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Domestic Violence: Internet Safety

If an abuser can access your computer they can find out what websites you have visited, what documents you have edited, what e-mail you have sent and more. Follow the steps below to remove these traces. If possible, use a friend's computer, a computer at work, or one at the library instead of your home computer.

There are various applications now available that are used through a web browser and therefore don't store data on the computer you are using. These are very convenient if you are using someone else's computer and safer to use from your home computer.


Email programs like Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, and Eudora can be accessed by an abuser if they have physical access to your computer. They will be able to read your incoming and outgoing mail.

A safer approach is to use a web-based email service. Many websites offer web-based email for free. You can access your email from any computer that has Internet access and no information is stored on that computer. Some good web-based email services are Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Excite Mail. 

File Storage

You can now store your files on the Internet and use them from any computer. Some of the companies that offer this are iBackup and Hyperoffice.

How to remove traces from your computer web browser history

Web browsers keep a running history of the web pages you have visited and keep copies of the graphics on these pages. Also, Windows and Macintosh systems keep a history of the web pages and documents you have recently accessed. Perform the following steps to get rid of history:

A. Delete your document history as follows:


  1. Click on the Start menu, then select Settings, Taskbar and Start Menu. This will bring up the Taskbar Properties dialog.
  2. Click on the Advanced tab on the dialog box. Click on the Clear button.

B. Delete your Web browser's history and saved graphics as follows:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer

  1. Click on the Tools menu, then click on Internet Options. A dialog box will come up.
  2. Click the Delete Files button in the Temporary Internet files area. Click OK when the confirmation box comes up.
  3. Click the Clear History button.
  • Netscape Navigator

  1. Click on the Edit menu, then click on Preferences. A dialog box will come up.
  2. Click the Clear History button.
  3. Click the Clear Location Bar button.
  4. In the Category: panel on the left side of the dialog box, click the little + next to Advanced. Click on Cache.
  5. In the Cache panel on the right, click the Clear Disk Cache button. Click OK when the confirmation box comes up.

On older versions of Netscape Navigator (Version 3 and below):

  1. Click on the Options menu, then click on Network Preferences. A dialog box will come up.
  2. Click on the Cache tab.
  3. In the Cache panel on the right, click the Clear Disk Cache button. Click OK when the confirmation box comes up.
  • AOL

  1. Click on the Members menu, click on Preferences.
  2. Click on the WWW icon.
  3. Select Advanced and then Purge Cache.

These steps empty the history list completely which might raise the suspicions of a computer-savvy abuser. You can refill the history list by simply going to some innocuous sites like and after you have followed the above steps.

Editing Documents

Be sure not to store documents that you don't want seen on a computer that your abuser has access to (use an Internet service to store documents). If you use a computer to edit confidential documents be sure to:

  • Clear Document History on Applications Like Microsoft Word and Excel. These applications keep a history of the most recent documents opened. You can see them at the bottom of the File menu. The easiest way to clear this history is to open several innocuous documents so that the confidential document names are pushed off the menu. Another way to do this is to click on the Tools menu, click on Options or Preferences, click on the General tab of the dialog box that comes up, then click the Clear History button.
  • Empty your Recycle/Trash bin.

Adapted from 2000-2003 Eastside Domestic Violence Program

E-Mail the Domestic Violence Victim Advocate