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As Domestic Abuse Goes Digital, Shelters Turn To Counter-surveillance With Tor 133

An anonymous reader writes "Almost every modern abusive relationship has a digital component, from cyberstalking to hacking phones, emails, and social media accounts, but women's shelters increasingly have found themselves on the defensive, ill-equipped to manage and protect their clients from increasingly sophisticated threats. Recently the Tor Project stepped in to help change that. Andrew Lewman, executive director of the project, 'thinks of the digital abuse epidemic like a doctor might consider a biological outbreak. "Step one, do not infect yourself. Step two, do not infect others, especially your co-workers. Step three, help others," he said. In the case of digital infections, like any other, skipping those first two steps can quickly turn caretakers into infected liabilities. For domestic violence prevention organizations that means ensuring their communication lines stay uncompromised. And that means establishing a base level of technology education for staff with generally little to no tech chops who might not understand the gravity of clean communication lines until faced with a situation where their own phone or email gets hacked.'"
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As Domestic Abuse Goes Digital, Shelters Turn To Counter-surveillance With Tor

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  • in b4 idiots (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:49PM (#46942221)

    I look forward to claims along the lines of, "It's not abuse unless you physically injure them," and other quasi-religious nonsense which treats the brain as a perfectly rational ideal rather than just another organ subject to external influence.

  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:54PM (#46942261) Homepage

    Sending a nasty email is not domestic abuse.

    Stop trivializing the suffering of women that get beaten within a inch of their lives by brutal husbands.

  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:00PM (#46942321) Homepage

    Sending a nasty email is not domestic abuse.

    Stop trivializing the suffering of women that get beaten within a inch of their lives by brutal husbands.

    Psychological abuse is the first step. Why do you think a woman continues to stay with a man who beats her?
    And who said that their only concern is psychological abuse? They also need to make sure there isn't a way that
    the abuser can't track and/or figure out where the victim is going to be in real life.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:03PM (#46942357)
    I know somebody in an abusive relationship. Her husband monitors the messages that she sends and receives on her cell phone. He demands to have access to her Facebook and email accounts. She has a second email account that she only accesses it from the public library. I don't really know how Tor will help in an abusive situation. It's not so much that somebody is tapping the lines, but that the abusive party tries to control what they do on the devices that they know about. She can't use her cell phone, or home computer for anything private. Trying to install Tor on the computer would just give the abuser more reason to cause problems.

    Really she needs to get out of the relationship, and many of her friends tell her that, but she just won't do it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:08PM (#46942411)

    why do none of these articles ever address the bunny boilers and child killer women? there are a LOT of them out there... David Letterman had a particularly noxious lady stalker nut after him.

    but these articles always just Shit on Men....

  • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:11PM (#46942435) Journal

    If you need to be private from your spouse/so, you should examine why. Then, alter your current relationship or find a relationship where it's comfortable enough that you don't feel like you have to keep secrets.

    If you're keeping secrets, you're not all in, and bad things will come eventually. If you think that not being able to keep secrets constitutes abuse, I think you have a problematic definition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:15PM (#46942471)

    they are psychologically imbalanced and believe it's better to be with a man who beats them than alone. and I've been the son of an abuse victim and unfortunately seem to find myself with friends that fall into that category consistently enough to tell you that's why.

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:17PM (#46942481)
    Exactly. My wife is free to read my email any time she wants, and vice versa. Can't imagine needing to hide anything.

    I've also learned there are two sides to every story. Be very careful judging if you've only heard one.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:23PM (#46942553) Homepage
    I expect to get modded down for blaming the victim, but ill say it anyways. From everything in TFA crisis teams and even the local police department went to great lengths to ensure Sarah could be evacuated from the immediate viscinity of her threat. Instead of complying with the restraining order and severing all communication with her abuser, she allowed herself to become compromised once again by responding to an email from him.
    She returned to him and its as though technology has somehow exacerbated domestic violence to the point of her present scenario. She gave her attacker passwords, usernames, cellphone access, email access, and a host of other very sensitive information based solely on the pretext that he was 'an undercover FBI agent' and at no time thought to as for some form of confirmation or conclusory evidence to prove this. She never once stopped to wonder why an undercover FBI agent would ever tell anyone about themselves.

