A local sexual abuse survivor that we will call “Jennifer” receives hundreds of text messages daily.
Some of them say things such as, “We know where you’re at”, “I’m going to find you”, and “I have your address”. After years of sexual assault, trafficking, and control, Jennifer thought that she was finally free. But her abusers continue to haunt her through her cell phone.
“Something as simple as going to the store could be too dangerous for me. I have to worry about my kids being safe at this point,” Jennifer said.
It would be an easy fix to block their numbers, get rid of social media, or throw out your phone entirely. Jennifer said she has tried all of that, but it does not stop. Her abusers will download apps that allow them to text from a fake number or create fake social media profiles to continue the harassment.
“I’m always scared, because it’s like do they ever give up? Do they ever stop? Is it ever going to end? It’s creepy,” Jennifer said.
Allie Martinez works with the Underground Railroad in Saginaw. The organization helps victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. Martinez said, “As soon as they [the victims] are able to recover from this, technology changes and there’s a new app. It’s like you cut one head off and six more appear so there really isn’t a way to keep them safe in this situation because someone has access to them 24/7.”
According to Martinez, she’s seen first-hand the extraordinary measures abusers will take to keep in touch with their victims. Martinez has noticed abuses are not just using texts or social media they are now using apps that control the victim’s thermostat, locks, and even lighting systems. Once the abuser has control, he or she will do things like crank the heat up as far as 90 degrees in the middle of the night or blast music on Amazon Echo at three o’clock in the morning to remind their victims that they are still watching.
According to Martinez, she’s most frequently seen the use of tracking apps that use GPS technology to pinpoint their victim’s location.
TV5 reporter, Coty Kuschinsky, tried out this technology by downloading the mSpy app on her work cell phone. A process that only took eight seconds. Some apps like these are visible on the victim’s phones, but abusers can pay a premium price to have them hidden completely.
To combat these apps, Martinez recommends that people check their security settings often, do not share passwords, and seek a professional’s help if you feel you are being tracked.
“There needs to be a public outrage about this and we shouldn’t be accepting these apps or promoting these types of apps,” Martinez said.
According to Jennifer, even though her abusers have not taken these steps to track her down yet, she will not be surprised if they do.
“I’ll eventually move out of Michigan because that’s the only way to get away from these people,” Jennifer said. “It’s the only thing that will work,” she said.