The Internet, including MSN Messenger, chat rooms and email, are wonderful tools for communicating with people near and far, sharing information and getting information. For a victim of abuse, however, using email and finding resources on the Internet can put you at increased risk for harm if your activities are being monitored by the abuser. And monitoring another person’s activity on the Internet is not that difficult to do. Internet browsers record a history of recently visited web sites for fast reloading on your next visit. Your safety could be jeopardized if your abuser were to check this history. There are some things you can do to hide your Internet use. It may be safer to access information on the Internet from a friend's house, your workplace, a library or Internet cafe.
Service providers should advise a person in abusive personal relationships, such as an abused woman, about these risks and provide them with information on how to keep safe when surfing the net and using email.
The safest way to prevent an abuser from monitoring a partner’s/spouse’s Internet and email activity is to use a computer that no one in the family has access to. Some suggestions might be to use a computer in a library, community access centre, at work, or at a trusted friend’s house. Sometimes it is possible to get an email address from a web-based email program, which will only be accessible with a password. Even when using a community computer, be sure to delete your “history” or the addresses of the sites you visited from that computer.
If you do not have access to an outside computer, then you should take extra care to delete the computer trail you have left behind in case someone is monitoring your activities. There are many different ways to erase your history depending on your computer (MAC or PC), your software and even the browser that you are using (Netscape, Explorer, etc.) Here are a few tips, but you should read your own computer manual on how to do this or use the Help function. It is important for service providers to remind women that safety plans, even on the Internet, do not guarantee absolute safety.
Your Internet Activities Can Be Discovered
It may not be safe for you to access sites for information about family violence from your computer. Your abuser could discover what sites you have visited. To hide your Internet activities you need to clear the computer's memory of the most recent pages you have accessed on the Internet. This memory is the browser's cache. By emptying your computer's cache, your recently visited sites will be deleted. It is a good idea to access some sites on other subjects after you have cleared the cache so that it will have some items in it. For instance, check out the sites of newspapers, government, or entertainment.
If you use Internet Explorer:
Pull down the tools menu, select Internet Options. Choose the General tab, under Temporary Internet Files, click on "Delete Files". Under History, click on "Clear History" then click "OK".
If you use Netscape:
Pull down the Edit menu, select Preferences. Under Navigator, click on the "Clear History" button. Then double click on Advanced, select Cache. Click on "Clear Disk Cache".
If you use AOL:
Pull down My AOL, select Preferences. Click on the WWW icon under Temporary Internet Files, click on "Delete Files". Under History, click on "Clear History".
If you do not know which browser you are using, pull down the Help menu, and click on About.