    Hillariously enough she actually still lives in the same town as her attacker/abuser. from TFA:

    "No body is going to believe all of this stuff," Sarah said. "Even now I have a lot of shame. I have a lot of blaming myself."

    This is a natural response to realizing you have completely rendered the hard work and assistance of teams of crisis responders and police completely null and void. We all make mistakes, however Sarah seems functionally incapable of the cognitive process by which we learn from those mistakes and grow.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:25PM (#46942583) Homepage

    If someone is actively hiding something from their spouse because they think their spouse will react negatively to it, then there's a problem with the relationship. However, this doesn't mean that the spouse has a right to see EVERYTHING that person says/does. In the parent's comment, they related the tale of a husband who monitored every cell phone message, Facebook post, and e-mail message his wife made/received. That's not normal behavior. I don't monitor my wife's messages. In fact, I'm not even on Facebook and she is. She could easily be saying nasty things about me there without me knowing. However, I don't demand to see/approve everything she says because I respect her. She's not "property" for me to "manage", she's my spouse and my equal in our relationship.

    And lest anything think it only works one way, there are plenty of women who are as controlling as the example above. Either way, if you are demanding to see everything your spouse writes/says, there's a problem in the relationship.

  • by khellendros1984 ( 792761 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:31PM (#46942645) Journal
    It seems like you have cause and effect backwards, here. Having privacy, even within a married couple, is healthy. There needs to be trust that your spouse isn't going to purposefully do something to harm the relationship. For instance, my wife texts and calls friends, and I generally don't know the content of those conversations. My wife telling me if I ask is trust, and it's healthy. If I demanded access to her E-mail, phone history, etc, that's not healthy, and it wouldn't be her fault if she wanted to maintain a corner of privacy in her life. You can't blame my jealousy and irrationality on her actions.

    If I'm being abusive, then I'm not going to want her to find outside help, and I'm not going to want her to talk to her friends about her problems. I'll want to control every aspect of her life. That's the situation we're looking at, not an otherwise-stable relationship with communications issues.
  • No. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:42PM (#46942743)

    Sarah was probably abused as a child - that is all the knows. As an adult, she gravitated to a partner the was like her abuser.

    Human beings are not this completely rational animal. As a matter fact, most of our decisions are based on gut feelings (Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow []).

    And when you mix in physical trauma, people break and do stupid things like run back to their abuser or don't leave. A lot of that is also fear - fear that the abuser will punish them.

    Or to put is this way, to expect rational action from someone in this predicament is completely unreasonable.

  • Re:in b4 idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:56PM (#46942861) Journal

    I look forward to claims along the lines of, "It's not abuse unless you physically injure them,".

    It's a hard line to draw without sufficient and legally-clear context; for example, consider a facebook/twitter/whatever post addressed to someone, stating "You look lovely today", posted without any further context from someone you know. To an ordinary non-abused person, and many abused persons, this statement is nothing more than a pleasantry. To someone hiding in a battered women's shelter, this could be a direct threat.

    You see, abusers are (often) smart enough to not use words that any jury member would immediately recognize as a threatening/abusive gesture.

    On the other hand, minus a no-contact restraining order, how do you legally tell the difference in a way that is meaningful? After all, if I said that to some random stranger, and they decide to scream for a cop to lock my ass up... err, what standing is there to do so? Maybe the person in question was raped a day ago and the rapist whispered those words - but I had no clue as to that having ever happened. Saying it may well have hurt the person due to PTSD, but even if I didn't know, there's a legal concept where ignorance of the law is no excuse, so if there were a law that could get me arrested for mental assault (for lack of a better term)...

