The Technology-Facilitated Violence: Preserving Digital Evidence Toolkit is a guide to help women[1] and anti-violence workers preserve digital evidence in circumstances involving technology-facilitated violence against women. Technology misuse is just one more abusive behavior that occurs in violence against women cases. Technology is not the problem; it is the underlying pattern of violent and sexist behavior that presents itself in digital forms. Because of the prevalence of technological devices today, their use can extend the reach of the abuse by the perpetrator, but it can also leave a trail of digital evidence that can be used strategically in safety planning and evidence collection by women targeted by this type of violence.

Technology-facilitated violence is when technology is misused by perpetrators to commit violent abusive acts including acts such as domestic violence, harassment (stalking), sexual assault, impersonation, extortion, and the non-consensual filming and sharing of intimate images.

Digital evidence is the overarching term that includes evidence from digital devices including the devices themselves, as well as emails, texts, pictures, videos, voice recordings, direct messages (DMs), screenshots, account logs or billing statements, apps, GPS and location information, and “metadata” or the information embedded in emails and other electronic documents. It is worthwhile to note that in the Canada Evidence Act, digital evidence is referred to as “electronic documents.” Within this report, we will use the term “digital evidence” as it is more commonly used when describing evidence of technology-facilitated violence.

Digital evidence can contain information that may be helpful in proving an incident of technology-facilitated violence occurred. However, because digital evidence is easily deleted or manipulated, it is important to collect it promptly and accurately. This type of evidence, if preserved properly, can support a civil or criminal legal case involving violence against women. Digital evidence can assist in documenting a clear evidentiary trail of abusive and criminal behaviour. It may support the evidentiary record in family and criminal court matters, potentially alleviating some of the pressure on women and their children to testify and may result in fact-based protective resolutions.

This toolkit is a guide for women and anti-violence workers to learn about the laws and best practices surrounding digital evidence preservation, and the potential use of this evidence in cases involving technology-facilitated violence. To start, please review the BCSTH Introduction to Using the Preserving Digital Evidence Toolkit, which is a useful guide to the Toolkit.

Word of Caution: Most of the documents in this Toolkit are available as a read only document on the BCSTH website with the option to download the PDF version of each handout. However, if you are reading this Toolkit on an “unsafe” computer, laptop or device, do not download the PDF versions as they may automatically save in your download folder. Some documents will download automatically when you click on the hyperlink in these documents and save a copy in an “unsafe” technological device would be one that you suspect is being monitored by the perpetrator.

 

CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE PRESERVING DIGITAL EVIDENCE

Before you begin collecting digital evidence you may want to read these documents first:

GUIDELINES FOR DIGITAL EVIDENCE PRESERVATION

TECHNOLOGY SPECIFIC EVIDENCE PRESERVATION GUIDES

OVERVIEW OF COURT RELATED TOPIC FOR SELF-REPRESENTING LITIGANTS

BCSTH TECHNOLOGY-FACILITATED VIOLENCE RESEARCH

LEGAL INFORMATION REGARDING TECHNOLOGY-FACILITATED VIOLENCE

ADDITIONAL TECHNOLOGY SAFETY RESOURCES FOR ANTI-VIOLENCE WORKERS

ADDITIONAL TECHNOLOGY SAFETY RESOURCES FOR WOMEN

This project has been funded by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (MPSSG) and the Law Foundation of BC.

These documents are a part of a series that details how to preserve evidence related to the misuse of technology in experiences of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The series is part of the Preserving Digital Evidence of Technology-Facilitated Violence Toolkit. These documents, or any portion thereof, may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever as long as acknowledgment to the BC Society of Transition Houses is included in the product.

This toolkit was published March 2021.

We gratefully acknowledge Sherry Xu, JD Candidate, Peter A. Allard School of Law, UBC, support by the Pro Bono Students Canada Organization; Suzie Dunn, Rachel Sombach, and Anna Milner, from the University of Ottawa; Brandon Laur of the White Hatter, Kim Hawkins of Rise Women’s Legal Centre; and Magal Huberman of Pietrow Law Group for their support in developing this toolkit.

[1] In this toolkit we will be using the term “woman”, “violence against women” and feminine pronouns for simplicity and to recognize the significant impact technology-facilitated violence has on women and girls. Women and girls face higher rates of most forms of technology-facilitated violence. They also experience some of the most serious consequences as a result of this violence. However, technology-facilitated violence impacts transgender, non-binary, male and female people. We hope that all people impacted by this violence will find these documents useful.
   

©2021 BC Society of Transition Houses, Technology Safety Project.