These fact scenarios are meant to help people who are experiencing technology-facilitated violence and are thinking about seeking a legal solution to their problems. These scenarios will help you think about what digital evidence should be preserved and how to preserve digital evidence so that you can use it for your case.
It is important to note that the law is only one way that people try to resolve their problems involving technology-facilitated violence. We recommend that you use all of the resources available to you to find ways to end this abuse. You may want to get in contact with a victim services organization to help make a safety plan, especially if you are/were in a violent intimate partner relationship. Sometimes reporting to the police or beginning a civil case can result in escalated violence that you will want to safety plan around. If you are not aware of whom to talk to in your community, you can contact VictimLinkBC and their staff can connect you to a variety of services available to you including victim services, government services, transition houses, and access to justice resources.
Sometimes there may be technological solutions to preventing technology-facilitated violence. You can also read the Tech Safety Checklist to think of ways that can protect you from technology-facilitated violence. You may also find our Tech-Safety Resources sheet helpful. This resource lists organizations that are working in the area of technology-facilitated violence, many of which provide helpful guides on how to get help and increase your cyber security.
For those looking for a legal solution, the fact scenarios below will help you start thinking about how to plan your digital evidence collection and preservation.
You will want to consider what laws apply to your particular situation and what evidence may be needed to prove your case in court. It can be helpful to speak to a lawyer who can help you. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, a list of many of the laws related to technology-facilitated violence can be found [on our sheet on relevant laws].
It is important to keep more than one copy of your evidence stored somewhere. If it is only stored on your phone or computer and if the devices are lost or destroyed, or the files become corrupted, all of your evidence can be lost. See the Tech Safety tip sheet on Digital Evidence preservation for more information on how to preserve digital evidence.
If you want to start a criminal case, you will need to report the perpetrator’s criminal behavior to the police. You might also want to seek a peace bond against the perpetrator to protect you from future harms or to prohibit the perpetrator from sharing intimate images of you without consent. See the Tech Safety information sheet on Peace Bonds for more information on this procedure. It can be helpful to create a digital evidence log to keep track of the abuse over time and evidence related to that abuse. See the Tech Safety Digital Evidence Logbook as a sample.
When you go to the police to report the crime, you will want to bring evidence of that crime. It can be helpful to have the evidence printed out, but also to have copies of it digitally, such as on a USB stick to give to the police. Make sure you create a copy of this evidence for yourself to keep as well and write down a list of the evidence that you gave to the police. It can be helpful to talk to a victim service worker before going to the police so they can help explain what to expect when you report a crime to the police and what information to bring.
It can also be helpful if you know of laws you think the perpetrator broke so you can tell the police that you think the perpetrator may have broken these laws. However, this is not necessary, it is the responsibility of the police to know what the laws are and to know if they may have been broken. The police will ultimately decide which crimes to charge the perpetrator with if there is enough evidence to do so. They may even identify some laws that you did not consider.
In criminal court proceedings, as a victim you will not have an option to present the case in court yourself, so you will not need to present the evidence yourself to the court. Instead, the Crown counsel will be the lawyer who will present your evidence and you will provide evidence as a witness.
The Crown counsel is not your lawyer, but is the lawyer who represents the public interest. This means that solicitor-client privilege does not apply to your conversations with them, and instead, they have a duty to disclose information you share with them to the opposing side if it is relevant. You should ask them to explain their disclosure responsibilities before you provide them evidence.
You will need to give your evidence to the police, who will give it to the Crown counsel if a case is started or to the Crown counsel directly once they have been assigned to the case. Although the Crown counsel will be in charge of admitting evidence and asking you questions as a witness, it can be helpful to know what the rules of evidence are so you can understand why the Crown counsel is making certain decisions about evidence or asking you for different kinds of evidence. See the Tech Safety worksheet on Evidence and Objections for more information.
If you want to start a civil case (i.e., to sue someone for the harm they caused you), you will need to hire a lawyer to represent you or you can represent yourself. If you represent yourself in the case, you will need to file an application with the court to start a case. You will want to familiarize yourself with the rules of evidence. See our worksheet on Evidence and Objections for more information.
