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How Electronic Surveillance Can be a Form of Domestic Abuse

Most people, when they think of the term “domestic abuse“, think of spouses who either beat their partners or use emotional weapons like verbal assaults and gaslighting to control them. But the truth is, abuse can come in many forms. And with the passage of time, as technology plays a greater role in everyday life, electronic surveillance can be used as another way to control and abuse a partner.

A wall of screens showing a large image of an eye, broken into many smaller squares.

What is electronic surveillance in everyday life?

When used by governments and corporations, electronic surveillance includes the use of CCTV, wiretaps, security cameras, and geo-tracking on cell phones. But for the average civilian it’s nothing quite so sophisticated. However, a lack of sophistication doesn’t mean that the methods and devices available aren’t enough to facilitate domineering and abusive behaviors. For example, installing spyware on your partner’s phone that sends copies of their texts to your phone. Or an app that tracks where they go and how long they stay there.

What devices could an abuser use to spy on their partner?

As technology and the use of smart devices becomes more common in everyday life, there are now more options available for an abuser to spy on and control their victims than ever before. These could include: smart phones, laptops, tablets, personal computers, cameras, thermostats, smart speakers, newer car models, and even their children’s devices.

During a divorce the risk of electronic surveillance may get worse!

If a victim is attempting to divorce their abusive partner, the risk of surveillance through electronics may actually get worse. Abusers who attempt to control their partner’s lives do not appreciate being “left”. Divorces and other attempts by victims to get “free” often trigger an escalation of the abuse they suffer. This is important to keep in mind if you are married to a controlling and abusive spouse, and you’re trying to get free by filing for divorce.

A lot of electronic surveillance is illegal in Michigan.

Michigan law doesn’t allow a person to spy on another person, or invade another person’s privacy, even if that person is their spouse. For example, it’s illegal to read another person’s texts or emails, or access their social media accounts and read their DMs unless they have given you express permission to do that. Also, you may not attach a tracking device to their car unless the car is legally yours (the title is in your name). So many forms of electronic surveillance used by abusers are actually illegal here in Michigan.

If you need help with your divorce from an abusive partner…

If you’re married to an abusive partner and you’re trying to get free, call 866 766 5245 and talk to one of our skilled and experienced family law attorneys. We’ve helped many people escape abusive marriages over the years, and we know exactly how to help you prepare for a better future while working to keep yourself and your children safe now. Whether it’s a personal protective order you need help with, or simply assistance working through a volatile divorce process with a combative spouse, we’re here to help.

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Brandy impressed me right away with her factual approach to my child custody case. She definitely knows the field well and never sugar coated things for me. I did feel lost many times, since this was all new to me, but looking back I kind of want to kick myself and remind me to trust Brandy. I felt uninformed a few times throughout the process, which was hard for me, but in spite of those moments, I did get great positive results in my case. She proved without a doubt in the end that she knows the system and she's an attorney to be reckoned with. Opposing counsel was actually shaking. My advice to potential clients is to definitely use Brandy for your child custody case, and to trust that she is giving you the best advice for your situation, and providing you the most quality representation you can buy. She is also a very busy professional, but she was always willing to sit down with me and answer my questions if I asked to. If I need further alterations to my custody agreement in the future, I certainly hope that Brandy will represent me again.

Bonnie on Avvo, 2015

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