive partners “used spyware or some other form of electronic surveillance to stalk their victims.”

Activists are increasingly concerned at Christmas time when children may visit estranged parents and receive electronic gifts loaded with spyware as a way to gain access to personal information and whereabouts of their ex. Today, it is quite easy to hide spyware in innocuous gifts where they remain inconspicuous and untraceable.

Speaking to The Independent, Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said “Domestic abuse is about control and perpetrators will use any means available to maintain and increase their control.” Another campaigner noted that stalking occurs in a variety of domestic settings including partners who live together and those who have already split apart.

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