October 1, 2023

Current WhatsApp updates have sparked fears that new options will likely be utilised by perpetrators of home violence to additional abuse victim-survivors.

Right here, household lawyer Harriet Donovan outlines the adjustments, their potential affect, and what you are able to do in case you obtain abusive WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp adjustments: What victim-survivors have to know

For many individuals, WhatsApp is the popular technique of messaging. The well-known app cleverly makes communication simpler and sooner, permitting individuals to talk, share info and join with others all over the world, instantly.

And while this brings so many advantages, sadly, as with all communication apps and social media, it may be exploited by perpetrators of home abuse and used as a device to inflict hurt.

Essential adjustments to WhatsApp

On 23 Might 2023, WhatsApp modified their platform to introduce a brand new characteristic that permits customers to edit messages inside quarter-hour after being despatched; a characteristic already supplied by different main tech giants, comparable to Fb and Instagram.

This new change to WhatsApp has sparked concern amongst home abuse professionals, who consider that it’ll enable perpetrators to ship their sufferer and survivors a barrage of abuse, after which edit the messages, eradicating the abusive language.

It will imply the survivor will doubtlessly see the messages, triggering them and inflicting emotional misery earlier than it’s shortly edited and both eliminated or deleted fully. This then makes it extraordinarily tough to indicate a path of proof of abuse via messages alone.

How the WhatsApp adjustments affect victim-survivors

Messages from texting platforms comparable to iMessage, WhatsApp and social media platforms are usually used as proof in home abuse instances heard within the household legislation court docket. Messages could be a key a part of the proof in abuse instances, as they typically present the intention of the perpetrator, together with patterns of behaviour. For this proof to be thought of, the Courtroom must be happy that the proof being thought of has not been tampered with and may due to this fact be relied on.

This new change by WhatsApp and different tech giants will forged doubt over the reliability of messages as proof, and in some instances take away it fully, particularly when the abusive language can now not be seen. There’s additionally the priority {that a} survivor must show that the unique messages had been obtained when the perpetrator’s messages will seemingly differ.

What can somebody receiving abusive messages do?


In fact, there may be the power to screenshot the message earlier than it’s edited or deleted, nevertheless, this may be tough for survivors who’re understandably triggered by the message and should not suppose to take a screenshot of the messages as quickly as they’re obtained.

Along with this a sufferer could also be used to this sample of behaviour and due to this fact not react instantly, at which level they could lose the chance to seize the proof on the time it’s despatched.

There’s additionally those that might not want to have the messages or pictures on their cellphone as this can imply that they re-live the abuse every time they’ve sight of the messages.

To dam or to not block

Another choice, whether it is secure to take action, is for the survivor to dam their perpetrator and their family and friends from all social media and messaging platforms.

If there should be a line of communication on account of having kids collectively, utilizing an app comparable to my Household Wizard might be a greater and safer different. Nonetheless, you will need to get recommendation from a lawyer or a home abuse charity earlier than blocking all communications, as this could trigger different behaviours to escalate.

Ahead planning

Preserving a log detailing the date and time of all messages is necessary. The place taking a screenshot and storing the unique message is inappropriate, think about forwarding the messages instantly to your lawyer, good friend, or member of the family, to allow them to retailer in your behalf permitting you to delete the message.

WhatsApp Privateness Checkup

It is usually advisable, once more when secure to take action, to disable ‘Learn Receipts’ on WhatsApp, giving survivors the possibility to ahead the message earlier than the perpetrator realises the message has been obtained, and deletes them.

You can too change the standing of the ‘final seen’ characteristic, which tells contacts whenever you had been final on-line, in order that no one can see this info.

Different helpful instruments to stay safe on WhatsApp embody limiting who can add you to teams, who can see your ‘About’ info, ‘Standing’, and ‘Profile Photograph’. Test that you just’re not sharing your ‘Reside Location’ with any teams or contacts.

These options will be present in Settings > Privateness. WhatsApp have additionally launched a helpful Privateness Checkup, that can assist you to tailor the settings to your precise wants.

Report abusive communication to the Police

If survivors obtain abusive communications by way of social media, a name, a message, a letter or anything, it must be reported to the police with info relating to the abuse, their data of who has despatched the abusive communications together with offering any proof that helps the allegations. It will then create a document on the police database, which might then be used as proof inside household legislation proceedings. Sometimes, it carries extra weight when an individual experiences an incident to the police on the time that the incident/occasion takes place because it additional helps the allegations made.

It’s vital that household legal professionals, the courts, judges, and different professionals perceive these adjustments, in order that they perceive gaps in message trails, and why communications can look completely different and be inconsistent. 

Know-how assisted abuse is on the rise, and figures from Refuge report a rise of 97% for the reason that COVID-19 pandemic. The expertise created to make our lives higher, simpler, and extra environment friendly can sadly all too simply change into a means for perpetrators to abuse, stalk, isolate and management their victims and their kids.

For additional info on expertise facilitated abuse, please go to the Refuge Tech Safety website

Extra helpful hyperlinks

What’s Tech Abuse?

Stowe talks podcast – Understanding and dealing with Tech Abuse

Refuge – Guide to securing your WhatsApp account