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Digital Domestic Violence

Tiimothy P. Flynn May 5, 2023

mounted Ring security cameraDomestic smart devices are becoming more and more ubiquitous in American homes. We now have the ability to control cameras, thermostats, lights, alarms, sound systems, doorbells, garage doors, vehicles, and appliances from our phones. As these smart devices proliferate, there is a growing danger of people losing control over their basic privacy and safety.  

While smart devices are often used to make life easier and more comfortable, they also offer abusive partners and spouses a convenient tool to exercise control over their victims. The advent of smart home technology has led to an uptick in reports of the devices being used for abuse. It is not uncommon for abusive and controlling partners to take the lead in implementing smart technology throughout the home. By design, the abuser has total control over passwords and login information, giving them the ability to completely shut out the other spouse. 

This form of abuse usually occurs when an abuser has left the home, yet he or she is still connected to their victim through their complete control of the home. While not being able to engage in traditional methods of abuse, the abuser still has access to their victim’s devices, accounts, and information. Even if the abuser is court order

Remotely turning up the heat on a smart thermostat on a record breaking summer day.  Turning the lights on and off. Writing cryptic and intimidating messages on monitors and screens. Changing lock codes to the home. Blaring loud music or setting off alarms in the middle of the night. Clips of security camera footage being transmitted. These are among the most common forms of digital domestic violence. Abusers now have the ability to intimidate their victims from afar by modifying their environment without warning or consent. Just like traditional domestic abuse, the goal of the abuser is to make a threat, create fear in the victim, and induce compliance with their demands.   

Unfortunately, the legal system has not entirely figured out how to handle cases involving digital domestic violence. Part of the difficulty is that it is not esay to prove to a court, device manufacture, or service provider that the abuser was using the device at the time the abuse occurred. Usually accounts are shared and there is no easy way to determine who is using it at any given time.

Given the difficult nature of digital domestic violence cases, having competent legal representation is critical. Attention to detail is paramount to building a case against the abuser with strong evidence of specific acts of abuse.

The family courts are well-versed in the dynamics of domestic abuse. The power and control wheel depicted below is something that all family court professionals are trained to recognize.

power and control wheelClarkston Legal has extensive experience representing victims of domestic abuse. We are familiar with all of the abuser's tactics.

If you are in need of competent and compassionate representation, contact our firm to set up a free consultation. Your situation will improve immedately.

Here is a link to an article this author published in the October issue of LACHES, the official publication of the Oakland County Bar Association.