Getting to Know The Technology Around You

Women are often told to watch their surroundings, take self-defense classes and much more in order to protect themselves from the threat of violence. But threats are all around. Technology can pose one of the biggest threats as devices you use every day can, unfortunately, be used to spy on or monitor and control you. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself is to identify possible tech threats around you.

Below, shares tips on identifying and understanding the devices you use every day from their article Safe Connectivity Tips for Domestic Violence Victims.

Identify and Understand the Technology Around You

If you’re living with your abuser, or still in a relationship with them in some way, the first step is to take an inventory of what smart technology devices are in your home. Abusers can use internet-, home network-, WiFi-, or Bluetooth-connected speakers, cameras, locks, doorbells and more to harass, stalk, harm and otherwise attempt to control your movements and activities.

They can also use smart toys and items designed to increase children’s safety, such as baby monitors, in invasive ways. NNEDV notes that some toys “come equipped with cameras, microphones, and speakers so the toys can interact with the child,” but most of these toys are not built with strong security protections and may give “unauthorized video or audio access … [that] could be used to stalk, control or harass a survivor.”

Make a list of all the devices you can find in your home and identify who installed them and who has access to the device’s account or app. Some tech is easily visible; other tech, such as motion sensors tucked on book shelves or in room corners, may be less obvious. If you are unsure what devices are currently active in your home, or are concerned some might be hidden, NNEDV has put together a detailed list of gadgets to look for, along with potential tactics abusers may attempt.

A few common household devices the NNEDV includes on its list:

  • Thermostat
  • Smoke detectors
  • Video doorbells
  • Entertainment systems
  • Smart lightbulbs
  • Appliances

NNEDV also suggests understanding the Wi-Fi you use and checking that Wi-Fi network history to see what devices are or have been connected. However, it also suggests you don’t simply delete the whole history because that may give your abuser a heads up that you’re looking into these issues.

Don’t simply delete your whole browsing history because that may give your abuser a heads up that you’re looking into these issues.

National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

Once you’ve identified what’s being used in your home, educate yourself about how the devices work, how they’re being used and what information they might be tracking. And if you use technology like Google HomeAlexa, and Siri, there are ways you can opt out of the tracking features that come with them. Also figure out how to spot changes in the tech — whether it’s a device that begins working differently or a new device that appears in your home.

And recognize that what’s going on around you in your home may be happening specifically because your abuser is controlling this kind of tech. Graciela Rodriguez, who runs an emergency shelter at the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, California, spoke with The New York Times about what she’s been hearing more recently from those accessing the shelter’s services. She told the New York Times that “some people had recently come in with tales of ‘the crazy-making things’ like thermostats suddenly kicking up to 100 degrees or smart speakers turning on blasting music. They feel like they’re losing control of their home. After they spend a few days here, they realize they were being abused.”


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Jess’ Story: Discovering Strength

By Jessica Lay
Dec. 12, 2018

This is the third in a series of blogs about domestic violence experienced by UPIC employees and their families. #WeAreWhoWeServe

The day UPIC decided to wear purple for Domestic Violence Awareness, I experienced a lot of conflicting emotions; inspiration, pride, despair, terror, and love all came up for me while reading other’s stories. Talking about my own story was so unexpected- I thought it would remain a personal narrative, only to be mentioned in passing to the close friends who were there for me at the time. But, my colleagues made me feel safe enough to share it.

The thing most people don’t tell you about the experience of survivors is that when an instance of abuse happens, you don’t automatically fall out of love with your partner. I remember grappling with the logic that I could not continue seeing the person that hurt me, yet for some reason that I couldn’t immediately identify, I still felt completely heartbroken over ending the relationship.

We were so young when we met- me a few years younger than him. I was 18 and working on getting my Associates Degree from the local community college before moving on to a four-year college. I wanted to be a nurse.

He wasn’t the best partner. I spent a lot of time driving him around, as he didn’t have a car nor a license. He lived with my family because he didn’t have the funds to afford his own place, despite working two part-time jobs. But, I loved him. He was quirky and creative but in an organized and meticulous way. He was tall and wore glasses. Even my dad got along with him. But, he was also controlling. Many times, I had to drop everything to meet his needs. This impacted my work life, my studies, and my relationships with friends and family.