    I guess what I'm getting at is that you have to be damned careful as to where and how much you get the law involved with such things. It's likely much better for all involved that a simple no-contact restraining order draw the line instead, so that only those who the order is leveled against are, well, restrained, and the rest of us can go about our day.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @04:05PM (#46942943)

    I've seen more to it than that. There's also cultural, societal, and religious pressures. In my pre-cana, what I lovingly refer to as the Catholic marriage stress-test, the topic of divorce came up with the arch-dioces present. The guy just stood there straight-faced and started in on how "you should stay with your spouse and work things out." This is the same group that was preaching about having sex on specific days of the woman's.. ahem... schedule as a replacement for any birth control, but that's another topic. Point being the church, at least locally and a few others I've heard of, admonishes divorcees and really puts on the pressure to stick with the first marriage. Even to the point when one spouse fears for their own life the church insisted on fighting them. Yes, I do have experience to back that up.

    I'd consider a cultural/societal pressure to be if it's something you were raised in or around. I've known many girls that are in abusive relationships not only because of the fear of being single, but because they are following in their parents footsteps. Mom may have been emotionally or physically abused, the kid thinks it's normal and seeks it out themselves. I've also seen instances where mom was abused and the daughter turns the tides and starts being the overbearing, abusive girlfriend. I've also seen instances where the parents pressure their kids to work it out, despite the black eyes and bruises. Others where they stick through it because the little kids need both daddy and mommy, so I'll endure for x more years.

    It takes an incredibly strong will to break that cycle. I'd liken it almost to an addiction in that there is some sort of emotional need that must be overcome in order to break free and move on. While no abuse is acceptable in my opinion, I really dislike seeing/hearing about it when little kids are involved.

  • Re:Poor Women..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @04:06PM (#46942947) Journal

    Dude - if she was cheating on you, man up and leave. You do not have the right to do anything else, and unless you're a sociopath who loves mentally beating down a woman just to feel better about yourself, your story has no relevance here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @06:44PM (#46944259)

    Thats under marriage's definition of "we stop being two entities and begin being two less-than-entities".

    I've been happily married for 15 years, and me and the wife have zero access to each others private space. Yes that include our communications and a lot more. Do we have things to hide? The answer ALSO belongs to private space.

    But insecure feebles will always need to supervise each other while masking all that behind the "trust" motto. In the end, that's the same mentality of global surveillance at the cell/family scale. Same formula huh?

    "If you have nothing to hide..."

  • Re:in b4 idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @07:48PM (#46944705)

    This ridiculous stereotype that women are abused and men are abusers must stop. It is completely untrue [], and simply presented to an accepting society who believe that women are weak and gentle creatures.

    Speaking as someone whose first serious partner was an abusive woman - one who knew how to play the people around her - it took me years to gather the strength to get away from her.

    She once threw one of her soft toys at me, aiming to hit me with it. When I threw it back, she ran from the room screaming (so she could be heard by others) that I'd promised to never hit her.

    She would regularly punch me - just out of the blue - and call it "a love tap." She raped me hundreds of times - six times in a night, once. She was reading daddy-daughter incest porn. If I didn't want sex on a particular morning, she'd accuse me of being gay, or just keep going anyway.

    Once upon a time, I commented that a friend of mine had bought her partner a nice watch. My ex- started screaming incoherently at me, then lowered her voice saying that it clearly meant I was in love with this friend, then raised her voice and started shrieking other crap at me. Of course, everyone around came running to her aid, not bothering to work out what was going on.

    When I was studying from 8am until 5pm, and then working from 6pm until 9pm, she started demanding that I stop having lunch every day so I could buy her roses.

    She then stole $1400 from my bank account.

    She later stole my $2000 computer, CD player, a bed, and other assorted items, then sent me the bill for the computer.

    That particular group of friends now believe that I used to smack her around a bit, and wouldn't even meet her halfway.

    According to the local rape crisis group if those acts were committed against a woman, that is abuse.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"