Support and Social Groups Get help Getting help with... Domestic violence advice Using online support safely The internet can be an invaluable resource if you’re experiencing domestic violence or abuse, but for many survivors who are subject to controlling behaviour, it’s important to know how to use it safely. Below are some easy ways you can keep yourself safe while accessing online support services. Browser History When using an internet browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Edge, every site you visit is logged in what’s known as your browser history. This can be used by an abuser to see what sites you’ve been looking at. This history can be cleared, regardless of which browser you’re using. Instructions for how to do so in each browser are listed below. This can be done on both computers *and* mobile devices. Google Chrome Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari Browse Incognito Most browsers now feature a mode where your browsing history isn’t stored. In Google Chrome for instance, this is known as ‘incognito mode’. If an abuser is checking your browser history, and may find it suspicious that it’s been totally deleted, then using an incognito function is a good option as it doesn’t affect the rest of your browser history at all. Google Chrome Firefox Microsoft Edge Safari It’s important to note that although incognito mode won’t leave a trace in your browsing history, your traffic may be still visible on public networks, or if your abuser is using some kind of spyware (see below). Choose the safest method Every case of abuse is different, and what might be safe for one person might not be for another. For instance, in some cases calling support services isn’t a viable option for a survivor as their abuser may always be in earshot. In addition to helplines (please see our fact sheet on support services for LGBTQ+ people experiencing domestic abuse) many services also offer webchat via their website, email contact, or forums where you can post anonymously. Find the method that feels right for you, and allows you to remain as safe as possible. Change notification settings If you’re in email contact with a support service, or receiving phone calls, then these may pop up on your phone screen with notifications. Many messaging apps also include part of the message contents in the notification on your locked phone screen. Changing your notification settings to not display on a locked screen, or remove the contents of messages / emails can keep you safer in case your device is found by an abuser. Secure your device Whether you’re using a laptop, PC, mobile, or tablet, all have security settings which can help you remain safer. Passwords, fingerprint ID, pattern codes, and Face ID can all help ensure your device’s security, and prevent your personal information from being accessed by your abuser. Exit buttons on support pages If you’re browsing a site about domestic abuse, or a support service, there will generally be an ‘exit button’ on the page which immediately closes that browser tab. It’s much quicker than clicking the small ‘x’ at the top of your screen and therefore a safer way to change your screen in a hurry. Log out Wherever you’re logged in, be it to a browser, support service, or email, try to make sure that you log out whenever you’re done. This keeps your information more secure. Check for spyware Some abusers use spyware, software which can send information about what you’re doing on your computer, in order to monitor a survivor. They may also use less invasive methods if they’re particularly technically able. You can check your computers for spyware using other software which can remove it for you. This article lists a number of spyware removal tools which you can run on your laptop or PC in order to check that they’re spyware free. Use mobile data over WIFI Some internet routers, the device which connects to a modem and allows multiple devices to connect to it, can allow an abuser to monitor all internet traffic going through your home internet connection. In order to bypass this, you can try turning off your smartphone’s WIFI (assuming you have one) and using a 4G / 5G connection instead. This is a separate connection that can’t be monitored via your home’s router. Use public computers Another way to avoid being monitored is to use a public computer, like one at a library or an internet cafe. You can find your local library here, and most libraries allow the public to use their computers for free for a set period of time.