If you and your ex-partner are involved in a family law case, you may need to prove that your ex-partner is engaging in family violence or other forms of technology-facilitated violence that make it difficult for you to feel safe or is impacting the well-being of you and your children. For family law cases, you can hire a lawyer or you can represent yourself. You may also be eligible for Legal Aid, and a free lawyer will be provided to you for a certain number of hours. If you are representing yourself, you will want to familiarize yourself with the rules around admitting evidence to court. See our worksheet on Evidence and Objections for more information.
Imani and Jeff had been dating for two years. During their relationship, they enjoyed sexting and sharing sexual images with each other. Sometimes they made videos of the two of them having sex. They both promised not to share the images with anyone else and told each other this was something special, just for the two of them. This was really important to Imani because her parents were religious and would not approve of her having sex before marriage. Imani did not share her parent’s beliefs about sex before marriage but she also did not want to rock the boat and does not want them to know she is sexually active. She knew if they found out it could really damage her relationship with her family who were very important to her. Jeff knew that she was always worried her parents would find out they were having sex.
Over the years, Jeff started being more and more controlling over Imani so she eventually tried to break up with him. He said that if she left him, he would send the pictures and videos to her parents. Imani did not want to stay in the relationship with him and didn’t know what to do. Jeff said they had to have sex at least one more time or he would share the videos. Imani told him she did not want to but she would do it to stop him from sharing the videos. After they had sex for the last time, she told him their relationships was over. A few days later, she got a call from her friend Micha telling her that a video of her and Jeff having sex was up on a pornography website with her name in the title of the video and that Jeff had sent the link to a group chat on Facebook that Micah, Jeff and several other friends were on, saying some really rude things about her. Imani is worried that he may post more of the images online and that her parents will find out about the video on the website.
In this case Jeff could be accused of several crimes, including extortion, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, and sexual assault. Imani may be able to sue Jeff for breaching her privacy and intentionally inflicting mental suffering on her.
Imani’s first instinct may be to make a report to the pornography website where the video was posted non-consensually to get it taken down as soon as possible and to confront Jeff or delete him from social media. Before she does that she should collect as much evidence as possible that will help her in court. If she reports the video it can get taken down and the evidence will be gone, making it harder to prove that Jeff shared it in court. Once she has collected the evidence she needs, she should then report the video to try and get it taken down.
Grace and Yael are in the middle of a heated custody battle over their son. Grace has been sending Yael texts and emails every single day, some of which she sends in the middle of the night. Some days it is more than 100 texts a day. Grace’s messages are sometimes about their legal issues and arranging drop offs and pick-ups for their son, but a lot of them are Grace going on about the reasons she is upset that they broke up, and others are calling Yael names, saying she is a bad person, and that Grace is going to “get her” if she takes away their son. Some of the texts that Grace sends have information that Yael never gave to Grace and Yael is worried Grace might have hacked into her email. Yael has asked Grace to stop texting her so much and to only text her about their son.
Recently, Grace’s behaviour has turned to the worse. Grace has been posting awful things about Yael on Facebook, saying that Yael is a terrible mother and is using the courts to turn their son against Grace. She has been following Yael and their son and filming them with her phone while they are at the park yelling at them that she is going to use this as evidence in their case to show that Yael is a bad mother. Grace has posted some of the videos on Facebook, and Yael is starting to feel afraid of Grace.
In this case Grace could be accused of a crime, such as criminal harassment. Yael may be able to sue Grace for breaching her privacy and intentionally inflicting mental suffering on her. Because they are already involved in a family law dispute, Yael could seek a protection order that could limit Grace’s contact with her. She may also decide to begin a criminal process by going to the police to try to get a Canadian criminal code peace bond.
Technology Safety Project
This document is 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. This document, 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 document was published March 2021.
We gratefully acknowledge Suzie Dunn, PhD Candidate at the University of Ottawa for the creation of this information sheet.