As it happens, my story isn’t all that unique. In fact, many college students find themselves in abusive relationships, and are largely ill-equipped to deal with them. According to Love is Respect, 43 percent of dating women in college report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors. Moreover, 57 percent of college students say that dating violence is difficult to identify, and 58 percent don’t know how to help a peer who may be experiencing it.

The first incident happened during an argument at a party I was hosting. I wanted to get some space from him, so I got us both in my car to drive him to his parent’s house. While in the car, the arguing continued until in a fit he threw his phone and flailed his legs, kicking the inside of my windshield. I forced him out of the car and once things were settled and I was on my way back home, I noticed the huge cracks he left in my windshield. I had to get up early the next day to take my car into the shop, not wanting my parents to notice what happened.

It took a couple weeks of him being very apologetic and paying for my windshield replacement, but I eventually took him back. We weren’t together again for very long before he ended up hitting me in the face, hard enough to draw blood, during another very intense argument. That was when I knew I could never see him again.

It’s still so easy to blame myself for what happened. For years I dealt with triggers from the experience and witnessed first-hand how they had a detrimental effect on any new relationship. Looking back, I’m just very thankful that I got away. I was so young, and thinking about it makes me want to give my teenage self a hug and thank her for her strength.

Unfortunately, relationship violence in young adulthood is very common. A 2017 study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) found that intimate partner violence (perpetrating or being the victim of behaviors ranging from unwanted sexual advances to stalking) is at an all-time high for those around age 20 and tapers off around age 28.

Because dating violence peaks in young adulthood, I believe adolescents and teens should be equipped with preventative measures. Fostering healthy romantic relationships requires we stop old cycles of abuse and learn skills needed for high-quality relationships.  The study continues:

“In general, as youths developed higher quality relationships during the transition to adulthood, they moved away from abusive behaviors. In other words, as trust, intimacy, and commitment increased, the occurrences of relationship abuse decreased.” -NIJ

This fact is particularly hopeful for me, being that I’m now 27. I was in two other abusive relationships during my young adulthood. My experiences have taught me strength and unwillingness to compromise my boundaries for another.

No one deserves to be mistreated. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence or domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.   You can also visit:

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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UPIC Employees Share Domestic Violence Stories

By Juli Briskman
Nov. 6, 2018

This is the first in a series of blogs about domestic violence experienced by UPIC employees and their families. #WeAreWhoWeServe

Something remarkable happened when UPIC encouraged employees to wear purple in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness month.  The day set was Oct. 30 and as employees shared their photos from the offices and from home, many came with snippets and stories attached.

We learned that women throughout the organization had experienced domestic violence as direct victims or secondarily as they watched their mothers, sisters, or friends suffer at the hands of an abuser.  The stories cascaded throughout the day as others were inspired to share after feeling support from their UPIC sisters.  Eventually, eleven out of our 80 employees shared details, some of whom had not shared them previously.   We’ve always known that ‘we are who we serve.’  But Oct. 30th drove this point home more emphatically than any other time in our existence.

We know that 10 million people a year are physically abused by their partners. And 521 women have died this year from gun-related domestic violence.  More than 20,000 calls are made to domestic hotlines, every day, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. To learn more about domestic violence and all its forms, and to get help, visit the NCADV website.

And even though we know all of this, it becomes painfully real when we hear it from our own coworkers.  

UPIC is honored that these women felt empowered to share their stories at work and we know the #metoo movement has been a catalyst for feminism and equality.  But we also know that unless UPIC had made it our mission to support and empower women from all walks of life, these stories may never have been revealed.

During my marriage, I was beaten, held hostage, robbed of everything, driven off the road with my mom and baby in the car and tortured on different occasions.

This is UPIC’s social media post from Oct. 30, 2018, when employees wore purple to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Here we share the brief summaries that came through on Oct. 30th and in the coming months, we will share some of these stories in more detail from the women who are brave enough to publicize their names and details.  For now understand that each, in their own way, overcame their own fears, self-doubts and social stigma just to be able to type these words:

  • This is hard for me to share with so many people at once especially since I can’t get the words “what happens in this house stays in this house” out of my head but I am a survivor of domestic violence. #WeAreWhoWeServe


  • I was 18 when he smashed my car windshield during an argument. When I took him back, he hit me. So thankful for the UPIC team and our ability to come together, not in spite of but because of our past experiences, and really be there for each other and those we serve.


  • Coming close to six years ago, I was a victim of domestic violence. A small argument at home that blew out of proportion to where I was stabbed three times by my own family member. The physical scars left behind do not even equate to the emotional and mental scars that any domestic violence survivor are left with, but we use it to pull through and empower those around us. Even though I am not in the office, I proudly wear purple with you all today.


  • I didn’t go through any violence but I did watch it first hand with my ex-stepfather and my mother it’s the worst thing in the world!  I want everyone to know that they’re not alone and I’m wearing purple today to show that we are not alone and it will get better.


  • I’ve never been in a domestically violent relationship but my mother and many of my cousins have been. The stories they’ve told about what it took to leave have stuck with me forever. Love isn’t supposed to hurt.  


  • I grew up in a domestic violence home where my mother would run away with us to other homes for weeks to protect us. This is for my mommy.


  • Like most, I was put through domestic violence when I was young and saw my mother have the strength to put a stop to it for her 4 kids and showed me how to stand up for myself.  LADIES IF YOU WERE PART OF DOMESTIC ABUSE ARE WERE ABLE TO SURVIVE, BE PROUD !! AND IF YOU HAD KIDS KNOW THEY ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR STRENGTH! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!


  • I will share one story. During my marriage, I was beaten, held hostage, robbed of everything, driven off the road with my mom and baby in the car and tortured on different occasions. This amongst other things went on over a course of 5 years but I got away. It is always in your mind and never goes away but it makes you stronger. That is just one story but just wanted to say you are never alone and we all are family who is here for one another! We are who we serve.


  • Domestic Violence can be so traumatizing & many of us are too scared, embarrassed, and ashamed to say anything or even leave, sometimes even “brainwashed.” I grew up in a household of domestic violence for 14 years (my mom & brother’s dad). Then I found myself in that same horrible cycle when I moved out for the first time at (the age of) 19 with my then boyfriend. I would be made to sleep without a blanket or pillow. He would throw things at my head, push me down, take my bank cards or phone.  He would self-harm so I would feel guilty. He would fly down the interstate going 100+ mph with no care in the world because he was angry and ready to just take our lives. He once forced me out of the car onto the interstate and several times forced me out the car at random places and leave. While I was at work he would threaten to let my dog loose outside knowing I could do absolutely nothing. He pushed away my best friend of eight-plus years out my life (lucky she forgave me after two years of no contact).


  • He would force himself on me when I was not wanting it at all. When he got angry the look in his eyes, his Hulk-like demeanor, the sweat coming down his face….it was terrifying! Even after I kicked him out, changed the locks & got him off the lease and many months later he would stalk me.  My brothers even tell me that from time to time he still tries reaching out to them asking about me, I spotted his sister in Walmart not too long ago and was hoping she did not see me because I did not want him finding out where I live. I just hope anyone in a domestic violence situation is able to one day break free and tell their story just like we all have.


  • I remember growing up my grandmother would tell me that a man will beat my butt if I didn’t control my mouth. I used to think she was crazy for saying something like that. I later found out she experienced domestic violence as well. The crazy part was I used to use my smart mouth as an excuse to justify their behavior. Domestic violence is sometimes a generational curse and is hard to break away from. So be proud and stay brave!

Juli Briskman is Chief Marketing Officer for UPIC Health, LLC.  UPIC outsources patient contact center, revenue cycle management, and telebehavioral health services.  To learn more, visit the Who We Are page on our website. Follow us @UPICHealth.

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